Sunday, 1 November 2015

SPECTRE: REVIEWED. WARNING: SPOILERS, WARNING: FLASHING IMAGES



Mexico City. The Day of the Dead festival is in full swing, with many thousands of revellers in costume thronging the streets. A tall, distinguished man walks through the crowd in a cream suit and skull mask. This is Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona).

As he walks by a couple of revellers, they break away and go to a nearby hotel. Once inside, they remove masks and kiss passionately.

 Stephanie Sigman is Estrella
Estrella (Stephanie Sigman) is surprised when James Bond steps out of the window and leaves, striding casually along the dizzying parapet.

He puts an earpiece into place, and sets up his weapon, (a futuristic looking Arsenal Firearms LRC-2, a long-range conversion kit for 9mm pistols). He crouches down opposite a large building in which a meeting is underway. Bond spots a strange thing; Sciarra seems to identify himself with a finger ring he wears on his wedding finger. Activating the laser-mic on his weapon, he points it at the window, instantly able to hear the conversation within.

Sciarra and associates are planning a terror attack on a stadium that night, there's a mention of someone called 'The Pale King' which is obviously a clue. Having heard enough, Bond opens fire and, suddenly a massive explosion tears the building apart. Whatever he hit, it brings the facade of the building down. Onto Bond. Running for dear life, he leaps and just manages to hang on, before choosing to slide down into the rubble where he lands on a handy sofa before spotting a bloodied Sciarra and gives chase.
Sciarra calls up a helicopter to get him out and the chopper lands in the crowded main square. Bond fights his way aboard and as the helicopter climbs, a vicious hand to hand ensues, Sciarra and Bond fighting for life itself.

The Stunt work on SPECTRE rivals the very best of Bond.
American Stunt flyer Chuck Aaron takes Helicopter flying to new levels.
Spotting the ring on Sciarra's finger, Bond wrenches it off before kicking Sciarra to his death and struggling with the pilot as the helicopter lurches and spins across the square, stunned crowds below watching helplessly. Finally, Bond chokes the pilot and throws him out to follow Sciarra. Bond flies the aircraft off, examining the strange ring, a black octopus design on steel.

The titles; Daniel Kleinman does a good job with sinister visuals and naked girls (hooray!), but Skyfall's title sequence remains more memorable. Sam Smith's 'Writing's on the Wall' sounds better in a cinema, but ultimately the falsetto wailing is unpleasant. A pity; had he given the song to a female singer, it might have been a classic.
Ralph Fiennes is M
London. M is furious with Bond over the explosion in Mexico City; a diplomatic incident looms and he is about to meet with Denbigh, the representative of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Insolent, Bond refuses to explain, claiming he was on holiday. He's grounded and must deliver a thousand lines to house master. (Not really) Denbigh arrives and he's oily, unpleasant and seems to be presiding over a merger between MI5 and MI6. (In SPECTRE, a long-standing issue is resolved. Ian Fleming's Secret Service was clearly separate from the old MI6; a harder, streamlined version that revolved around the Double-O Section. In SPECTRE more than any other film we get the sense that MI6 is entirely there to support the Double-O's) Bond calls Denbigh C - for Chief, and insists on it. The name sticks.
Andrew Scott is Denbigh, also known as 'C'
Eve Moneypenny calls round to Bond's flat with a box of charred papers salvaged from Skyfall Lodge.

She knows something's up; Bond needs help. He levels with her and plays a video recording. It's the old 'M', (Judi Dench) who tells Bond if anything happens to her, he is to find and kill Marco Sciarra. Realising Bond is onto something, Eve agrees to help. Sciarra's funeral is in three days in Rome. Going through the papers, Bond finds a temporary guardianship certificate for himself in the name of Oberhauser along with a photo of Oberhauser with two boys, one clearly Bond and one older lad whose face has been burnt away. Bond then reports to the new 'Q' branch for a 'fitness test'. Q has chosen a hard to find old cellar for his workshop, Bond and Bill Tanner travel there by boat, past the old MI6 HQ, an SAS trooper guarding the new digs.
 ABOVE: Bond checks out a Steyr carbine at Q's workshop
BELOW: Christ! Bond gets a painful injection of 'smart blood'
This consists of him getting a painful injection of nano-technology into his veins, 'Smart Blood' which enables him to be tracked from anywhere on Earth. Bond needs a favour; he wants to disappear. Q (Ben Wishaw returns) gets the message and agrees that perhaps the smart blood won't be very effective for, say 24, ok 48 hours... (laughs from audience)
We see the old DB5 from Skyfall, slowly being restored and Q also shows Bond a rather tasty Aston Martin DB10 packed full of gizmos - and then doesn't give it to him. In a scene which got some hearty laughs, he tells 007 the car's for 009, but hands him an Omega watch. What does it do?; it tells the time, but the alarm's rather loud...

