The 24th Bond film in the franchise opens with a tracking shot which follows Bond through a vivacious and colourful Mexico City vibrant with a carnival atmosphere in a style which pays homage to the opening scene of the Orson Welles classic ‘A Touch of Evil. Definitely one of the most impressive starts to a Bond film EVER, director Sam Mendes sets the scene for what looks likely to be a film of equally impressive standards which after 2012’s brilliant ‘Skyfall, which ranks as one of the best in the series, is exactly what the audience is looking for.
On many levels he actually delivers on this high level of expectation and certainly the return of such great supporting roles in Bond’s team, M, Q and Moneypenny played by Ralph Fiennes ,Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris respectively and the introduction of the sinister C – a decidedly malevolent and irreverent Andrew Scott- who wishes to do away with the whole Double O prefix altogether, assists in this agenda.
Add to this a fantastic outing for Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser/ Ernst Stavros Blofeld, Bond’s most resilient nemesis, Monica Bellucci as a romantic diversion before Lea Seydoux establishes her role as Bond’s main squeeze Madeleine Swann.
At the centre of this hotbed of talent however is Daniel Craig, in his fourth film as Bond, who also acts as the glue which binds all the disparate strands together in a role he has firmly made his own although rumours are swirling this may be his swan-song as the world’s most famous undercover agent.
Where the film does fall short however is an underdeveloped plot particularly in the past relationship and hinted at sibling rivalry between Bond and Blofeld, although this may be a ruse to merely return to it at a later date as the relationship feels merely skimmed over but hints at something far more complex. Likewise Seydoux looks suitably decorative as Madeleine but despite a few attempts to lend her some depth of character ultimately falls short although she could win an award for best accessorizing with a pair of sunglasses, she would probably have to share this with Craig though.
The locations are sumptuous throughout: a bustling Mexico City, a luxurious Rome, an exotic Tangiers, an icy snow topped Austrian mountain retreat and a dark, serious London are all marvellously filmed with stunning cinematography.
Despite all this the film doesn’t quite satisfy as much as its immediate predecessor although this was always going to be a tall order anyway. Certainly the plot feels unfinished and almost as if it is trying to tick too many boxes without actually exploring what is inside those boxes. This is nitpicking however and the best way to enjoy this film- and ultimately it is enjoyable- is to just sit back and allow yourself to be taken along for the whirlwind of a ride that it is!