007 SPECTRE (2015)
My first thought: It's pretty good. Better than Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. It is very long, though. I'm going to bring up plot points and SPOILERS, so be warned.
For the first time in the Craig era, the movie starts with a traditional gun barrel sequence, which is really a sign of things to come. This movie, from start to finish, is really a return to the Connery era movies, in tone, and in style. Within moments, the movie evokes memories of Live and Let Die, and then, in classic Connery style, Bond reveals a suit...underneath another suit. A far cry from the seriousness of Casino Royale. A great pre-credits sequence in Mexico City kicks off the plot, somewhat rare for most Bond movies.
The title sequence itself is good, but boy, that song is ass. All Time High booty-tier. It's a real shame the song is so bad, since the titles are really good. What bothers me the most is that it didn't include the chord progression that had become the motif for the Craig movies, which was included in Casino Royale, Quantum, and Skyfall. It's just a bland ass song.
If Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were deconstructions of the classic era movies, Skyfall and SPECTRE were reconstructions. The foundation was set in Skyfall, and the building was completed with SPECTRE. Returning to the series: A male M with slightly antagonistic attitudes towards Bond, secret villainous organizations that have board meetings in the shadows, a main villain wearing a Nehru jacket with a fluffy white cat, a secret lair inside of a volcano/crater, a burly heavy who nearly kills Bond, and more. The entire movie is an extended love letter to all eras of Bond (but mostly Connery, and oddly enough, although fitting, the Dalton movies).
There are really too many shout outs to point them all, as almost any given scene will have a reference to the older movies either in story, dialogue, music, filming locations, or clothing. Besides the ones listed above, the movie seems to take a lot of inspiration from License To Kill, having Bond's status revoked after an unsanctioned hit goes wrong, spending the film working on a personal mission with help from Q in the field more than ever. Considering how License To Kill was an attempt to do what Casino Royale was able to do 16 years later, I'm sure it isn't just a coincidence. Bond's sneaking suit worn through much of the film is a dead ringer for the outfit Roger Moore wore in the final act of Live And Let Die.
But the movie isn't just evocative of the classic era. It has plenty of echos of the Craig era as well. In fact, that's one of the major themes of the movie. Everything we've seen in the Craig movies has been orchestrated by Blofeld. We are reminded fairly regularly of this even from the title sequence. Bond's relationships to M and Vesper Lynd are particularly touched on, and it is a familiar dinner scene on a train where Bond and Madeleine Swann, the daughter of a man he made a promise to protect, and was found in a clinic in the Austrian mountains (obviously invoking On Her Majesty's Secret Service wholesale, which is something I'll get to later), finally connect on a romantic level. Which is kind of a shame for them, since it was interrupted by Mr. Hinx, played dopely by Batista. There have been a few trainfights in the series, but this one was clearly calling back on From Russia With Love, and it was the highpoint for action in the movie. For the first time in the Craig era, he fought someone who you actually feel like could kill him. Considering Craig's Bond is a muscled bulldog who literally runs through walls, that was no easy feat. Batista only had a few minutes of screen time, and only one line, but he instantly was able to skyrocket to the Oddjob/Jaws/Red Grant tier of heavies. He was really enjoyable. He has proven he was too good for the carny world of pro wrestling.
The big twist, which was not a twist to ANYONE, not even in the movie, was that Franz Oberhauser, leader of SPECTRE, was actually Ernst Stavro Blofeld. In fact, when Franz reveals his "real" name, Bond barely reacts at all. The actual twist is that in this continuity, Blofeld is Bond's older step-brother, whose start of darkness began when his father adopted James after the deaths of the Bonds, and ended up loving James more than him. So he killed his father. Years later, he'd use his criminal empire to fuck with James whenever the opportunity rose, which became much more frequent in the mid 2000s when digital surveillance became more and more prevalent, until it became nearly all encompassing. This also ties into the theme of a man in the field vs technology, which has been something raised in all the Craig movies. Here, after the disastrous events of Skyfall, MI5 and MI6 have been combined, with "C" intending to shut down the 007 division entirely, and trying to get a complete surveillance state instituted worldwide by joining the biggest security agencies into one. Which, of course, is funded by SPECTRE, to the shock of no one. That's the kind of shit SPECTRE does.
So while Bond does his thing to track down Blofeld, M has his hands full trying to keep things together at home. The movie spends a lot more time on M and Q than any of the other movies, and despite Bond technically being a rogue agent, they also provide the most support out of any movie. The "007 is antiquated, but can't be replaced" has really been a recurring staple since Goldeneye, and while SPECTRE doesn't really do anything new with it, it was an important part of the plot.
To briefly get back to OHMSS, I definitely bought into the fake out. The whole time Bond and Madeleine were together, especially towards the end, I was expecting her to get killed. I mean, come on. Blofeld, woman Bond promises to protect who is at a clinic in the Austrian mountains, clips of OHMSS theme being used in the trailers. And then...she lives, and they ride off into the sunset together. You son of a bitch. You got me. I assume that will happen in the next movie, since everyone is alive.
Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. It had great action (the train fight, incredible helicopter stunts, and the Bond/Hinx car chase in particular), a good blend between deadly seriousness and levity without being campy, a return to the classic formula, and Craig looking notably younger and peppier than he did for Skyfall. If you're a Bond fan, any era, you should enjoy this movie. It's the classic formula rebuilt with the snarling, smirky swagger of the Daniel Craig era. It hit all the right notes for me. Overall, it feels like a send off to Craig, but I felt the same way about Skyfall. See it when you can.