What's with this Denbigh then?, well, as Andrew Scott plays Moriarty in TV's Sherlock you can be sure he's a wrong 'un. Presiding over a project called Nine-Eyes, his main role is to persuade a reluctant South Africa to join the program. So far, the major nations are all signed up except the Yarpies. Nine-Eyes is a global surveillance program of the kind enamoured of by politicians, usually the ones that can't get a sentence out without including the words 'freedom' and 'security'... He's also gunning for the Double-O's, regarding them as anachronistic. A prick. Q goes to give 009 his new car and, wouldn't you know?, it's been hoofed!.

Roma. The eternal city; The DB10 purrs along with Bond at the wheel. He attends the funeral of Sciarra and is immediately drawn to his stunning widow, a beautiful woman, elegant and classy.
 BELOW: Monica Bellucci is Lucia Sciarra
Among the mourners a man stands out, seen from behind, something stirs in Bond's mind, something tugging at his memory... but then it is over and the mourners leave. Approaching Signora Sciarra, Bond offers her a way out - life expectancy for widows can be very short. She brushes him off and returns to her villa. Two hitmen await her and, knowing she is as good as dead, she steps out onto the lawn wih a drink to enjoy the view, a gorgeous fountain and pool chosen as her last image of life. Two thuds and Bond is beside her, unscrewing the suppressor from his PPK.
 ABOVE, BELOW: Bellucci was 50 when she was cast in the role, making her the oldest Bond 'girl'. Oldest Bond Woman. Stylish, achingly beautiful, Bond must have struggled to retain his professionalism in seducing her for information.
He repeats his offer, seduces her and she tells him there is a midnight meeting to replace her husband at a nearby palazzo. He writes down a number for Felix Leiter, stating Felix will give her protection.
ABOVE: Blenheim Palace, England provided the exterior for the palazzo. (Photo Copyright Simon Kane)
BELOW: While Pinewood Studios provided a magnificent Baroque interior to match
Blenheim Pala... I mean the Palazzo. Using Sciarra's ring, Bond gains access to the meeting, but the guard wasn't fooled and had instructions to admit him. Inside a large hall, a large table is surrounded by shadowy figures, a gallery likewise. From the gallery, Bond watches as the meeting unfolds. The double doors open and the man from the funeral walks in, his features obscured by shadow, flanked by flunkies (ever been flanked by a flunkie?; me neither) everyone stands. He takes his seat and bids the assemblage to follow suit.
The candidate to replace Sciarra is a brash Italian Mafioso, all swagger and bluster. Any other candidates? - a hulking, brutish figure pads softly into the hall. This is Mr.Hinx (Dave Bautista) and the man must be six-two and 18 stone of muscle in a suit. The mysterious chairman asks for his qualifications; he smashes the mafioso's head off the table and gouges his eyes out with steel thumbnails. By the time he breaks the man's neck the job's his.
Suddenly, the chairman speaks to welcome James. At the word 'cuckoo' Bond shows real horror on his face and, despatching the guard from downstairs dives through a window and races to the DB10.
ABOVE: ex-wrestler Dave Bautista plays Mr.Hinx, a brutish, hulking, relentless killer who is practically unstoppable.
As gunfire erupts from the building, pinging off the Aston's armour, Bond races off, pursued by Hinx in a stunning Jaguar CX-75. Q has added an array of switches to the DB-10, Bond tries one labelled 'Backfire'; two barrels emerge from the rear of the car, but frustratingly, they aren't loaded!.
The chase roars through Rome, past the Vatican itself. Using the hands-free, he calls Moneypenny; she's at home with company. After some banter, Penny tells Bond 'The Pale King' is none other than our old friend Mr.White, currently in Austria. Bond flips a switch labelled 'Atmosphere' - the stereo lights up with a Frank Sinatra track; 009's favourite!.
The Aston bounces down some steps toward the Tiber, the Jag hot on its heels. Racing along by the river, Bond tries the next switch - 'Exhaust'. Satisfyingly, a sheet of flame explodes from the exhausts and the Jag is ablaze. With a dead end looming, Bond flips the last switch; 'Air'. His seat harness tightens, the roof goes and he's ejected as the Aston bounces up and into the river. Landing softly a few streets away, Bond leaves his parachute behind and greets a stunned street cleaner.

