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How good is SPECTRE? reviews the new Bond film

"A film of extraordinary commitment..." Paul Horrell on the new 007 flick

Published: 24 Oct 2015

Let's cut to the chase. Literally. It's not just that SPECTRE sends an Aston DB10 and a Jaguar C-X75 ripping through Rome in the dead of night. It's that it does it with such drama, noise, and dynamism that you can taste the speed. Bond's new outing is a film of extraordinary physical ambition and commitment.

For something approaching eight minutes, these two fantastical machines pelt about the place, j-turning on wet tarmac, jinking out of shape on tramlines and flying over obstacles. For one glorious deep-breath moment they glide in sideways formation through St Peter's Square. If His Holiness was on his balcony to see it, he'd surely have been turned petrolhead.

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If it were all generated in some digital-domain physics engine, you'd marvel at the realism. But every so often you have to remind yourself this was all filmed for real. These cars actually did those things. At which point you have to drag your jaw back off the popcorn-sticky carpet.

And then there's the heavily trailered plane-versus-Range-Rover snow chase down an Austrian mountainside. Like the Rome chase, among the layers of sensation is enough mildly camp humour to acknowledge we all know it's ridiculous. The best kind of ridiculous.

But to be a good Bond movie it needs more than stunts. This has more. The plotline has Bond encountering the traces of old lovers, old enemies, and – spoiler alert – old enemies' pets. It's like a meta-Bond movie, and pushes us out of the cinema by telling us it'll be the last.

SPECTRE is going global this time. The film asks a lot of pertinent questions about the way today's industrial-scale surveillance might allow the goodies and the baddies to merge.

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The orphaning of young James is the critical psychological thread. The verbal script that explores it is clunky. But then you'd hardly expect a lone assassin such as Bond to be eloquent on the subject of his psychological hinterland. Luckily for him, his questioner on the matter is thoroughly gorgeous: new Bond girl (how achingly ’60s that expression sounds) Dr Madeleine Swann.

Besides, Craig plays his wordless struggles brilliantly. And he's hardly acting the rest of them off the set. It's a uniformly terrific cast.

There's not a whole lot of time for all that though. These cars don't chase themselves, you know. Not to mention there are vast buildings to be blown up, hugely muscled henchmen to be wrestled with, armies of the evil to be shot and knifed and strangled. And thrown out of helicopters, natch.

You keep thinking it's drawing to a close, then you're treated to another coda. It's all done with such elan that you end up fervently hoping the closure Bond seems to have achieved at the end is somehow denied him. You want the next 007 movie already.

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