After more than five decades and 24 films, any entry in the James Bond franchise carries certain expectations. You know the drill – heart-pumping gun battles, gorgeous women, death-defying stunts, maniacal villains, clever one-liners, and of course, curvaceous automotive metal. But these common threads show themselves in a different light between each title, either evolving the 007 formula, or rehashing it. For better or worse, Spectre falls into the latter category, delivering with automated, mechanical precision. The plot arc is predictable and the characters are pigeonholed – jaded moviegoers, beware. But while Spectre may lack innovation, it makes up for it with an incredible level of spectacle. All the things you love about James Bond are present and correct, and even if you know you’ve seen the same tricks before, you’ll be having such a good time it won’t even matter.

Spectre follows on the heels of 2012’s enormously popular Skyfall, which means standards are running high for this year’s title. That said, Skyfall’s original creative team returns for Spectre, including director Sam Mendes and screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan. Spectre is also enormously well funded, with budget estimates ranging between $250 and $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made. And at 148 minutes, it’s the longest film in the franchise.

So then, what’s all that talent, money, and time amount to? Read on the find out.

Continue reading for the full story.

The Plot


Spectre opens in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead parade. We see our hero stalking through the crowd in a fittingly ghoulish costume, a beautiful senorita wrapped around his arm. The couple makes their way up to a hotel room, but instead of hitting the sheets, Bond steps out onto the roof, replacing the girl with a rifle. He’s on an unauthorized mission to stop a terrorist plot, and as expected, things don’t go according to plan. Buildings are destroyed, helicopters are flipped, and at the end of it, Bond walks away with a few clues about the organization behind the would-be attack.

Buildings are destroyed, helicopters are flipped, and at the end of it, Bond walks away with a few clues about the organization behind the would-be attack.

Back in London, the new M chastises Bond for his recklessness, cutting him from field duty. It’s at this time we’re introduced to Max Denbigh, head of C, the newly formed Joint Intelligence Service, which threatens to shut down the 00 program in favor of drones and mass electronic surveillance. 

Afterwards, we learn Bond’s latest bout of roguish behavior is in response to a posthumous video message sent from the previous M, in which she asks Bond to kill one of the baddies in Mexico. The next step is to attend the dead terrorist’s funeral, so 007 steals the stunning DB10 prototype from Q’s garage and takes it to Rome in order to launch his inquiry. During the investigation, Bond discovers he is the connection that ties his enemies together.

Thus, we’re given Spectre’s two major themes – an exploration of Bond’s past, complete with ample allusions to previous entries, and the transition from old-school human intelligence gathering to the new world order of Orwell-style omniscience.

The Cars And Chase Scenes


After the helicopter duel over Mexico City, there are two other major chase scenes, both featuring some of the finest four-wheeled machines to come out of the U.K. TopSpeed readers will probably enjoy the second scene the most, wherein part-time henchman and full-time man mountain Mr. Hinx pits the Jaguar C-X75 against Bond’s DB10. The pursuit takes place on the nighttime streets of Rome, with both concept cars slipping through alleyways and catching air in spectacular fashion.

Watching these two autos hash it out with Scandinavian flicks and opposite lock is a real treat, but there are moments that feel a little too silly for the gravitas of a battle such as this. For example, Bond accidentally turns on the stereo while fiddling for countermeasures, and then gets stuck behind a plodding, clueless Fiat 500. And while there is some gadgetry to be had, it’s a bit light overall.

After Rome, Bond and Hinx lock horns again in Austria, this time with the baddies speeding through treacherous, snow-covered trails in a trio of Land Rovers, with Bond in pursuit in a propeller-driven airplane. The rugged off-roaders weave through the trees in an attempt to juke Bond, resulting in impressive pyrotechnics and a good deal of balled-up metal. There are a few moments that seem pretty absurd, such as when Bond blasts through a log-filled barn without injury, but hey – that’s to be expected right?

Cheesy gimmicks and suspended disbelief aside, the fact these scenes were all done with live actors, cars, and aircraft makes them absolutely incredible to watch. If you’re a fan of over-the-top vehicular aerobatics, Spectre will surely delight.

Aston Martin DB10

2015 Aston Martin DB10 Exterior
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Q describes the DB10 as a one-off, with a 0-to-60 mph of 3.2 seconds, bulletproof body panels, and a variety of useful extras. In real life, AM built a handful of DB10s, committing a total of eight to movie production. The exterior is sleek and aggressive, giving us a possible preview of language slated for the DB9’s replacement, while a Vantage 4.7-liter V-8 sits under the hood.