This scene can't go by un-discussed; its too good. One of the finest car chases in Bond history, the gadgets are back (YIPEEEE!) and for once, Bond doesn't magically know how they all work!. Extremely satisfying to a Bondosseur...
 ABOVE: Bond searches for Mr.White
Austria; Lake Altaussee. Bond takes a boat across to a remote chalet and enters cautiously. There's a security camera, but no sign of life apart from some birds. The place seems dead. Spotting a chink of light from the floorboards, he finds a secret doorway built into a mirror and leading to the basement. Sure enough, there's Mr.White, on a drip, surrounded by tv monitors. Bond orders him upstairs. 

 ABOVE: Jesper Christensen returns for the third and final time as Mr.White
White has been poisoned with thallium placed in his mobile phone (He looks awful, but not bald, a side-effect of thallium in lower doses. This may be seen as a goof, but high doses kill before hair loss occurs.) White has had a crisis of conscience - being bad was ok, but killing women and kids?, not his thing. Leaving the organisation left him a marked man. 


After confronting him with the octopus ring, Bond realises he's protecting someone and discovers White has a daughter who knows a dangerous secret; Bond offers White a deal to protect her, claiming he can protect her. 


White is incredulous, mocking even, until Bond offers him his PPK as proof of his sincerity. Pointing the gun at Bond White could easily kill him, but makes the deal - his daughter is at a clinic in the Austrian alps and she can take him to 'L'Americain', whoever that is. With the final words 'So long' White shoots himself.
An exclusive clinic (The Ice Q restaurant, Solden was the setting) atop an Alp. And when does an Alp become a Berg?. Booked in for counselling with Dr.Madeleine Swann - (White's daughter is played by Lea Seydoux) Bond offers her a protection deal. She tells him to leave the building or she'll call security. He goes to the bar for a Vodka Martini shaken not (YIPPEEE!) and is offered some health-food sludge - the place is alcohol free. Who should pop up, but Q?. Apparently he's a fan of the place. Hinx and some goons arrive to kidnap Dr.Swann. Q is menaced by some thugs, but escapes, while 007 steals a Norman-Britten Islander and gives chase. 
A convoy of modified (and quite tasty) Land Rovers spirits Dr.Swann away, a henchman trying to inject her with something nasty. Fiesty, she jabs him instead. Hinx pulls a ridiculously oversized handgun (An AF2011 Dueller Prismatic - basically two .45 autos side by side, made by Arsenal firearms, the very people who provided Bond's weapon in Mexico) and bangs chunks out of the plane. 


A maniacal Bond buzzes and crashes the vehicles, losing his wings to the trees as the road narrows. Even on the ground he's not beaten, revving the right engine to turn the motorised-sled (which it now is to all intents) after the fleeing vehicles. 
ABOVE: The SFX and Stunt crews work enabled the audience to see Daniel Craig crashing the aircraft down a hillside with absolute authenticity.
Smashing through a chalet, he flops down into Hinx's Landy and sends Hinx through the windscreen. Swann is still resistant, but he finally gets through to her; he's her best chance of staying alive. 






