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First Reviews: ‘SPECTRE’ Is Business as Usual, Bond Style

First Reviews: 'SPECTRE' Is Business as Usual, Bond Style

The U.S. won’t get to see “SPECTRE,” Daniel Craig’s latest — and, according to some rumors, possibly last — turn as James Bond until November 6, but the movie opens in the U.K. on Monday, and British critics got their first look at it last night, filing their reviews soon after. Reaction is all over the map, ranging from five-star raves to one-star pans, but the general consensus is that if “SPECTRE” isn’t quite up to the standards of “Skyfall,” which represented both a critical and commercial peak for the series, it’s at least a worthy successor.

The “Skyfall” gang is back in force: director Sam Mendes returns along with Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris, with Ralph Fiennes stepping in for Judi Dench’s late M, although the latter sets the movie’s plot in motion from beyond the grave. Reviewers don’t confirm or deny that chief baddie Christophe Waltz’s Oberhauser will eventually be revealed as Hans Blofeld, the mastermind behind the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, but they do suggest that the movie draws heavily on both the continuity established by Craig’s Bond movies — a pronounced change from the series’ traditional stand-alones — and the canon as a whole. At 148 minutes, “SPECTRE” is the longest Bond movie ever, and it does seem to wear through over the long haul, but Bond fans won’t mind, and as “Skyfall” proved, there are still plenty of those.

Reviews of “SPECTRE”

Robbie Collin, Telegraph (5 stars)

If “Skyfall,”the 23rd film in the Bond franchise, was about making sense of the Bond character in the modern world, finally resetting the clock with that delicious closing scene — Bond, M and Moneypenny restored to the wood-paneled office of old — “SPECTRE,” the 24th, is the film that “Skyfall” made possible. The four-word epigraph that begins the film – “The dead are alive” – reminds you that no film series has been better at raiding its own mausoleum, and throughout “SPECTRE,” ghosts of Bond films past come gliding through the film, trailing tingles of nostalgic pleasure in their wake.

Geoffrey Macnab, Independent (4 stars)

At times, as “SPECTRE” lurches between adrenalin-filled stunts and introspective invocations of Bond’s past, it is as if we are watching a Wagnerian version of a Milk Tray ad. Try as he might, Mendes simply can’t make Bond into a convincing tragic hero. It doesn’t help that this is a 12A movie, aimed at a family audience. This means that even in the most brutal scenes, for example when one character has his eyes poked out and his head slammed on a table, the violence will always be shown only discreetly. What he has delivered, though, is a very vivid and tremendously well-crafted action thriller, seeped in 007 history and tradition. Bond may throw away his gun at one stage but we are left in no doubt that he will soon be back.

Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek! (4 stars)

Often sublimely, sometimes awkwardly, “SPECTRE” contrasts harshness and humor, violence and suspense, warmth and stark coldness. The ingredients that go into the Bond formula don’t hang together quite as successfully here as they did in “Skyfall,” and at 148 minutes, “SPECTRE” feels a touch too long. But “SPECTRE” more than satisfies as a big-screen spectacle, and among the superb performances from the top-notch cast, it’s Craig who again carries the day. His Bond is reliably flinty and dangerous, yet he also gives us the impression that every exploit the agent’s lived through is bearing down on his soul.

Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Bond is back and Daniel Craig is back in a terrifically exciting, spectacular, almost operatically delirious 007 adventure — endorsing intelligence work as old-fashioned derring-do and incidentally taking a stoutly pro-Snowden line against the creepy voyeur surveillance that undermines the rights of a free individual. It’s pure action mayhem with a real sense of style. It’s deeply silly but uproariously entertaining. At the end, I almost felt guilty for enjoying it all quite so much – almost.

Tom Huddleston, Time Out

Director Sam Mendes exercises complete control over his material, Craig’s bruised bulldog charm is in full effect and the visuals by crack cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema are rich and ravishing. But somewhere between the introduction of Léa Seydoux’s snappy but underwritten Madeleine Swann and some antics in the Sahara that unpleasantly (and, we’d assume, unintentionally) recall the climax of “Quantum of Solace,” the wheels come rattling off this Aston Martin. The result is an unbalanced but never less than entertaining film, enthralling and deflating in roughly equal measure, and studded with moments of true, old-school glory. If this is Craig’s farewell to the tux, he’s going out with a whole string of very loud bangs.

Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

We can normally measure a Bond film by the quality of its villain, and Austrian double Oscar-winner Waltz certainly gives good evil, spritzing up Oberhauser with a light fizz of mirth and mischief. But he is hampered by a script which fails to make his long-standing grudge against Bond plausible, and provides zero motives for his power-hungry schemes. His big revelation in the final half hour will come as no great shock to anyone even vaguely familiar with the early 007 films. It feels like the filmmakers have been bluffing a great poker hand for two hours before throwing down a pair of threes.

