directed by Sam Mendes
(20th Century Fox, 2015)

Rumors are swirling on the Internet that James Bond will be recast by the time the next film is made. Some rumor-mongers say Daniel Craig is fed up with the role, while others say he's willing to return and, still others, that the studio Powers That Be want someone new in that immaculately tailored tuxedo.

All I can say is, I hope Craig returns at least once more. After a sterling debut as Bond in Casino Royale, his performance declined in the subsequent films, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. But in Spectre, his fourth outing as the British superspy, Craig is once again at the top of his game.

Spectre, of course, returns the evil organization SPECTRE to the Bond stable of villains -- a longtime former nemesis that was lost for decades due to litigious hijinks. For a time, it seemed that the new organization known as QUANTUM was going to fill that role, but legal restrictions changed and now SPECTRE is once again pulling strings and masterminding crimes to keep Bond so busy. And SPECTRE, of course, means Blofeld.

Blofeld in this outing is Christoph Waltz, who has repeatedly proven himself to be about the most likable villain to appear on the big screen in recent years. As Blofeld, he manages to erase the "Dr. Evil" image that has plagued the character ever since Austin Powers became a groovy British spy, recasting the villain as an affable, inscrutable puppeteer of global information. He also has a surprising connection to Bond, which I am loath to reveal here -- and with which, I have to admit, I am less than thrilled.

Spectre also marks Ralph Fiennes first full turn as Bond's superior, M, and the return of Ben Whishaw as gadgets-guy Q and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. All three, I think, fare much better here than they did in Skyfall.

The film features three Bond women: Lea Seydoux, most prominently, as Madeleine Swann, the daughter of an old Bond foe; Monica Bellucci as Lucia, the suddenly widowed and not terribly grieving spouse of terrorist Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona); and Stephanie Sigman, briefly, as arm-candy Estrella in an overblown Day of the Dead celebration (that looks more like Mardi Gras than Dia de Muertos) in Mexico City.

And then there's Max Denbigh, a.k.a. C, the new head of the British Centre of National Security, which is merging with MI6 and might put M out of a job. As Denbigh, Andrew Scott brings something of his remarkable Moriarty portrayal to the role.

But a Bond movie hinges, of course, on Bond, and Craig here is cool, charming and very, very deadly. This is Bond as Bond should be, and Craig should keep at it for a while longer.

review by
Tom Knapp

18 June 2016

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