 ABOVE: Wishaw's 'Q' plays a vital part in SPECTRE, MI6's whizzkid uses his brains and tech skills to combat the shadowy SPECTRE


Rendezvouing at Q's hotel room we learn the name of the mystery group; SPECTRE. Analysed, the ring reveals itself as having concealed digital files, similiar to DNA, that link Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Silva to the mystery group; all of Bond's missions, in fact have been against separate entities working under SPECTRE!. Bond needs Q to check the files of Oberhauser, who died twenty years ago in an avalanche. Or did he?.
Tangier, Morocco. L'Americain turns out to be a Hotel; White and his wife spent their honeymoon there. They returned every year, bringing the young Madeleine with them. Even after his divorce, White continued the tradition. Booking in, Bond rips the place apart, finding a bottle of what looks
to be Belvedere vodka. He finds nothing. As Madeleine gets some much-needed sleep, he sits with a bottle of Heineken. Please. A rat appears, Bond aims his PPK and questions it; who are you working for?. (Another humorous moment in a film that is liberally peppered with them; a much-welcomed return to the tongue in cheek days of vintage Bond and a big 'YIPPEEE!' from me). Mr.Rat disappears into a hole in the skirting board and, suspicious, Bond puts the Heineken to it's only good use by pouring it away.
 BELOW: The Pinewood set of Mr.White's operations room
There's something concealed behind the wall, so, ever-subtle, Bond punches through to find a concealed and much-neglected operations room, with rifles, radio gear and photos of Madeleine as a kid. finding a videotape marked 'Vesper Lynd Interrogation' he discards it, not wishing to disturb old ghosts. An early satellite-comms device shows itself to be locked on to a mobile phone, maps and charts show co-ordinates in the middle of nowhere. Hmmm...
Remember those old trains in thriller movies?, the ones with porters and restaurant cars?. Another old Bond staple, this time the Marrakesh express from Tangier. Bond tries to teach Madeleine the basics of firearms, but she demonstrates familiarity by unloading the pistol with a practiced hand. She learnt from her father. The restaurant car and Bond is resplendant in a fetching white Dinner Jacket with red Carnation.
Rings a bell... Madeleine enters in a stunning silver silk evening gown and they enjoy the moment with a dirty Vodka-Martini. (Google it).


ABOVE: It can't be co-incidence?. Craig's suits in Skyfall evoked the classic Connery wardrobe from Goldinger as does his attire for drinks aboard the train.

She asks Bond what he would do if he wasn't a killer and he genuinely seems intrigued by the thought, adding he didn't know. Enter Hinx, who slaps Bond around, knocks Madeleine out cold and proceeds to break the train with Bond as a hammer.
This fight is vicious, hand to hand, winner lives combat. It evokes From Russia With Love more than those campy Roger Moore train-battles, a no-holds barred, ugly affair that is one of the highlights of the film. Daniel Craig is no 8 stone weakling, but he's bounced around like a dog's toy, it takes all his physicality, speed and courage to begin to match this murder machine. Fantastic. Inevitably, Bond is done in, Hinx opens the service door to throw him to his death.
In the nick of time, Madeleine comes to Bond's aid and puts a bullet into Hinx, who goes absolutely postal with rage. James manages to get a rope around the brute's neck and tries to strangle him. Theres a group of beer barrels linked by chain and as one is kicked from the service doorway 007 hooks the rope onto the last barrel. Hinx speaks his one piece of dialogue; 'Shit.' and is yanked from the train by his neck. What to do next?; yep, great minds and all that - Bond makes love with Madeleine.


