, LONDON, Oct 27 – James Bond has a licence to thrill once more in new film “Spectre”, which premiered Monday at a glitzy event attended by Prince William, his wife Kate and brother Prince Harry.
Broadly praised by critics, the film is directed by Sam Mendes and sees Daniel Craig play the suave, Martini-quaffing MI6 spy 007 in what is Bond’s 24th outing since the first — “Dr. No” — in 1962.
“I hate watching myself on screen but I love playing James Bond,” Craig said on the red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where he was joined by co-stars Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux.
“There’s different sides of his character that we explore in this,” said Craig, who was in black tie.
He added that the film was intended to honour Bond classics while trying to “freshen everything up.”
Mendes, who won an Oscar for “American Beauty” in 1999, said: “We sweated blood over it and I’m really, really thrilled and a little bit relieved”.
Asked about what it felt like to be a “Bond girl” — a term that is sometimes seen as patronising towards the actresses who play the roles — Seydoux smiled: “I don’t know if I’m a Bond girl, I’m just a blonde girl.”
French Seydoux, who wore a gold lame dress, plays Madeleine Swann, the daughter of a former Bond villain.
Italian Bellucci — at 51, reportedly the oldest ever “Bond girl” — plays Lucia Sciarra, a criminal’s widow who warns Bond off his dangerous quest.
Ralph Fiennes, who plays Bond handler and loyalist MI6 chief “M”, said it was “a very well-crafted film.”
“It has great energy and forward momentum,” he said.
The film begins with a final mission set by the previous M, played by Judi Dench, and sees a haggard-looking Bond shaken, not stirred by his past.
Bond early on in the plot brushes off a question about what he would do if he was not an assassin, but spends the rest of the film working it out.
Along the way he faces his chilling nemesis, who wears a collarless Nehru jacket like in classic Bonds past but has a data-driven domination mission with a contemporary ring to it.
– ‘Show of confidence’ –
The film’s title stands for Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion — which last made an appearance in 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever”.
Craig said he had been “desperate” to face the shadowy organisation again.
Its members include historic Bond villains Dr. No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but the group disappeared from the films for decades due to a legal rights dispute that was only resolved two years ago.
Britain’s Guardian and Telegraph newspapers gave Spectre a maximum five stars, the latter praising the film’s “swaggering show of confidence”.
However, the Financial Times gave it only two stars and said the film was attempting to tinker with the winning formula of 2012’s blockbuster “Skyfall” while “clearly being thrown into panic at the thought”.
– New Bond? –
“Spectre” was filmed in Austria, Britain, Italy, Mexico and Morocco and includes the usual Bond ingredients: high-speed chase scenes, sultry female leads, exciting gadgets and witty one-liners.
“I came here to kill you,” Bond tells new bad guy Franz Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz.
“And I thought you came here to die,” Oberhauser counters.
“Well, it’s all a matter of perspective,” Bond replies with a smirk.
There have been doubts over Craig’s future as the sixth actor to play Bond after he voiced unhappiness at the prospect of doing a fifth film — despite being contracted to do so.
He told Time Out magazine he would rather “slash my wrists” than play the famous spy again, adding: “If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money.”
An online poll by Britain’s Independent newspaper on who should play Bond in the next instalment of the franchise found that most respondents would pick Craig, followed by British actor Tom Hardy, who recently starred in “Mad Max: Fury Road”.
Under Craig, Bond has transformed from urbane and dandyish into a rugged and troubled intelligence professional, a change not all critics appreciate.
“Daniel Craig, as Bond, looks like a security guard, not a man who moves easily at the highest levels of society,” Telegraph columnist Charles Moore wrote.