(Spoiler Warning - I have avoided speaking about any major reveals, however I do talk about the basic events of the film)
If there was a single expression that could sum up Spectre, it would be déjà vu. Not that this is a bad thing. In fact the film quite nicely ties together the 'Craig' films more than any had before, which emphasizes a common theme in these films of actions having consequences. Not only for 007 but also those around him. Although they do avoid bringing up the poorly received Quantum of Solace too much.
The film opens, like Skyfall before it, with a strong and stylish set piece of Bond in a foreign country causing all kinds of collateral damage. However this one is much grander than previous intros, with a large crowd scene and long tracking shot as we move from the street up to the rooftops. It's shows off the finesse and ease of Bond as he casually prepares to assassinate a target.
Being a Bond film though, things quickly go south and bullets begin to fly as a chase breaks out through the busy streets of Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festival. This leads to a death defying helicopter fight and the first clue about the mysterious organization (No not Quantum).
The classic title credits section then begins, sprinkling tidbits of imagery relating to later parts of the film, alongside a fair amount of tentacles. We are also treated to a montage of the deceased characters from previous films. All while Sam Smith's Writing's On The Wall plays, a song I will admit suits the titles much better than I originally thought it would, setting a strong atmosphere for the film ahead.
Unfortunately, the film decides to reuse a situation that I feel has been used too often in the franchise by having Bond being punished for his actions, this time by the new M, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) . While I will admit it fits in better to this story than in previous films, it still feels over-used at this point. Leading to the just as expected Bond goes rogue aspect, although it continues for most of the film. In comparison to smaller sections in the past.
Ben Whishaw makes a return as gadget man Q, actually having real gadgets to show off this time. In the form of watch with a 'very loud' alarm and the Aston Martin DB10, which was made specially for the film. Naomie Harris also returns as Ms. Moneypenny and Rory Kinnear as Tanner, rounding out the team at MI6.
Andrew Scott, of Sherlock fame, is introduced as Max Denbigh who Bond jokingly calls 'C'. A crafty adversary to M who wants to disband the Double O program in places of unified intelligence.
The main film then kicks off as Bond starts his search for clues to the location of the 'Pale King', leading him to the funeral of an assassin in Rome, that he dispatched during the intro sequence. Where he charms (and kills) his way into the arms of assassin's widow (portrayed by Monica Bellucci) who directs him to a meeting of the organization.
Bond eavesdrops on the meeting as we are introduced to the two primary villains of the film. The muscle and the shadowy master, Hink and Franz Oberhauser (Dave Bautista & Christoph Waltz respectively). Both of who get a chance to show off their villainous traits in the scene. As Oberhauser proudly announces James presence before looking straight at him with a smile.
The escape gives a chance for Bond to give the new wheels a go as Hink pursues him through the tight streets and riversides of Rome, managing to provide an almost comical section to the film as he also contends with unaware motorists and stunned street cleaners.
The action then moves to Austria where Mr White, a rather forgettable antagonist from the first two 'Craig' films, is brought into the mix and revealed as a former associate of Oberhauser and now target. Due to events he is unable to help Bond, however he points him towards his daughter, claiming she will be able to help him find L'Americain, so long as he protects her.
This introduces Madeleine Swan, the estranged daughter of Mr White and the latest Bond Girl (played by Léa Seydoux). As she becomes the target of Hink. Allowing James to come to her rescue by means of skiing in a propeller plane. It is also revealed via DNA analysis of the ring that all of the previous villains: Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and even Raoul Silva; were all connected to Spectre. If a little coincidental that all of them had come into contact with the ring.
With Madeleine's help, Bond finds the location of L'Americain, discovering that Mr White had been trying to find where Oberhauser was hiding. Eventually pinpointing his location to the middle of a desert, taking some influence for Quantum's Eco Hotel it seems. While events cause the termination of the Double O program.
Knowing his adversary's location, James and Madeleine set off on a desert train journey to find Spectre's leader before it too late. The romantic trip is interupted by a very angry Hink, who proceeds to turn the inside of the train carts into open plan spaces through the use of 007 as a wrecking ball. Their fight is cut short though when Bond manages to tie him to a set of escaping beer kegs, leading to him making a swift exit from the train.
Once they reach their destination it is revealed that Oberhauser has constructed a surveillance center capable of watching and recording anyone he wants, even MI6. This is when he reveals the truth behind it all, how he is:
The Author of All Your Pain
During a torture scene, more information is revealed about Bond's childhood and exactly how Oberhauser fits into it all, much like Skyfall it adds a new layer to his character and greater explains why he is so hesitant to talk about his past. He eventually manages to break free using Q's watch and stage a grand escape with Madeleine as the facility explodes.
James returns to London to find that Spectre's plan to secure mass intelligence is still in motion, forcing a now rogue team of MI6 to set about stopping it. However Oberhauser is not finished with Bond, drawing him to the ruins of the old MI6 building in a last attempt to torment him. Trapping Madeleine inside, he sets the building to explode, giving Bond the choice to try and save her or save himself and deal with the grief.
Both Bond and the MI6 team are successful in the goals, thwarting Spectre's plan and restoring credibility to their cause. Oberhauser attempts to escape in a helicopter but Bond causes it to crash outside the Houses of Parliament and leaves the wounded villain to be taken in by M, while leaving with the rescued Madeleine.
Overall the film is a fitting return to roughly where the Bond films began, in terms of the timeline, with some plot changes. It also rounds off the Daniel Craig films well, as this is possibly his last one playing the secret agent. With suitable homage to iconic staples of the franchise and a look at parts of Bond's life previously not mentioned it is a solid installment in the franchise. However is does slow in the middle section of the film, something that Skyfall previously managed to avoid doing, as Bond works to track down Oberhauser again.
The actors all provide good performances. With Fiennes providing the more 'classic' M personality, Waltz's menacing style that suits a Bond villain so well and Seydoux's more reluctant and independent Bond Girl attitude, the film strikes the right nostalgia notes while being something new.