*Reader's note: I'd like to first make clear that I am writing this review after one watch-through in an IMAX theater within the United States. So, forgive me if I seem to have missed anything as I prod along. I'd also like to make clear that my ratings are based on only the Craig tenure of the franchise and that that's all I'm comparing this film to.
Now then, let's proceed.
PTS: First off, wow. I'm not sure I've smiled that wide in a long time. Finally, thankfully, Daniel Craig walks across the screen to open up the movie in the classic gunbarrel sequence! My only gripe was not fully understanding the fade to black and "The dead are alive" bit of it all. Granted, the dead living within Bond's memory banks and Waltz's words is a large theme in this film. Not to mention, it serves double duty as a direct reference to the Day of the Dead celebration that follows. So, after a watch through, I supposed it made sense. I just wish it was perhaps done... Differently? Either way, following that, we get an absolutely fantastic sweeping shot of Mexico City in full parade swing. The continuous shot attempt was pretty enjoyable and the way Bond sells the swagger of his skeleton man is brilliant. I loved the entire pre-title sequence in general, with the falling building, subtle humor, and helicopter fight. So, whoever said it was the weakest in the series, I politely ask that you seek evaluation. The over-the-topness of it all was an amazing way to open the film, in my opinion. RATING: A
Title Sequence: The title sequence wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst by any means. I loved the darkness of it all and the imagery of the octopuses, women, guns, and faces of Bond's past were all highlights. I just wish more of the plot was displayed within, much like Skyfall's titles (which I thought, were superb). I wanted more imagery. But, I suppose with anymore, somethings may have been given away too early. Sam Smith's theme is also strengthened by the titles, thank god. So, again, with all things considered, the title sequence was still a positive for me. RATING: B-
Features: With the pleasantries out of the way, we now get into the guts of the film. Like all Bond films, this one had it's fair share of strengths and weaknesses. With that said, I'd like to make note that the pacing of this film is one of the highlights of this film. I feel like we got quite a bit of action, mixed in with some really, really solid dialogue pieces. As a matter of fact, I'd go out on a limb and say the action of this film trumps the action of any of the other Craig films. Not to mention, lines like "You're a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond." and "The author of all your pain." are ones that will stay with me. Beautiful. The cameos of Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Mathieu Amalric, Eva Green, and Mads Mikkelsen were all pretty enjoyable as well. It was nice to be reminded of Craig's earlier entries and the people he came across. Though, I must admit, the inclusion of the cameos came to be a bit heavy by the film's end. More Waltz, please. The subplot of C launching the global security system and putting the Double-0 section on the chopping block was pretty enjoyable as well. It gave us more of M, Q,Tanner, and Moneypenny, which is important for each of them. Seeing M in action is something the franchise has been devoid of for some time, so it is a nice change of pace. RATING: B
Action: Every action scene in this film entertained me. Hinx was awesome and the car chase in Rome was good. The Austria scenes were great. Mexico City delivered. Some of the best action took place during the train fight between Bond and Hinx, ala From Russia With Love. So tense, physical, and hard-hitting and both actors should be commended. The climax of Bond running through the old MI-6 building was really interesting and cool. As well as the tenseness between Max and M in the office as Q deactivates the global surveillance system. I wanted to see more of the DB-10 in action. As well, I wish Hinx would have been around a bit longer. As I said, though, the action in this Craig film, in my opinion, trumps a lot of the action in his other Bond films. Very, very well done. RATING: A-
Locations: They were all beautifully shot. Austria, Tangier, Rome, and Mexico City all stand out. We got quite a bit of London in the last film, so I'll omit it here. Seeing Craig in snow was great and the clinic akin to the one in OHMSS was awesome. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the Mexico City stuff. Rome's streets at night were great and mysterious. A few great sets only heightened the exotic feel of several places. RATING: B
General Cast Performances: I thought everybody was firing on all cylinders for this one. Each actor and actress gave a stellar performance, in my opinion. Finnes, Waltz, Seydoux, Craig, and Bautista all stood out. I was pretty happy with the amount of screen time everybody got. They all used it to the utmost. I'm not sure what else to say, other than everybody exceeded my expectations. RATING: A
Film Score: Eh. RATING: C
Christoph Waltz (Main Villain): Who could have made a better Ernst Stavro Blofeld? Nobody, in my estimation. Waltz is one of my favorite modern actors and to see him step into this role excited me. I kept wanting more. More lines, more evil. He is just so easy to hate on screen, the aura he brings to the table in this film is fitting. He is the man for the job. Sinister and sadistic. You feel as though he is really in complete control of Bond's destiny and the entire film in general. Now, do I like that the plot reveals he and James to be near brothers? Absolutely not. However, Waltz and Craig are able to sell me on the relationship, for the most part... As cliche as such the plotline may be. I felt as though the formation of the Blofeld we all know was a bit rushed, as far as the scar and iconography is concerned. Aside from that, if nothing else, go see this film for Christoph Waltz. I have a feeling it won't be the last time we see Waltz donning that familiar scar, too. Which really, really excites me. RATING: A+
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this Bond film. It felt like a Bond film. The comedy, action, tension, emotion, and performances made this a typical Bond classic. I wish the action of Bond escaping Blofeld's compound was a bit more exciting. However, in the scene where Bond is getting his skull drilled into was perhaps the most tense Bond scene in the series. I was, for once, genuinely concerned for 007! Awesomely cruel and dangerous. By the end of the film, I believed the relationship between Bond and Swann, as towards the middle it was a little forced, I think. To think that SPECTRE and Blofeld are both in a James Bond movie in 2015 still blows my mind a bit. Both have been so long overdue. It's on par with Skyfall and Casino Royale, in my opinion. Not better than them, but on par.
FINAL FILM RATING: B+