Meanwhile, in London, M is dining alone at Rules, the oldest restaurant in town. Moneypenny and Q arrive and try to persuade him to help Bond. He refuses; with Nine-Eyes immiment, any attempt to assist Bond would only compromise him further. All he can do to help is order Q to destroy the smart-blood files.
The train takes Bond and Swann down to a deserted sand-blown station with no platform. (For some reason not calling the Gendarmes over their destroyed train) Eventually, a vintage Silver Wraith Rolls
up (sorry) and a Driver takes the pair to a futuristic installation in what looks like an old volcano, but turns out to be a meterorite crater. Inside a flunky disarms Bond and shows them to their rooms; in Bond's, a pristine copy of the Oberhauser photo and in hers, a photo of her with her Father. Finally they are called to a meeting with their host, in what appears to be an observatory. Inside, in the darkness an ages old meteorite on a stand.
Oberhauser Jnr (Christoph Waltz) appears and explains the rock is the oldest known to man, it created the crater the installation is built in.
AT LAST!: A proper Bond-villain lair!
Leading them to an underground complex (Another Yippeee! from me...) Oberhauser shows off his surveillance empire, a vast array of screens with global reach. The terrorist attacks, we learn were all to persuade nations to join the ubiquitous Nine-Eyes program. SPECTRE controls Nine-Eyes and as such will shortly become omnipotent; everything C gets, SPECTRE gets. C didn't even ask for money, happy to betray his country for his belief alone. All softly spoken and slightly odd, Oberhauser reveals he was behind all the troubles in Bond's life, the architect of all his pain. Unpleasantly, he orders a video shown on all screens of White's suicide and Bond tries to stop him, only to be felled by a steel baton.
 ABOVE: Christoph Waltz's Oberhauser/Blofeld character is understated, chilling, lacking in any empathy and psychotic. Waltz has brought a new character to life with a few trappings of the old (The Nehru jacket, the fluffy cat the secret base etc). His performance is utterly compelling.
Helpless, all he can do is urge Madeleine to look at him rather than the moment of her father's death. Bond is then knocked out from behind (Another Bond tradition from years past; for fun, try and count the number of films that use this plot convenience).
Waking, Bond is in a bare white chamber, manacled to a futuristic chair with robotic arm restraints. A gecko climbs over the roof panel and a fluffy white cat jumps over his lap. (Yet another HOORAY from me!) Now comes the BIG REVEAL; Oberhauser Jnr is none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld!. He killed his Father and faked his death, taking a name from his Mother's side; Blofeld. Why?; when his Father took the recently orphaned James Bond in, for two years, Blofeld experienced envy and an insane envy at that. Hence the cuckoo reference at the Palazzo. For showing kindness to an orphaned child, this monster - as he is now revealed - murdered his Father. After this revelation, Blofeld seats himself at a console and remotely operates tiny drills to torture Bond. In a scene that isn't easy to watch, he tells Bond he can affect his balance, his vision and his memory with surgical precision. Bond takes two of these hideous, agonising drills to the jaw and skull, working feverishly behind his back to undo his watch strap. Horrified, Madeleine rushes to him and tells him she loves him in a whisper. He presses the button and tells her she's got a minute, the minute hand becoming a sweeping timer counting down. Luckily, she understands and conceals the watch. With seconds to go, the watch turns red and she tosses it across the floor where it explodes in Blofeld's face, sending him and his infernal console flying.

Freed, Bond grabs a rifle and uses the henchmen for Close Quarter Battle practice, blowing them away with precision and skill. Shooting at the pipe work, Bond is rewarded with a series of colossal explosions. Another Bond box ticked!. Escaping in a helicopter, they fail to notice the two 4x4's driving from the scene...

London and the Nine-Eyes program is coming online in a matter of hours, in the new National Centre for Surveillance, or NCS building across the river from the old, damaged MI6 building. A monstrous affair of glass and steel, it defaces the Capital.
M takes Bill Tanner, (Rory Kinnear reprises his role) Q and Moneypenny to a safe house above an old shop, Hildebrand Rarities (A nice in-joke for Fleming fans). Bond and Swann are there waiting. The plan is simple on paper; Q will work to attack the Nine-Eyes software, M will arrest Denbigh/C. reluctantly, Madeleine decides to leave. She can't be a part of this world of assassins and murder any more. Bond watches her go and then goes with M to detain C. They are driving in a tunnel when suddenly, a pickup hurtles out of a side turning into the car and Bond is knocked out. M escapes and in the following car, Penny, Tanner and Q hit reverse to escape.

Bond is hooded and plasti-cuffed in a security van, taken to the old MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross. Once there he acts dazed, then disarms and shoots both his guards by sense of direction, removes the hood and breaks his cuffs in approved training-school fashion. entering the building, he sees the atrium is open to the sky above, a debris net spanning the space. The whole place is wired for demolition, a ring main with hundreds of sub-branches leading off the charges on every load-bearing structure. The Wall of Remembrance, the names of Officers killed serving their country is, oddly, still intact, with one sinister addition; Bond's name in red paint.
A red arrow leads him on into the bowels of the building, the target range, where targets flip to show his face pasted on.

