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Fond of Bond; FILM REVIEW.

N a helicopter spinning out of control above a packed city plaza, James Bond faces the fight of his life, writes David Edwards.

IAs the chopper barrel rolls and loops the loop over thousands of terrified people, Bond manages to fight off his foe, knock out the pilot and take control just seconds from disaster.

It's stirring, soul-shaking stuff - and these are just the first 15 minutes of Spectre, the 24th Bond movie and an adventure right up there with the superspy's very best.

After that stunning opening, it's just as well we dissolve into the opening credits, accompanied by Sam Smith's Writing On The Wall.

It's a chance to catch our breath. After that thoroughly-gripping introductory scene - which might qualify as the best Bond opener ever - we crash land to earth with a bump as Bond faces a dressing down in the oak-panelled offices of his boss and handler, M (Ralph Fiennes).

The spy is warned cutbacks by Whitehall mandarins threaten both their jobs and the entire 00-programme. Amusingly, they're interrupted by the arrival of civil-servant pencil pusher Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott).

Despite being suspended by M and pushed out of the spying game, Bond isn't about to spend more time in the garden - instead he embarks on a mission set by his former boss.

With the help of Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and gadget expert Q (Ben Whishaw), 007 goes off the grid. It's one that takes him from Britain to Rome to Austria and on to Morocco and that pits him against Christoph Waltz's criminal mastermind.

With a running time of 148 minutes, Spectre trumps Casino Royale to become the longest Bond flick ever - not that you'd know it.

Dashing, deadly and quite possibly deranged, this is the Bond of old - a thug in a tuxedo who, like a laser-guided missile, has but one purpose - to utterly destroy his target.

That said, this being a James Bond film means he manages to find time to seduce the girls.

There are the usual dizzying mix of fast cars and faster women, with French actress Lea Seydoux attracting the spy's eye and Stephanie Sigman playing Bond's Mexican interest at the film's start.

She also succumbs to his charms in an early sex scene. And 007 doesn't restrict himself to the charms of just one woman, by enjoying a tryst with an assassin's widow, played by 51-year-old Monica Bellucci - the oldest Bond girl yet - while later beginning an affair with a sizzling psychologist. That said, the real stunner in Spectre is Bond's new Aston Martin.

No offence, Lea, Monica, Stephanie and Naomie, I'd rather spend an evening with the DB10 - surely the most beautiful car 007 has driven since getting behind the wheel of a DB5 51 years ago in Goldfinger.

And if you thought an ejector seat and frontwing machine guns were cool then, wait till you get a load of how Q has kitted out his new ride.

Craig is reliably superb, once again portraying the superspy as a thug in a dinner jacket who's quite prepared to shoot first and ask questions later as he wraps up the loose ends that have been dangling since Casino Royale in 2006.

Since he was announced as the sixth Bond 10 years ago this month, the 47-year-old has thoroughly silenced those who said he was too short, too ugly or too blond to follow in the footsteps of Sean Connery or Roger Moore.

Prepare to be shaken, stirred - and shattered.

Spectre (Cert 12A) is released in UK cinemas on Monday, October 26


Daniel Craig in Spectre
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 24, 2015
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