Given how Craig has been more than vocal about how he's done with Bond, there's a sense that when you sit down to watch Spectre, there's an element of finality to everything. And with that comes a certain freshness and a desire to work everything out of the system that was so restrained before. Where Casino Royale had to set up the world, Spectre is now in it fully formed. Where Skyfall was austere and serious, Spectre's more frivolous and fun.
Bond is suspended from MI6 following a botched assassination attempt in Mexico that leaves both he and the nature of the 00 Section in jeopardy. Ralph Fiennes' M is battling internal politics as Andrew Scott's oily bureaucrat, C, is merging MI6 with MI5 to create a mass-surveillance system with other intelligence agencies around the globe. All while this is happening, Bond is chasing a lead from an old enemy that brings him to Spectre and a man out of his past, Christoph Waltz's Franz Oberhauser.The plot seems to mix elements of the '60s Bond with Orwellian flourishes; the very idea of a panopticon would have been crazy to think of in Fleming's era whereas now, it's a reality. That being said, Waltz's scheming villain plays into that reality with all the pomp and verve of an atypical Bond villain, complete with monologuing and slightly odd-looking outfit.
Craig now feels more relaxed and at home with Bond than he has in previous iterations. There's less baggage with him and he seems, on the surface at least, less tormented and damaged than he has before. That's not to say he isn't - he simply wears the scars, both physical and emotional, without any hindrance. Lea Seydoux offers up an intriguing female counterpart as psychologist Dr. Madeline Swann whilst a criminally under-utilised Monica Bellucci leaves a lasting impression from the five minutes of on-screen time she has. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are relegated to very much a supporting role whilst Andrew Scott slithers into his role as antagonist with relative ease. Waltz, of course, is a natural as Franz Oberhauser; all haughtiness and coiled-up menace combined whilst Dave Bautista gives a near-mute performance as Mr. Hinx. Again, like Waltz, he's a callback to the '60s henchman and he truly is a physical presence on screen that's quite visceral.
Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hotema has crafted an elegant, sumptuous look to Spectre that's as luxuriant and eye-watering as any of the impressive locales Bond frequents. Likewise, Thomas Newman's score slides effortlessly over the visuals and the stunt-work is truly second to none. The highlight is the unbroken tracking shot during the opening sequence with Bond walking through Mexico City during the Day of the Dead that leads up to an incredible mid-air fistfight with a helicopter over a crowded plaza. Mendes hasn't forgotten how to make an action setpiece look interesting and beautiful at the same time, something he's put to good use throughout Spectre.
Where the film begins to falter is in the script. Spectre has a total of four credited screenwriters and it's easy to see why. The film has various chunks of it half-constructed that could have easily been moulded into another film. There's a real sense of humour to the dialogue, something's that been sorely lacking from Craig's Bonds, which is invigorating. However, when that's placed next to Fiennes' M rattling off George Orwell and democracy, it's jarring. At barely under two and a half hours, Spectre has enough pacing to keep it interesting and it's punctuated by extended action sequences which helps. The plot itself is, when examined closely, daft. But it's Bond - you can't expect it to maintain logic and seriousness for very long, can you? Yes, Spectre is overwrought in places and it could stand to lose about twenty minutes somewhere to make it more punchy, but it's all so entertaining you're not overly concerned with the running length once you're in it.