A power boat sits at anchor in the boat dock. (How convenient...) The shower stalls have photos from his past; Le Chiffre, Vesper, Silva, M!. Finally, he sees Blofeld standing in a chamber and his shots reveal a wall of bulletproof glass between them.
Horribly disfigured by Bond's watch, the madman has a jagged scar through his right eye, which is now opaque. Blofeld gives him the old Batman ultimatum; save himself or the girl; he's got Madeleine, the building is rigged to blow on a 3 minute timer. Pressing the button, Blofeld escapes to his waiting heli and Bond races frantically through the doomed building. Finally, he reaches M's old office, to see Blofeld hovering across the water, enjoying his defeat.

A muffled scream from behind a metal door and Bond finds Madeleine surrounded by explosives. Freeing her, time has run out and they are blown up into the air in a fountain of blood. Nah; Bond picks her up, leaps down the atrium into the net, which rips free from its cleats to deposit them fairly gently on the ground.
Meanwhile, M has reached C/Denbigh in his office in the NCS building across the way. As Q works on the firewalls to bring down Nine-Eyes, M confronts C, who explains that MI6 and the old ways are the past and Nine-Eyes the future, with SPECTRE running the show. M watches helpless as the MI6 building is demolished, a ripple of detonations heralding the end for the iconic building. C sneers at him and pulls a gun, stating 'M' must stand for Moron. The reply?; classic - 'Well we know what C stands for'. Don't panic parents!, he means 'Careless' as he reveals C's bullets in his hand. A punch-up ensues, with M getting physical.
In the fight, a gun goes off and glass buildings don't mix with bullets. The window-wall behind him shot away, C loses balance and arms windmilling, he falls down to the ground floor. He won't be back. Finally, Q beats the Nine-Eyes firewall and kills it dead. They watch as a powerboat races from beneath the destroyed building; aboard it Bond and Madeleine.
Blofeld's chopper flies imperiously along the Thames, towards Westminster. All Bond can do is fire his PPK in a last-ditch slim-chance effort to... well, it's all he has. His shots go un-noticed, until one pings off the aircraft. A powerboat, however fast is no match for a helicopter.

 Below: clearly shot in daylight, this may be a rehearsal run or a pre-processed shot
One last shot... hits the rotor hub assembly, the engine sparking into flame as a catastrophic chain-reaction of failing components sends the chopper veering down, towards Westminster Bridge. Smashing onto the bridge, it scrapes across the tarmac and is halted by the balustrade. Frantically, Blofeld kicks at the door, which has jammed as Bond races up the Westminster steps to the bridge. Unable to walk, Blofeld drags himself along the bridge like a wounded animal as Bond walks up to finish it all. M arrives from the Elizabeth Tower side. OK; M arrives from the Big Ben side. You foreigners do realise Big Ben is the bell inside, right?. 
Anyway, M's here and walks past the SCO19 firearms team that's arrived. Seeing Bond has his, he stands the firearms boys down and watches.
Bond aims the PPK at the loathsome creature lying before him, somehow lizard-like and helpless. He's out of bullets, and quits on the spot, tossing his PPK into the Thames. M arrests Blofeld and Bond walks away.
Q is in his lab. Unexpectedly, Bond arrives. Although he's left the Service, he needs one last thing. His DB5, now completely restored. With Madeleine as passenger, he drives off.

THE END 

So, that's a description based on the increasingly flawed memory of a middle-aged man. Some scenes may be out of sync and doubtless others will remember other aspects of the film. If you want a rating, SPECTRE gets 8/10 from me, 9/10 from my Wife. She was especially struck by Waltz' villain. The action is, undeniably first-rate, the hoary old phrase 'rollercoaster ride' is dusted off here. You go between 'oohs' and 'aahs' and the interspersed dramatic scenes with such gusto that you find yourself using the 'proper acting scenes' as a buffer between the thrills... repeat viewings will be required to see the sheer talent on display in the quieter moments. The cast all stand up to the challenge posed by SKYFALL and the impending STAR WARS, you can't single out individuals here.

