Daniel Craig gets the send-off he deserves as his five-story ‘Spectre’ arc comes full circle – as he ends his tenure as iconic British Secret Service agent James Bond.

At nearly two-and-three-quarter hours this epic affair – and twenty-fifth Bond film overall – fits competently in the middle of the quintuple of Craig’s 007 films, lesser than Skyfall and Casino Royale, but better than Spectre and Quantum of Solace.

In fact, if the generally impressive direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beast of No Nation) had managed to trim twenty minutes off a slightly plodding middle third – which affected Bond’s ‘groove’ and loses it half a mark – then this could have at least equalled the aforementioned Royale, but still would have fallen short of Sam Mendes’ exceptional Skyfall.

But with an abundance of complicated moving parts, Fukunaga still does a top-notch job of fitting in plenty of emotion, character development, impressive action sequences – and an hour-long finale that proves fitting for Craig.

Bond’s tranquil existence under the radar is short-lived when he’s lured back by his old CIA agent friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) – in a plot that involves current flame Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).

But when he returns from his hiatus, he soon realises things have changed at MI6 under the guidance of Ralph Fiennes’ M – with new kick-ass female Nomi (the impressive Lashana Lynch) taking his ‘007’ agent mantle – as Bond is led on the trail of vengeful eco-terrorist Safin (played by Bohemian Rhapsody’s Oscar-winner Rami Malek), who is looking to wipe out a large chunk of the world’s population with a DNA-activated bio-weapon.

The ‘meaty’ story provides exceptional continuity, with Naomie Harris’s Miss Moneypenny, Rory Kinnear’s Bill Tanner and Ben Whishaw’s quartermaster Q all back to aid Bond – and even Christoph Waltz’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld makes an appearance too – to nicely tidy up all loose Spectre plotlines.

Even Blade Runner 2049 starlet Ana de Armas makes a welcomed ‘bubbly’ cameo as CIA agent Paloma – in an entertaining segment that’s up there with all the sensationally-choreographed fighting and car chase action set-pieces.

Malek’s Safin arguably won’t go down as one of the more memorable Bond villains – his extreme views aren’t really ‘fleshed’ out enough to make his character particularly noteworthy – but only that and the slightly ‘bloated’ run-time are one of the few gripes that you can really have.

And despite it sometimes threatening to veer off the rails, Fukunaga does a stellar job of keeping it all on track. He gives the film a real notable visual grandeur among some bold and assured stewardship that perfectly combines darker and lighter elements – that leads to a memorable finale inside Safin’s bio-weapon compound where Bond, well is just Bond.

Whoever takes on the 007 moniker next will definitely have some tough Crockett & Jones boots to fill – as anyone that’s a fan of Bond or British films in general should find time for Craig’s worthy farewell.

Rating: 3.5/5

Gavin Miller

Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now

Cast: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Lashana Lynch, Christoph Waltz, Ana De Armas, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Billy Magnussen, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah & Jeffrey Wright

Running Time: 2 Hrs 43 Mins

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

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