Guy Lodge, Variety

Sam Mendes’ second consecutive Bond outing again passes its physical with flying colors: Ricocheting from London to Rome to Morocco across action sequences of deliriously daft extravagance, the pic accumulates a veritable Pompeii of mighty, crumbling structures. What’s missing is the unexpected emotional urgency of “Skyfall,” as the film sustains its predecessor’s nostalgia kick with a less sentimental bent. A wealth of iconography — both incidental and integral — from the series’ founding chapters is revived here, making “SPECTRE” a particular treat for 007 nerds, and a businesslike blast for everyone else.

Nicholas Barber, BBC

As hungry as some of us were to see a new Bond movie stuffed with old Bond movie ingredients, the trouble with “SPECTRE” is that it has too many of them. From its vodka martinis to its exploding buildings, the whole film is like a YouTube mash-up of sequences drawn from earlier entries in the series: it’s Déjà Vu to a Kill. Remember Pierce Brosnan hurtling down the Thames in a speedboat in “The World is Not Enough”? Well, Craig does that in “SPECTRE.” Remember George Lazenby’s visit to a space-age Alpine clinic in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”? Craig pops into one too. And remember both Sean Connery and Roger Moore having brutal punch-ups aboard luxury trains in “From Russia with Love,” “Live and Let Die,” and “The Spy Who Loved Me”? Here’s another one to add to the collection.

Adam Woodward, Little White Lies

In many ways “SPECTRE” is the purest Bond experience of the Craig era. Stylistically, it’s a film that looks and feels like a modern action movie – clearly no expense was spared in executing the pulse-quickening aerial stunts and seat-shaking set-piece pyrotechnics that break up the shaggy plot. For all that the 24th instalment in the franchise is unavoidably a 21st century spectacle, however, narratively speaking it is underpinned by a reluctance to break from tradition.

Demetrios Matheou, Thompson on Hollywood

There are some bum notes. Monica Belluci is ludicrously under-used as an assassin’s widow, while Sam Smith’s whiny, hideous theme threatens to undo the good work of the opening credit sequence. And it lacks a single moment to match the pathos of “Skyfall”—you can’t possibly top the death of Judi Dench. Nevertheless, there’s so much to drool over in “Spectre” that I would class it in the same league.

Chris Tilly, IGN

While “SPECTRE” builds to a conclusion that smartly ties-up multiple loose ends, it fails to pack the emotional punch of “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale”before it. There’s no lack of the spectacle and drama that we’ve come to expect from a Bond film, punctuated by several great one-liners, and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema ensures that the visuals are never less than ravishing. But it lacks the memorable villain that 007 films demand, a stand-out action sequence that pushes you to the edge of your seat, or a moment of pure emotion to make the story truly resonate.

Fionnuala Hannigan, Screen International

James Bond rediscovers an old nemesis in “SPECTRE” and, in the process, falls back on the formula to deliver a slightly flat, old-fashioned 007 by the numbers. After the emotional catharsis of 2012’s “Skyfall” — which also released a global box office haul of $1.1bn — Daniel Craig zips up an ever-tighter suit for his fourth outing as the British secret agent with a licence to kill and puts his sports car on cruise control for director Sam Mendes. Bond has seen it all before, this team has done it all before, and the production juggernaut hits every beat with a carefully calibrated precision which can be deeply satisfying but also risks coming across as rote.

Oliver Lyttleton, Playlist (C-)

In places, it works well. The two and a half hour runtime is indulgent, but Mendes does at least make “SPECTRE” move quickly. Craig’s clearly having fun with a slightly looser, less grim-faced Bond, while pulling off the action with his usual crunchy aplomb. But elsewhere, “SPECTRE” feels like it’s going over old ground in uninspiring ways, and that train fight aside, none of the action feels particularly engaging, particularly when put against the opening sequence of “Skyfall.” The massive, movie-breaking problem? Story. Plot holes might be forgivable in a Bond movie (even ones of the gaping, you-could-drive-a-truck-through-it size we get here), but they stand out more when you’re mistaking mystery for actual story, with Bond on a quest that jumps from set piece to set piece rather than building up to something more compelling.

Danny Leigh, Financial Times (1 star)

After the sombre excellence of “Skyfall,” “SPECTRE” tries to tweak the formula while clearly being thrown into panic at the thought. Everything feels so reliant on its business-class sheen, the grooming, tailoring and tie-pins, that anything other than gunmetal and a scowl unbalances the tone. As “Skyfall” knew, we cheer Bond on because after so very many years of quips and martinis, our own sense of mortality is tied up with his, and the general good health of the series. While “SPECTRE” left me confident I’ll probably see Christmas, I am thinking I might make a doctor’s appointment.

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