Read our full review here.

Jaguar C-X75

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Competing with the DB10 is a big ask, but the C-X75 is a worthy foe. Originally unveiled in 2010, this concept is brutal, with a wide, low-slung body, and positively massive running gear. The C-X75 was initially slated to use jet engines powering four electric motors, one per wheel, but Jag eventually ditched that idea for a supercharged and turbocharged 1.6-liter gas engine developed in conjunction with the Williams F1 team, again powering four electric motors. Fearing the hybrid system could cause technical difficulties during shooting, an old-fashioned 5.0-liter V-8 with 550 horsepower was used in the seven C-X75s provided for production.

Read our full review here.

2015 Land Rover Defender

2015 Land Rover Defender Spectre Stunt Car High Resolution Exterior
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The Defender is on its way out the door, but before retirement, it gets one last hurrah courtesy of Spectre. To help it combat the wiles of 007, the movie Defender receives 37-inch tires, LED lights mounted to the roof, and an engine snorkel. A 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel engine makes the muscle, with 120 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque on tap.

Read our full review here.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

Spectre 007 - Review
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As the only Bond car you can actually buy, the Range Rover Sport seeks to combine classic off-road capability with a supercharged dose of track-oriented speed – the right combo when battling international secret agents. A lot of the capability comes thanks to huge weight savings, with an aluminum monocoque that’s 39 percent lighter than before, while still retaining the required stiffness. Most excitingly, you’ll find a 5.0-liter V-8 for motivation.

Read our full review here.

The Cast And Characters


James Bond – Daniel Craig

This is Craig’s fourth appearance as 007, and rumor has it it’s his last. If that turns out to be the case, it would be a shame, because he makes a great Bond. He’s hardnosed and recalcitrant, but he can also be playful and vulnerable. There’s an emotional richness to his portrayal, and although Spectre doesn’t bring it out, we certainly saw it before in Skyfall. Craig is capable of depth in this all-too-often one-dimensional character, and I for one hope he sticks around for at least one more title so we can see it again.

Dr. Madeleine Swann – Lea Seydoux

Seydoux smolders as Spectre’s Bond girl, and although the script doesn’t quite allow for much beyond the stereotypical role you’d expect, she makes the best with what she’s handed. Seydoux comes off as smart, sexy, and confident - a solid performance from the French actress.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Christoph Waltz

Every Bond film needs a good bad guy, and Waltz is stupendous in Spectre. His conniving, perpetually grinning face is perfectly psychopathic, lending a chilling rendition of this infamous 007 villain. He’s a madman with incredible power, and you know it from the start.

Summary

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Spectre isn’t without its flaws. Most of the film is gritty and brooding, just as you’d expect from the Craig era of the franchise, but there are strange moments of goofiness sprinkled throughout. These moments aren’t quite as cartoony as the recent Bond-themed Heineken commercial, but there’s definitely an air of camp to them.

There’s also an unfortunate scarcity of gadgets in Spectre. Sure, you get essentials like bumper-mounted flamethrowers, an ejector seat, and a wristwatch time bomb, but that’s about it. Early on in the film, Bond is injected with “smart blood” – nanobots that circulate through his bloodstream – leading you to believe it’s the tech centerpiece that’ll play a major role later on. Unfortunately, nothing really comes of it, and it feels like a major missed opportunity.

Throw in a bit of predictability, some recycled themes, and a story that can come off as slightly contrived, and it’s more than likely some will walk away shaking their heads.

It’s easy to get stuck on {Spectre}’s failings. But the moment you take a step back, you realize how much it has to offer.

It’s easy to get stuck on Spectre’s failings. But the moment you take a step back, you realize how much it has to offer.

Here’s an example. Bond and the DB10 roll into a parking lot full of supercars, which can mean only one thing – chase scene incoming. Predictable, right? But hold on – this is a chase between an Aston Martin DB10 and a Jaguar C-X75. I don’t care how many Fiats you throw at it, that’s freakin’ awesome.

Spectre is full of moments like that. Go into it looking for a reinvention of 007, and you’ll hate it. Go into it looking for a good time, and you’ll love it.

Final Score: 7/10

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