Smart and spectacular, this enthralling film takes in the origins of X-Men to reveal how the future Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Professor X (James McAvoy) turn from firm friends to bitter rivals.
McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is posh, confident and has a full head of hair, while Fassbender’s Erik Lensherr is an anguished and angry concentration camp survivor.
On the eve of 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis, they are friends and allies but, as the Cold War heats up – pulling the mutants into the conflict – the seeds of their future enmity are sown.
For now, their mutual foe is Kevin Bacon’s former Nazi doctor-turned-mutant master villain, Sebastian Shaw, who is seeking to provoke nuclear war between America and Russia, aided by his icy right-hand woman, Emma Frost (January Jones).
Meanwhile, at the urging of Rose Byrne’s CIA agent, Xavier sets about recruiting the first class of X-Men, including Nicholas Hoult’s geeky scientist, Hank (the future Beast), and Xavier’s childhood friend Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
It’s a lot of characters and plot for a single film, but this well-paced adventure never puts a foot wrong and more than lives up to its title.