Opening with an impressive tracking shot of James Bond making his way through the streets and rooftops of Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festivities, Spectre is a fourth outing as 007 for Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes' second spin in the director's chair that exudes confidence from beginning to end.

After the marvellous Skyfall, Spectre had a lot to live up to and, while it doesn't quite reach the same heights as either Casino Royale or Skyfall, it is an absolute joy to see everybody's favourite spy in a film as good and entertaining as Spectre.

When Bond (Daniel Craig) stumbles upon a cryptic message from his past, he is sent on a trail to uncover the mysterious organisation behind a number of terrorist attacks around the globe. 

With the double-0 program under serious threat, M (Ralph Fiennes) is left fighting political forces in order to keep the secret service alive. Bond, on his mission, discovers the organisation known as SPECTRE, headed by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), and soon realises the terrible truth behind their intentions.

Daniel Craig took to the role of James Bond like a duck takes to water back in 2006 however, in Spectre, we see Craig in a whole new light while playing Bond. Spectre sees Craig more Bond-like than in any of his previous outings.

While we still see the vulnerable side to Craig's Bond, in Spectre Craig is the suave and sophisticated 007 that some had doubts about him ever becoming. Craig once again delivers a fine performance as Bond, growing more and more into the role with each film. I would be happy to see him continue playing Bond for as many films as possible.

Bond's relatively new MI6 colleagues get their fair share of screen time in Spectre and not one of them wastes the chance with Ralph Fiennes' M, Naomie Harris' Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw's Q giving Craig ample support.

Lea Seydoux stars as Dr Madeleine Swann, a key component in Bond's quest to find SPECTRE. Seydoux does her best with what she's given, it's just unfortunate that her character feels a little underwritten. Unfortunately, Monica Bellucci fares a little worse than Seydoux and ends up feeling way too underused, coming across as the woman just 'there' for Bond to sleep with.

Then there are the villains of the film. Craig's Bond films have seen some good villains already in the form of Le Chiffre from Casino Royale or Silva from Skyfall, and Christoph Waltz's Franz Oberhauser is no exception. As a senior member of SPECTRE, Waltz is wonderfully sinister and he brings all of his quality to proceedings. Dave Bautista also stars as Mr Hinx, an assassin ranked highly within SPECTRE and easily the greatest physical threat that Craig has ever faced as Bond. Bautista fills the screen with his intimidating presence and makes Bond look like your average man but rather annoyingly, we don't see enough of him.

Sam Mendes, who blew us all away with Skyfall, impresses again with Spectre, carrying on the story that Craig's Bond has now developed through four films and brings some more classic Bond elements to the table, as he gradually did in Skyfall. I really like the way the story carries over into each of Craig's Bond films and the unravelling of Oberhauser's connection with Bond was one that gave me goosebumps, thanks to the terrific job by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan on the story and screenplay along with Jez Butterworth.

One of the most important features of any Bond film is its action sequences. Spectre opens with a spectacular fight aboard an out of control helicopter above the streets of Mexico City. It's a thrilling start however, none of the action sequences that come after really top it. There's a car chase between Bond and Mr Hinx through the streets of Rome yet it all feels a little flat as they are just about the only ones on the road. There is no sense of peril to the sequence and it feels like you are watching a car advert at times but there is a nice touch involving Bond trying to speed up the older driver in front of him.

The train fight between Mr Hinx and Bond is another highlight and a great throwback to the brutal fight between Bond and Grant in From Russia With Love. The choice to use no music in this scene is a master stroke and heightens the sense of brutality this scene possesses.

Following the brilliant cinematography of Roger Deakins from Skyfall was going to be one hard task but it is one that Hoyte van Hoytema does an admirable job in. He, like Deakins, has an eye for how to shoot night sequences so effectively and brings the variety of locations to life gloriously on the big screen. Thomas Newman's score accompanies the film well but it doesn't really feel much different to his work on Skyfall, which was a little disappointing.

Which leads me to Sam Smith's Writing's on the Wall, the theme to Spectre. I was a little sceptical about the song at first however, having now heard it play with the haunting title sequence, I find myself really liking it. It really does fit the whole feel of the film very well indeed.

There are rumours that Spectre could be the final time we will see Daniel Craig as Bond. While he still has his doubters and with the list of new Bond candidates starting to circulate, I was left wishing for an encore. James Bond will return for sure, and I hope Daniel Craig does as well.

Verdict: ★★★★


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