A spectre is haunting Bond movies. Ever since the Berlin Wall fell, 007 has had a bit of an identity crisis: caught between cold assassin and cosy quip merchant, between serious espionage and groan-nuendo misogyny, between eras and attitudes.
Daniel Craig, the first post-9/11 Bond, had appeared to lean towards the former, bringing a newfound seriousness and muscularity to a role which had previously dealt primarily in raised eyebrows. Which makes Spectre a bit of an odd entry: it’s a film which tries to have its Bond cake and eat it too.
Under the eye of returning director Sam Mendes, Spectre starts with one of the strongest pre-credits sequences in the entire franchise: an audacious tracking shot through the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, climaxing in a spectacular helicopter somersault. But beyond that, Mendes feels obliged to embrace the laziest of the series’ tropes.
Austin Powers-grade cliches abound. Here is the villain openly inviting Bond to his evil lair for some reason! Here is the villain monologuing his evil plan in detail! Here is the villain attempting to kill Bond in the most elaborate manner possible, instead of just shooting him in the face!
In a sense, this is all fine. If you’re after a familiar Bond, you’ll find everything in order here. Spectre will make for fine Bank Holiday telly. But Craig’s Bond always seemed to aim higher than that. After 53 years and 24 films, is it too much to, ahem, exSpectre bit more?