Warning: Spoilers

From Albert R. Broccoli’s and Harry Saltzman’s Eon Productions, in association with MGM Studios and Sony Pictures, comes the twenty-fourth official installment of the billion-dollar James Bond franchise, Spectre, directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes. The film stars Daniel Craig in his fourth (and possibly final) outing as the sleek British agent.

Spectre begins with James Bond (Daniel Craig) operating beyond his brief and tracking down an international criminal named Marco Sciarra to Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration. After the audience is exposed to the single strangest opening credits sequence for any James Bond film ever, synced to Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall,” we meet Bond back in London, where M (Ralph Fiennes) is furious with him for all the collateral damage he caused in Mexico City. He orders Q (Ben Whishaw) to implant a tracking device into Bond’s bloodstream. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) gives Bond a box which contains personal items that were recovered from Skyfall. Bond shows Moneypenny a video message from someone very close to him, who had ordered him to track down Sciarra and kill him, and to not miss his funeral. After attending Sciarra’s funeral in Rome, Bond rescues his widow, Lucia (Monica Bellucci) from two hitmen sent to kill her. He then infiltrates a meeting for a sinister organization known as SPECTRE, led by the nefarious Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Bond is chased by the muscle of the organization, Hinx (Dave Bautista), but escapes. Bond then goes to Austria, where he locates the psychologist, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who may hold the secrets to unraveling the mysterious web of SPECTRE.

With Casino Royale, Daniel Craig proved Internet doubters wrong by portraying what was quite possibly the finest depiction of author Ian Fleming’s cold,ruthless and yet, completely human MI6 agent. The film reinvigorated the franchise which had descended into complete camp territory four years earlier with Die Another Day, Irish actor Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as Bond. Quantum of Solace is regarded by many fans as a disappointing follow-up which tried too hard to duplicate the tone of the Bourne franchise. Sam Mendes’s first Bond film, Skyfall, was a welcome return to form, and a wonder to behold. It successfully merged the grit of the first two films with the charm and elements of the older installments. So how does Spectre rank among the Craig films? It is undoubtedly much more fun and satisfying than Quantum of Solace, even if it admittedly doesn’t quite reach the level of Casino Royale and Skyfall. It is still, nevertheless, a fine film of pure entertainment.

Daniel Craig might just be the best Bond in the franchise’s history. He is as solid here as he was in the first three films. Christoph Waltz is completely fantastic as usual, even if the main plot twist involving his character’s true identity could be seen coming from a mile away. Lea Seydoux is a breathtakingly beautiful, stunning, and ideally cast Bond girl, even though her character ultimately ends serving as an archetypal Hollywood plot device in the film’s climax. She shares  terrific chemistry with Daniel Craig, who she admitted to having an enormous crush on before filming began (who wouldn’t?). Another thing to note is that Spectre really ups the humor from the previous three films without plummeting into the camp realm of some of Roger Moore’s weaker outings as 007. The additional humor is welcome and it works.

The film’s biggest flaw is that it is quite predictable and reliant on traditional James Bond formula. There were some instances in which it tried a little too hard to tie in the previous three installments rather than focus entirely on adding something completely new to the franchise. A certain underdeveloped twist completely undermines the greatness of prior villains such as Le Chiffre or Silva. One needs to see the other films in order to understand what is going on in Spectre.

Spectre is well-acted, well-directed, adequately scripted, and moves at a steady pace. It is not flawless, but it doesn’t need to be. It is a slick, sexy, and spectacular entry into the Bond canon which should satisfy die-hard 007 aficionados and casual moviegoers alike.

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