Spectre is every bit as thrilling as Skyfall, if not more, finds our reviewer.

Photo by jonathan olley – © SPECTRE 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and   Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

An exercise in budget-blowing like no other-it cost over $300 million to make-Spectre is a storming and unapologetic return to the golden age of espionage. A world away from the introspective and brooding story of Skyfall, despite sharing director Sam Mendes, the film is not only the most expensive Bond, but also the longest.

The obligatory, opening chase sequence-a good five minutes itself-gives way to the words ‘the dead are alive’ sprawled across the screen. It is a promise of what is to come; the resurrection of characters, a return to one exotic locations after the next-the term ‘International man of mystery’ has never been so relevant-and the not-so-new enemy SPECTRE (or Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), absent from Bond films since 1971’s Diamonds are Forever.
Some things, of course, remain a solid constant. Chiefly, the cars-referred to at a very special private screening laid on by Jaguar Land Rover as characters in their own right-and the women. You barely have time to settle in your seat before Bond, face obscured by a scowling skull mask, steals a kiss from a sultry Latina and promises to, somewhat doubtfully, return before dropping into the epic Day of the Dead carnival below and sparking the unrelenting opening chase scene.

It is another confident turn from Daniel Craig, reprising his role as Bond for the fourth, and possibly, final time. He has certainly made the role his own, taking the character in a much more interesting direction both physically and emotionally. Grounded in London, soon after his appearance at the pageant in New Mexico, and threatened by rumours that MI6 and are to render the 00 programme obsolete, Bond goes rogue. Which proves the perfect excuse to demonstrate that though he may be an old dog, the old tricks still have more than enough panache to inspire awe and entertain. It is formulaic, but the formula works and one extended by Sam Mendes and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, to the filming process itself. A reliance, seen in many Brosnan Bonds, on CGI and the post production suite was eschewed in favour of glorious, sepia-coloured 35mm film which essentially renders the first meeting of SPECTRE, in one of Rome’s mahogany clad government buildings, as history’s most expensive Ferrero Rocher advertisement.

Then there’s the creative treatment of Christopher Waltz’s formidable villain and SPECTRE ringleader, Franz Oberhauser. When we first meet him his face is obscured by some sort of chiaroscuro wizardry, his form outlined by an ominous ring of up lighting. It echoes back, shamelessly, to a time when every bad guy had a gimmick; corny but oh-so enjoyable.

The script is also very good. Any concerns I had regarding the absence of Judi Dench and her character’s razor-sharp wit and deadpan delivery would leave the dialogue sterile, were quickly laid to rest as a comical power struggle between Bond and Ralph Fiennes’ M unfolded to produce some of the best lines and chemistry of the film.

It is often said that men want to be Bond and woman want to be with him. It is fitting then that Omega have released the Seamaster 300 ‘Spectre’ Limited Edition watch, marking the first time that a model worn by 007 has been commissioned for public sale.

Spectre is released in the UK today and on November 2 in the United States.