It’s been a funny old time for James Bond – he of the gadgets and the cars and the girls and the product placements.
First, he came back blond in Casino Royale, and the world went mad. Only the film was actually quite good.
Then he came back in Quantum Of Solace, and we all wished he hadn’t.
Then he came back with Skyfall and the world was a happy place again as we got a heady mix of mad villains and emotional heft.
So what was to happen next?
Would it be Skyfall good or Quantum bad?
Well, as it turns out, it’s kind of neither.
First off, the good stuff.
For the most part, this film is fun.
It has nods to the past (the opening sequence definitely harking back to the Bond heyday), it has the cars, it’s upped the gadget count a smidge and there’s a delightful amount of running about blowing stuff up.
And that, in essence, is what you want from a Bond film.
The action sequences are perfectly paced and shot, without going over-the-top (if you ignore the bad CGI of the building collapsing, and I am), and the car chase is just the right side of bonkers.
And the cars are bloody ace – especially James’.
And it has a fanboy moment that will make you squeal with delight.
Craig has pretty much nailed his Bond, and if you seen any of the others you know what you’re getting – only this time there’s the odd smile and show of emotion.
Sadly, though, there are a few moments that are something of a fly in the martini.
For a start, Christoph Waltz is only saved from being the worst modern Bond villain by Mathieu Amalric’s pathetically weak accountant in Quantum.
I like Waltz, he’s a bloody good actor, and he can do borderline nuts with the best of them – so why was he reigned in? Why wasn’t he allowed to just act like a man trying to take over the planet?
Instead we get a sullen, downbeat performance that carries all the threat and menace of a guinea pig with a cold. He comes across like a man who’s just found out someone broke his favourite Coldplay CD, and that’s not what you want from a Bond villain.
And yes, there are a few moments that raise a question or two (how the hell DID he get to Italy so quickly? How did she manage to get undressed after passing out pissed?), but there’s enough other fun stuff going on that you can forgive them.
Then there’s the car bit, which makes you forgive everything.
But sadly, there’s the ending.
Now, I know the rules – we all know the rules.
Bond saves the day but destroys everything in a 20-mile radius.
That’s how this works.
Now, under our own rules I can’t say any more – but if you don’t walk out wanting to shoot the writers I’ll be amazed.
To do that having already dragged it out for half an hour more than needed is unforgivable.
And it’s because the rest of the film is such fun that it hurts even more.
For the most part, this is as close as Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes have dared to get to the Bond legacy while maintaining the modern vibe.
And for that, it’s great.
Just pretend you didn’t see the last twenty minutes.