Daniel Craig's Bond is muscular, jaded and quite lost inside. He gives a wonderful performance which only the truly blinkered could deny. The favourite argument of Bond fans is redundant; he's made this character his by sheer hard bloody work and using all his skills as an actor. Some of the previous Bonds were, lets be honest, television actors, little more than soap opera stars. Craig is a pro and the difference is self-evident from this outing. James Bond becomes a real person again; a rarity in the series. Take away the reason for his existing, ask what he would do if he gave up being a Government killer... and he is intrigued, the unknown tantalising and exciting him in a way you can relate to. We all do whatever we do, the thought of throwing it all over for a new start often appeals. I liked the scene on the train very much, as you can tell.

Ben Wishaw gives sterling support as the Quartermaster; his computer skills aside, Q's a decent young man who has courage and principles. The decision to give him more scenes repays itself generously. Ditto Ralph Fiennes; almost instantly a classic 'M' after little more than one film. The series has been blessed with some magnificent actors for this role and so with Fiennes; whose grit and determination to save his Service and Country would inspire loyalty in any MI6 officer. Moneypenny, for me, is the key to much of the James Bond legend; a woman with access to MI6's greatest secrets and, like all secretaries to powerful men, made of steel; Naomie Harris is no dragon, but a warm character who seems genuine in concern for Bond's lack of an outside life. Rory Kinnear shows up, but doesn't get much in the way of meat; his Bill Tanner is a good character and deserves a better outing next time around. Andrew Scott is a nasty bugger and quite oozes slimy politician. Waltz... well, read the above. Oscar winning stuff in my opinion; younger fans may miss the understatement in the character and misread it as dull and a bit odd. He's terrifying; there's no human in that shell. Jesper Christensen's Mr.White goes out nobly, his character suffering piteously, but still a spark of chivalry emerges now that Bond's old adversary has turned his back on evil. There's been talk of 'The Rock' Dwayne Johnson wanting the Hinx part; I'm sure he would have been good, but Dave Bautista is less well-known and fits the tradition of using outsiders and (relative) unknowns. Does he sit between Jaws and Oddjob?. Yes, I rather think he does. Bautista doesn't get a lot of chance to show his acting - he only gets one word of dialogue - but I was impressed by his screen presence, menace and the physicality of his Mr.Hinx. Not someone you'd want to cross. I hope he survived his fall from the train and does a Richard Kiel...

Who else?; well, Monica Bellucci is a woman of 51 with the body of a thirty year old woman. A rarely fit thirty year old woman at that. You can see she's in her prime; there are laughter lines and the odd wrinkle when she talks. Casting her was a shrewd move; the seduction scene is intense and I suspect cut to please the censor. Lea Seydoux, while not my cup of thé, gives a good performance, falling for, and winning the heart of Bond, but I was disappointed the beautiful, sexy Stephanie Sigman's Estrella had such short screen time.

What else?; well, for $300,000,000 you get the best; Sam Mendes was persuaded back to Direct, Cinematrographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) makes the whole thing look expensive and the visuals are pleasing throughout. Readers of old will know the name 'Powell' guarantees quality stunts and Gary Powell's team does for real what most filmmakers fob us off with CGI these days (Though there is a lot of CGI in the film, it is not intrusive and the action is, where-ever possible, performed live). His massive stunt team includes driving specialist Ben Collins (Top Gear's 'The Stig'). Thomas Newman scored the film, with some memorable moments. Sam Smith's 'Writing's on the Wall' is well-written and starts well; it falls on the falsetto vocals. A potential epic ruined. I've heard the song performed by female artists and it works far better. Smith is a fine singer and this is a real shame - listen to the first notes and it has such promise. The ending is a let down; Bond going off with the girl is ok, but it just comes as an anti-climax and we left the cinema feeling, if not cheated, a little deflated that such a terrific film should have such a lacklustre ending. It smacked a little of Craig - as a co-producer - hinting he wouldn't return unless the incentives were suitably juicy. Cynical?, usually, yes I am. The movie survives its ending by dint of sheer class.

Is SPECTRE the best James Bond film?. See what you think.


















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