Ignore the prats in the professional review media — this is a solid Bond movie. It’s not quite up to Casino Royale for quality, but it is better  than Skyfall. Here’s why this is a superior outing to its predecessor, and probably deserves to be in the top five Bond movies.

While there is a long of bitching about the pacing and length of the movie — and the latter is certainly a valid complaint of nearly ever blockbuster movie of the last 15 years, the pacing of SPECTRE is quick, with the necessary breathers to let character and plot unfold, and the view to gain relief from the action. (This is something action movies have seemed to forget — release and rebuild…just like older men. Looking at you Mad Max: Fury Road…) The action sequences, from the superlative fight/’splosions/chase through the Dia de los Muertos parade in Mexico City, to the car chase in Rome (which the Jaguar should have handily given Bond’s DB10 it’s ass), to the snow chase (the entire piece is an open homage to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), to the other excellent action set pieces are well-aced, last just long enough to wind the viewer up…then they END.

The other complaint is that this is less emotional a story than Casino Royale or Skyfall…wrong. The piece weaves together all of the Craig movies into a single story: the introduction of Blofeld as someone that has been in and out of Bond’s life since childhood was well-done and provides Bond with a nemesis that is, in every way, his antithesis, as well as giving the villain a reason to have a personal beef with our anti-hero. It draws on the pains of Vesper and M’s losses, and how Bond has integrated those losses and moved on. The character has become blase and had found his humor, but it is still armor to protect him from the world. The female lead isn’t worthless. She’s smart, actively aids Bond, still judges him and tried to force him to be better than he is, as Vesper did. But most importantly, there is humor in this movie; this has been missing since Casino Royale. The movies are generally good (save Quantum of Solice), well-made, but they are serious. Not The Dark Knight serious, but they’re not campy Moore period Bond. This film is fun.

The acting is good, and my main complaint is that Monica Bellucci — who at 50 is still sexier than all of the Bond girls for the last 25 years combined — does not get near enough screen time. In fact, she could have easily taken the place of the still-good Lea Seydoux. All the background characters — M, Q, and Moneypenny get to do things and it works.

The main plot is pretty obvious, as all of the older Bond pics were, as well: there’s a big conspiracy behind all the events of the last three movies, and that group, SPECTRE, is planning to gain control of the world’s intelligence agencies. Realistic? Maybe not. But it’s good Bond fodder. It sure as shit beats the “I get captured to make my master plan work” plot device that Hollywood’s been using for about a decade…and guess what? It was a shit plan and gimmick the first time it was rolled out, but Skyfall did it at the same time as Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Avengers. There were plot holes the size of a helicarrier in Skyfall and the villain was, while amusing (I liked Silva, really!), he was never sinister. Christopher Waltz’s Blofeld is sinister (and doesn’t get enough screen time.)

So, SPECTRE on my scale is a firm “worth full price”. It’s a slick, well-made Bond film.