By former SNJ photographer Carl Hewlett

MANY Bond fans will tell you that the hype and the build up to the opening night of the latest film in the world’s longest running movie franchise is one of the most exciting things to occur in cinema.

The press conferences, the ads, the trailers all culminate to the final moments in which you’ve taken your seat and that theme tune begins with the classic gun barrel sequence trailing across the silver screen.

Monday night was no different as my partner and I attended the opening night in Bath of the 24th film in the James Bond series, Spectre.

Bond is back and he’s off gallivanting around the world beginning in New Mexico.

We aren’t sure how he’s ended up there but no doubt it’s another one of his working holidays, the opening scene of which is testimony to why director Sam Mendes is at the helm with a continuous tracking shot following Bond through the Day of the Dead parade.

A classic Bond set piece then ensues true to form taking your breath away before you are relieved of the tension in the opening credits.

Talking of the opening credits – the song. If there’s any Bond topic that divides opinion be it during a discussion at the pub or in a 007 fan forum it’s this, what do you think of the Bond song?

I myself was involved in this discussion with my partner’s parents during Sunday lunch.

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I sat on the fence of course, as one always should when negotiating an afternoon with the in-laws.

As I’ve said for many years, listen to the song in context first. Listening to Sam Smith during the opening credits with the atmosphere one can only feel in a cinema there is an intimacy to the lyrics.

Backed by the feathery piano and full orchestra the title track has moments of grandeur and falls away to solace which does a great job of cleansing the palate before the next scene.

In its place, Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith is sublime.

Back in dear old Blighty we find that M is struggling to come to terms with an interdepartmental merger. There is young blood heading up this campaign depicted by Andrew Scott of Sherlock fame. He wishes to scrap the double-0 section altogether and move the intelligence services into a new era.

Feeling pressure from the top M calls Bond off and in an unusually classic exchange we see the script harping back to some of the more definitive moments between 007 and his superior.

There are even a few Moore-esque quips in the mix with only a smattering of camp. There is a very fine line for Bond using words like ‘marvellous’ and ‘lovely’ before he ceases to be Commander James Bond and becomes Sergeant Arthur Wilson, a line which in Spectre he is teetering on but never quite crosses, a perfect balance.

In London we see a more clearly defined relationship building up between Bond and his 21st century quartermaster which we’ve not really seen since Daniel Craig has been in the lead role. Ben Wishaw’s ‘Q’ has a charming and naïve personality which Bond takes advantage of one more than one occasion.

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Using a clue he found in New Mexico, Bond travels to Rome where the crew composed a well refined car chase and reportedly closed of parts of the city for four weeks during filming.

In Italy he encounters Lucia Sciarra, a very glamourous and equally mystifying character portrayed by Monica Belluci who lacked the screen time I was expecting. It is but a fleeting visit before Bond is on his way again, hot on the trail of this secret organisation.

In Austria 007 meets the hard and cold personality of Dr Madeleine Swann. Played by Léa Seydoux her jaded character is transformed during a scene at dinner on a train through Tangier, as we see her in a glamourous ball gown and Bond in a white tuxedo with a red carnation, a throwback to the Connery years.

Next, a particularly satisfying hand on hand combat scene with the henchman Mr Hinx, who as my mother would say, has shoulders like barn doors. The pair continue their ordeal and after a skin crawling torture scene with the eerily sadistic Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser, the third act plays through with stunning suspense, die-hard Bond action and an exceptional momentum which doesn’t make the film’s 150 minute running time seem drawn out.

Spectre is sure to be a firm favourite, and as a James Bond fan I probably would say that but for me this is the film that I wanted it to be and a little bit more.

The scripts and direction have made the past four Daniel Craig films a cohesive collection in their own right and Spectre sits well in the franchise.

There are a few surprises in Spectre and moments where you cast your mind back to some of the previous films.

This Bond movie has it all, a wealth of locations, two beautiful and mysterious Bond girls, an incredibly rare and rather speedy car, an evil villain and a finale that will find you leaving the cinema with goosebumps. Spectre is a spectacle.

  • Carl Hewlett works for Thousand Word Media (TWM)