Spectre is a Bond fan’s Bond movie. This is the 24th film in a series spanning over 50 years, and after a talk with an expert in the field (my own editor), I was given a breakdown of the myriad homages the movie makes to its own legacy. If you have only a basic working knowledge of the Bond mythos (like me), or even if you know next to nothing about agent 007, Spectre still works as a thrilling spy-actioner. The film is certainly not without its flaws, but on the whole it delivers on several levels, and if nothing else is two and half hours of spy-movie fun.
Daniel Craig is the sixth actor to portray British MI6 secret agent James Bond and he begins his fourth outing in Mexico City, during a huge Día de Muertos celebration. The skeleton motif – think giant skeleton parade balloons and participants decked out in skull masks and make-up – is a direct callback to another Bond film, specifically the tops-and-tails sporting henchman Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die. It’s a great signal right at the start to let the initiated know that this is a Bond film steeped in its franchise’s lore.
For audiences who don’t know or care about any of that, this virtuoso sequence directed by Sam Mendes is still amazing on a purely technical level. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema’s camera magnificently swirls around the parade and up several floors of a hotel in a tracking shot that remains unbroken for almost five minutes. The tension that is created in the shot doesn’t just remain intact after the first cut, but actually ramps up with a fist-fight on a flying helicopter that is dazzling. Even if the rest of the movie was a disappointment (it’s not), the opening would be enough to redeem the whole film.
The Daniel Craig Bond films resurrected an aspect of the franchise that has been long dormant. From the early 1980s through 2002’s Die Another Day, each film has been a self-contained unit. Each villain and plot is disconnected from the others. With this latest series, the writers and producers have revived the oldest foe MI6 and Bond have ever faced: the shadowy criminal cabal known as Spectre. It’s a throwback that links the very first 007 adventure with the latest one, and fans of old-school spy craft movies, especially the Bond series, should love it. Simply put, Spectre is the Bondiest Bond film to come along in forty years.