The Culture Column: Spectre (9/10)

An explosively flamboyant parade of 007s past.

“The dead are alive”, the stark epigraph sets the tone, accompanied by a deep thud from the speakers. Black screen gives way to a festival of colour, noise, and energy. The Day of the Dead, Mexico City. The echoes of the voodoo scenes of Live and Let Die are strong (the first of many nostalgic rewards for the more hardcore fans). A masked man in a white suit and top hat swaggers through the crowd, alone against the flow. Aside, stood proud with his exotic purple dressed prize, a handsome skeleton looks on. Beneath the brim of a tall black top hat, familiar blue eyes glint through the sockets of the skull.

An impossibly long tracking shot follows Her Majesty’s premiere not-so-secret agent, slinking girl in hand through parade, hotel room, window, and along roof-top. And so begins one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever seen. An instant classic and my new favourite Bond moment.

There were a number of concerns for Spectre, all of which proved to be unfounded. But this is no shallow Quantum of Solace-esque stop gap. Even Sam Smith’s whiney soundtrack (offset by a rather grotesque, black, girl caressing octopus- no really) didn’t manage to ruin the traditionally theatrical opening credits.

This is Sam Mendes’s second contribution to the franchise. Skyfall, the first, was always going to be a difficult act to follow. Arguably Spectre doesn’t better it, but you’d be hard pressed to really notice or care for that matter. The gorgeous coffee toned palette that Hoyte Van Hoytema, Mendes’s cinematographer, brings to the screen is part of the reason for this. It screams European cool. A stark difference to the slate grey moody attitude of Skyfall. But Spectre’s many pleasures go far beyond artsy camera work.

Craigs Bond is as compelling as ever- mature, yet coarse, with levels of physical capability and likeability that slippery Pierce Brosnan could only ever dream of. Craig allows himself a well earned impertinent smirk, following a few witty quips. But if its wit youre after, look no further than the frighteningly curly haired Ben Whishaw, who returns as Q, and proves that hes even better at stealing scenes than he is creating exploding time-pieces.

Skyfall villain Silvas MI6 are past itmantra bleeds into every aspect of Spectres plot. The reintroduction of the wood panelled offices of old might have had us worried for a second. Cocky new character C (Andrew Scott) does his best to see off MI6 and the double-0 programme in a for the greater goodsort of way, but Ralph Fiennescapable new M quickly casts aside any doubts.

 Meanwhile the story of an all encompassing illuminati type agency, from which the film takes its title, is unearthed. Spectre is headed by Franz Oberhauzer (Christoph Waltz). Initially Waltz plays the role well, with sub-zero levels of cold and disturbingly calculated menace- particularly in his first scene at a rather whispery meeting in Rome. Later, as light is shed on Oberhauzers dark agenda, thanks in part to Madeline (Lea Seydoux), Waltz injects the classic level of camp that is to be expected- fluffy white cats and dubious office attire included. As is traditional, there is of course a henchman on the payroll; namely Mr Hinx (courtesy of one time wrestler Dave Bautista) who is not unlike Goldfingers old associate Oddjob (minus lethal tophat). 

If one thing is clear its that Spectre is a definitive Bond film. A savage Aston Martin pursued through the midnight streets of Rome by an impossibly exotic Jaguar, a secret base inside a crater including astronomical paraphernalia as decor, a white cat, whiter tuxedo, train fight, and ridiculously elaborate interrogation equipment- its all here and its not to be missed. James Bond isnt going down without a fight.