From What You Can Remember In the best James Bond actor films

The release of the last James Bond movie. The gap even ties the near fatal six-year distance between Licence to Kill.

But it’s true, Spectre came out in 2015. And as we stand on the cusp of its follow-up, No Time to Die 2021, finally arriving in theaters after a delay of 18 months, it’s strange to think back to the film of Streaming, and the polarizing response it received.

The last James Bond movie to star Daniel Craig still sits with a 63 percent rating on Streaming, right in that vague netherworld between “fresh” and “rotten.” And while it was an enormous financial success ($881 million at the worldwide box office).

It was considered something of a step back since its predecessor, 2012’s Skyfall, which grossed more than $1 billion. It might have been unrealistic to think Bond could hit that mark again, so in relative terms Spectre did quite well on its own terms and as part of the overall franchise.

There are, let’s face it, only a handful of truly great 007 adventures: action film, cast film complet, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and The Spy Who Loved Me come to mind. But there are likewise several that are almost all universally despised: Die Another Day, A View to a Kill, Diamonds Are Forever, and a couple of others tend to fall into that sorry category. The rest tend to exist in a mushy middle: fun to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon but instantly forgettable until the next time you turn it on while doing laundry.

And yet a pall hangs over Spectre, and it seems as if the fans and critics who found it disappointing are really down on the film. Yet I’d place it solidly in that middle category, and if anything closer to the top. With the exception of its third act (more on that later), it’s a solid Bond outing for the Daniel Craig era, with its star more terse than ever (watching it again, one is struck by how little dialogue Craig actually has), while its action and plot points are mostly in line with the “gritty” feel of Craig’s previous three outings.

It also stretches the Craig template a little, allowing for a few more gadgets, some homages to past films, and a little more humor. In other words, it lets Craig come as close as he ever previously had to the fully formed Bond played by the previous five actors. No, he’s not winking and letting his eyebrows do all the acting the way Roger Moore did toward the end of his run, and he’s not quite the cruel misogynist popularized in the beginning by Sean Connery. But this is Craig’s version of that man.

Some of the Bonds that fall lower in the standings tend to have overly complicated plots, like The World is Not Enough or Octopussy. The plot of Spectre is pretty simple and straightforward: following the death of M (Judi Dench) in Skyfall, Bond goes on one last mission at her request (via a message recorded before she died) and without official authorization from the new M (Ralph Fiennes).

He learns that the man he was sent to kill, an Italian terrorist named Sciarra, has taken his marching orders from an ultra-secret criminal organization—the same entity that was apparently behind the actions of Le Chiffre (Casino Royale), Dominic Greene (Quantum of Solace), Raoul Silva (Skyfall) and Mr. White (the first two). Bond also learns that he and the head of this organization, which is named SPECTRE, have a personal connection going back decades.

Although he’s officially suspended from duty, Bond goes in pursuit of SPECTRE and its chief, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), while also making a promise to the dying Mr. White to protect his daughter, Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux). To make matters worse, there’s also a mole in MI6 who plans to surreptitiously turn the entire surveillance apparatus of British intelligence over to (you guessed it) SPECTRE and Oberhauser.

The story has a linear, straight line: Bond must find and stop Oberhauser while bringing down SPECTRE. There’s plenty of action along the way, including a vertigo-inducing opening battle in a helicopter, a chase in which Bond steers a plane down a snowy mountain slope, and a brutal fight aboard a train between 007 and SPECTRE’s top assassin, the monstrous Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), which deliberately channels the classic.

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