SPECTRE is the fourth outing with Daniel Craig playing Ian Fleming’s iconic spy James Bond and the 24th entry in the franchise’s history. Craig doesn’t appear any worse for the wear in this latest installment as he deftly pulls off the hyper-demanding physical requirements of Bond and looks just as good wearing a Saville Row suit while enjoying his signature martini shaken not stirred.

Spectre begins with possibly one of the strongest opening sequences in the franchises recent history as Bond navigates an assassination assignment in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead ceremony. A jaw-dropping helicopter sequence follows and the film is literally off with a bang. The rest of the film never quite captures the intensity of the first 15 minutes or so despite an impressive number of action sequences and strong performances by the supporting characters when hand-to-hand combat is not occurring.

Spectre follows Bond and latest Bond girl Madelaine Swann (played by doe-eyed Lea Seydoux) as they attempt to bring down the terrorist organization “Spectre” that has orchestrated a number of attacks globally. This film does not work from a Fleming novel and feels all the more rooted in the 21st century as a result. The notion of technological menace, constant surveillance and the government’s ability to keep an omnipresent eye on the entire nation gives it a far more modern and eerily realistic feeling than many previous Bond films.

Spectre doesn’t bring as many new revelations to the franchise as the last Bond film, Skyfall did. However, it does a great job of weaving together Craig’s previous three outings as Bond and gives some deferential nods to the series Dr. No origins.

The ethereally beautiful Seydoux makes a capable if not particularly memorable ‘Bond girl’. Judi Dench’s absence from the film is definitely palpable and viewers will no doubt miss the chemistry between her M and Craig’s Bond. Try as he might, Ralph Fiennes never quite comes close to filling Dench’s shoes as her no nonsense successor. Ben Whishaw continues to be a scene-stealer in the small but pivotal role of Q. Andrew Scott as the duplicitous C is a standout among the supporting cast.

Christoph Waltz is ideally cast to play the film’s main villain, and despite the very modern backdrop of technological peril, his character is clearly based on previous (and therefore a bit antiquated) Blofeld incarnations. Waltz’ Blofeld has less of a physical presence than previous Bond villains but instead of detracting from the film it actually allows for some truly absorbing scenes, though the dialogue in which he and Bond engage never comes close to matching the crackling repartee between Bond and Skyfall’s villain Silva.

Much speculation revolves around whether Craig will continue on to play James Bond. I can only hope so, given how his charisma more than makes up for any flaws that this film has. If anything, this latest installment shows how much the supporting characters truly add to the film. Naomie Harris’ resourceful and flirtatious Miss Moneypenny was given scant to do this go-round. The hulking presence of Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx proves the series villain’s are often more memorable and just as much an audience favorite as Bond himself.
Spectre does move at a notably slower pace than most other 007 films in recent years,which isn’t necessarily a negative. Perhaps this even helps as it wisely takes a reverential look back on the franchise’s history. Spectre opened to box office records last week, signaling it will be a major hit for a franchise that has seen so many reiterations over the last fifty years.
Greg Lewis is a pop culture and entertainment vulture. As a freelance writer living in LA, he’ll never run out of material, even if he runs out of Xanax.