Skyfall was praised in 2012 for resetting the 007 clock, finding Bond's roots away from the ludicrous gadgets and improbable plots that followed the 1960s. You'd be forgiven for thinking this reset left Daniel Craig's Bond open to an entirely new storyline, closing the door on the three film structure that started with Casino Royale. Instead, SPECTRE extends Bond into the age of Snowdon while linking the first three films into an epic web of an overarching criminal organisation.

Mendes puts Craig and MI6 Boss M (Ralph Fiennes) up against a voyeuristic surveillance system at MI6 that threatens to make ground-level spying obsolete. An arrogant new employee Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) operates the attack, pushing for a multi-national computer spying program funded by private investors.

Bond is indefinitely taken off field duty when Max instates a merge between MI5 and MI6 that would mean the end of the 00 Programme. Naturally Bond disobeys these orders and sends himself to Rome on a mission to discover the truth behind an organisation that he's lead to from a fantastic opening scene that oversees a Day of The Dead celebration in Mexico City.

Bond appears even more indestructible than usual as he recklessly fights his way through the rogue investigation. The action is relentless, but you don't get bored of seeing Craig clinically deal with set pieces that the audience sees no resolution of. A sequence in the snowy Alps is particularly extraordinary, but by now we've already seen enough of Craig's lucky escapes to keep the suspension of disbelief in check.

Director Mendes takes even more props from Christopher Nolan in SPECTRE. The violence is the most brutal it's been, mirroring the choreography of Batman's brute-force combat with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, especially in a particularly gritty sequence on a claustrophobic train with a large henchman.

The pinnacle car chase also takes place in the narrow streets of Rome that almost transform the Aston Martin DB10 into a Batmobile as it charges over rubble effortlessly. The sequence in Rome is incidentally the last time we see Bond girl Monica Bellucci, who has merely a few minutes of screen time.

The relentless pace does leave a gaping hole in the final half hour that sees the screenwriters scrambling to keep the indulged audience interested as they seek to neatly tie up the convoluted and seemingly unresolvable story arc without an anti-climax.

But in spite of this violent charge, Craig is as charming and witty as ever, sarcastically dismissing Christopher Waltz's villainous taunts with ease. Waltz bounces off Craig brilliantly, creating a more light-hearted dialogue between Bond and villain that is missing in other modern incarnations.

Craig comes across as quite camp in places too, finding an effective mix of old and new. Where as Casino Royale and Quantum caught Bond up with the age of Bourne Identity, SPECTRE finds a healthy balance of the lighthearted wit of old Bond while maintaining the gritty realism of late. Wishaw as Q, the bumbling techy Englishman, also helps gives some light relief the franchise desperately needed.

SPECTRE is Craig's most established outing as 007, pushing the archaic spy firmly into the contemporary. This is all the more surprising in a time of political correctness and social engineering, when even some feminist authors can't escape exile from universities for fear of offending. James Bond still stands tall as one of the most iconic figures in film in spite of this. A man described by Daniel Craig himself as a misogynist is still the film character 'men want to be and women want to be with'.

This in itself is the greatest achievement of the Sam Mendes Bond era: long drawn out tracking shots through Mexico City, Whishaw's comic timing as the new techy assistant Q and Craig's charming half smirk are enough to make James Bond transcend politics.