A message from Bond's past leads him to the top secret terrorist organisation known as Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). As Bond reveals the many levels of Spectre, he meets Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) and the pair encounter Spectre's infamous leader. Meanwhile, in London, M (Ralph Fiennes) finds himself in a power battle with C (Andrew Scott) over a joint intelligence co-operation agreement between nine countries.
Avid Bond fans undoubtedly relished the chance to see the most feared terrorist organisation in the Bond world back and causing havoc once more. In the words of Christoph Waltz's villain, Spectre has been the author of all of Bond's pain (they murdered his wife in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) but as they haven't been seen or, if I recall correctly, even mentioned since Diamonds are Forever they haven't had much of an impact in the last 40 years. However, now they are back and it turns out that the pain Bond experienced in his recent past (the deaths of M and Vesper Lynd for example) all had links to Spectre.
The return of Spectre harks back to the classic Connery days but the Craig films are very different films and have come a long way from the Bond films of the 60s and 70s. The tone is far darker, the films are far more violent and brutal but the wisecracks are still there (Bond was particularly pissed upon finding out that the flash, new Aston Martin was going to be given to 009). Despite the massive change in tone from the Brosnan and Moore eras the elements that makes Bond Bond are still there, especially the traditional exciting pre-credits sequence which in this case is set in Mexico City and involves barrel rolling a helicopter and a voodoo festival (like something from Live and Let Die).
With Sam Mendes at the helm the two recent Bond films have been the most technically impressive of the franchise, the most notable example of the impressive technical aspects of the most recent Bond film is the single take, long tracking shot of Bond and a woman making their way through the voodoo festival and into their hotel room. Even though Roger Deakins' cinematography in Skyfall made the film one of the best looking films of 2012 Spectre loses nothing replacing Deakins with Hoyte van Hoytema whose work shooting Rome and the Austrian mountains is exceptional.
The film is not without its flaws, namely the intelligence co-operation agreement which gives the various Secret Services the power to effectively spy on their own country could have been interesting if the film went into more depth than it did, especially if you consider the current climate surrounding such issues. Also at 150 minutes Spectre is the longest Bond film in the entire franchise and you occasionally feel the length, particularly in the part of the story between the ending of the pre credits sequence and meeting Léa Seydoux's Madeleine Swann.
Another issue is that Bond seems to be physically indestructible, unlike in Casino Royale (and the other Craig films), leaving a lack of tension during the action sequences. It's also slightly disappointing that the female characters are quite weak despite all the woo-ha surrounding the casting of Monica Bellucci who was completely wasted in her disappointingly brief role. The love story between Bond and Madeleine in particular was poor even by Bond standards. However, the performances of both Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux are fine despite their thinly written roles.
Craig is good, he does a fine job at displaying Bond's psychological torment and it seems likely this will be one of his last films as he isn't keen on continuing to be 007. He'll certainly be missed despite the negative reaction when his casting was first announced. There is also a good performance from Waltz who is great fun to watch as he carefully balances between being camp and menacing. However, the latest Bond is somewhat of a disappointment because the film took a step away from the more gritty and realistic Bond we are accustomed to seeing. Still, it's mostly good fun.