James Bond is back.

Topping box office figures around the world, Spectre, the 24th film in the 007 franchise packs in all the action we have come to expect from a James Bond film.

I saw the film a week after the release, and the cinema was packed, so I can testify to its popularity. However, I’m not sure that I would have paid to see it had it not been a James Bond film.

This is the second 007 film directed by Sam Mendes, and he has brought a great deal of change to the way that we look at the character of Bond and at the whole structure at MI6. Suddenly it’s not just James rebelling against M (played by Ralph Fiennes) and the establishment; MI6 is fighting for its own life against a global surveillance network of spies and government agencies.

It’s an emotional drama that doesn’t quite hold up. I am a huge fan of Sam Mendes from films such as American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, films in which he deconstructs the psyche with poignance and beauty. However, that’s not why I want to watch a James Bond film. Yes, we did have the fast car chases and big explosions, but there were also drawn-out scenes of emotional turmoil.

There was an interesting attempt to introduce the online surveillance debate into the plot, but I found that it actually removed from the story. Pitting MI6 against a different spy network did not make them more sympathetic. The entire sub-plot could have been removed without much loss to the film itself; the film was very slow, almost boring at times. 

In the last film, Skyfall, Judi Dench’s M was killed off, and in Spectre there were several hints that Bond is getting tired, and that this might be the last film for Daniel Craig. Perhaps this is the end of the road for 007 as we know it.

The cast of Spectre is stellar: Daniel Craig is on top form, Naomie Harris makes a great return and Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes is terrific as M, and Ben Whishaw’s performance as Q is compelling. Léa Seydoux, the hugely talented star of films such as Blue Is The Warmest Colour, seems an unlikely choice for a Bond Girl, but she is smart and alluring. Christoph Waltz is also fantastic.

However, although the film is extremely long, the characters aren’t really given space to grow, and I must applaud the actors for doing so well with the space they’re given.

Despite all this, I still enjoyed the glitz, glam and explosions of Spectre. It was fun to watch, and it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen.