SPEC­TRE

Yes­ter­day Never Dies

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Re­views -

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12A | 148 min­utes

Direc­tor sam Men­des

Cast daniel Craig, léa sey­doux,

Christoph Waltz, Mon­ica Bel­lucci, Ralph Fi­ennes, Ben Whishaw

Sweet, mer­ci­ful Broc­coli! James Bond’s sig­na­ture gun­bar­rel se­quence is back at the be­gin­ning of the movie. For some, a mi­nor cre­ative de­ci­sion. For oth­ers, an essen­tial part of the Bond rit­ual, the puls­ing white dot in the dark­ness that prom­ises rather than com­pletes two plus hours of high-glam­our may­hem. It’s a clear sig­nal that SPEC­TRE is chas­ing a style as clas­sic, as trad, as 007’s be­spoke Jermyn Street shirts.

The 24th film in the su­per­spy fran­chise plays as a per­fect hy­brid of vin­tage Bond panache and Daniel Craig-era grit. There are over­fa­mil­iar echoes of Sky­fall in its White­hall pol­i­tick­ing – MI6 faces “the big­gest shake-up in the his­tory of Bri­tish In­tel­li­gence” and there’s talk, again, of Bond be­ing a relic – but there’s a grander sweep to direc­tor Sam Men­des’s en­core, an even greater will­ing­ness to en­gage with the fran­chise’s legacy, even the parts long ago kid­napped by par­o­dists and spoof-mer­chants.

Adored clichés are dusted down with glee: bru­tal fights on lux­ury trains, sin­is­ter lairs in as­ton­ish­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tions, a gad­get-laden dream car. There’s a glo­ri­ous mo­ment dur­ing a thrilling noc­tur­nal chase around Rome that has an un­apolo­getic touch of the Roger Moores, stop­ping just short of a Union Jack para­chute.

Craig em­braces the slyer, dryer tone – he’s never been more dap­per, more in­sou­ciant – but he also nails Bond’s al­ter­nat­ing cur­rents of light and dark, cyn­i­cally se­duc­ing a widow (Mon­ica Bel­lucci, hideously un­der­used) while chival­rously pro­tect­ing the daugh­ter of an old en­emy (Léa Sey­doux, bring­ing in­ten­sity and fragility to a Bond girl with rare psy­cho­log­i­cal depth).

SPEC­TRE, self-ev­i­dently, also re­ac­ti­vates Bond’s most ar­che­typal men­ace, un­seen for decades. All shad­ows, suits and sum­mary ex­e­cu­tions, they’ve up­dated their op­er­a­tion to in­clude coun­ter­feit phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and hu­man traf­fick­ing. Christoph Waltz is silky and smi­ley as their head, Franz Ober­hauser, a man whose mas­ter­plan trades on Snow­den­era para­noia over in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, a threat pos­si­bly a touch too con­cep­tual for a film evok­ing the glory days of or­bital lasers.

Men­des gives a ro­man­tic shim­mer to Bond’s world, trans­port­ing us from a macabre street fes­ti­val in Mex­ico to ver­tig­i­nous Aus­trian peaks to the sun-bleached souks of Tang­ier. A shot of a vin­tage Rolls travers­ing an empty North African desert has an au­then­tic Flem­ing weird­ness. And, nat­u­rally, there’s cin­e­marat­tling ac­tion to spare, launch­ing with an au­da­cious pre-ti­tles he­li­copter stunt.

But there’s a heart be­neath the shoul­der hol­ster. Com­plet­ing the emo­tional jour­ney be­gun in Casino Royale, SPEC­TRE is, ul­ti­mately, about sav­ing the man, not the world; earn­ing a li­cence to live, not kill. Craig’s fu­ture may be un­cer­tain but one thing we know: as much as the open­ing gun­bar­rel is a key part of Bond tra­di­tion so, too, is that fi­nal, in­de­struc­tible prom­ise: James Bond will re­turn. Nick Setch­field

Look for the name on the safe­house door: it’s a nod to Ian Flem­ing’s Play­boy short story “The Hilde­brand Rar­ity”.

There’s a heart be­neath the shoul­der hol­ster

Do not throw a snow­ball at this man.

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