“The dead are alive.”
The words that flash across the screen at the beginning of Spectre have two distinct sets of meaning, one of which is apparent immediately and one of which will become so soon enough. The first is literal: As the words fade, the scene opens in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead.
The streets throng with crowds of dapper skeletons and chthonian floats. The camera finds its way to one elegant couple—the man’s skull mask only accentuates his air of intensity—and it follows them down the avenue. And into their hotel. And into the elevator. And into their room. And then, following a not-entirely-unexpected reveal, it follows the man out the window and onto the rooftops.
Long tracking shots may be a tad oversold in the wake of Birdman and season one of True Detective, but this one is a dazzler. Indeed, the entire pre-title sequence of Spectre—which also includes fisticuffs in a wildly spiraling helicopter over a crowded square—is magnificent, perhaps the best in the entire 24-film history of the franchise. At its conclusion, I turned to the friend seated next to me and whispered, “I could leave the theater happy right now.”
From there, the movie leaps from London to Rome to the Austrian Alps to Tangier and the Sahara, the plot trundling on along two parallel tracks which inevitably will bend to intersect. Abroad, a rogue James Bond (Daniel Craig) is trying to track down information about a diabolic global crime syndicate, Spectre, and its mysterious leader (Christoph Waltz). Back home, M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) must contend with a smarmy young bureaucrat who’s overseeing the launch of a panoptically comprehensive new global surveillance system. About all you need to know about this character is that he is played by the actor Andrew Scott. I mean fine, launch your dangerous new technology that will make all human privacy a thing of the past. But for God’s sake, don’t put Moriarty in charge of it. (And yes, this is exactly the same plot as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, right down to many of the particulars, including a snazzy, Triskelion-ish intelligence HQ on the bank of the Thames.)