I have had more than just a passing interest in the James Bond phenomenon since reading Ian Fleming’s 007 novels one after the other in the dim and distant.
Sean Connery nailed the chain-smoking, borderline alcoholic, often morose character better than any of his successors, but Daniel Craig, with the appropriate ‘cold blue eyes’, has perfectly acclimatised Bond to the new age. He has been aided and abetted in this by director Sam Mendes who, if anything, has improved on his outstanding Skyfall (2012) with this latest outing, which, for all its blistering CGI, is imbued with a comforting retro feel.
A brilliantly conceived and executed opening sequence finds Bond in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. To the dismay of M (Ralph Fiennes), he is acting as a vigilante, on a personal mission that will evolve into a major crisis. His target is the ruthless head of SPECTRE, an international crime organisation – Blofeld (Fleming named him after Henry’s father). And who better to play the odious, ever present villain than the scene-eating Christoph Waltz.
Assisting Bond is Q (Ben Whishaw) – a creation of the cinema who was not present in any of the books – but instead of producing an array of dazzling gizmos the brainiac is more focused on nerdy keyboard warfare. Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is allowed to leave the office and be more involved than usual and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), the Bond Girl, is appropriately sexy and capable of looking after herself.
The plot is convoluted but coherent, the chases are almost but not quite overdone and a pulsating score by Thomas Newman supplements Monty Norman’s immediately recognisable theme as Hoyte Van Hoytema’s luscious cinematography follows the action through London and Rome, Austria and Morocco. But best of all is the movie’s sense of itself, managing to be both dead serious in intent but frequently tongue in cheek in delivery – Bond’s seduction of Madeleine on the train after throttling a horrible hairy bad guy is wonderfully corny.
There’s even a good old-fashioned torture scene. I loved it.