His name’s Bond, James Bond, and he’s back! The latest outing in 007’s career includes just as much globetrotting, gun-toting, high-octane action as you’d expect from the world’s greatest spy. Fans of the franchise have been waiting 3 years for Spectre and after the incredible 50th anniversary masterpiece that was Skyfall back in 2012, things certainly looked promising when the new title was announced in December of last year.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bond film without a beautifully artistic title sequence, but the opening scene even before that was a clear indicator that the film would demonstrate cinematic brilliance. The entirety of the opening scene, leading up to the first pull of a trigger, consisted of one intricately choreographed shot through Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. Follow this up with the usual spy combat, epic destruction, along with some dizzying camera angles, together with snippets of the theme that every Brit has come to know and love, and you have yourself a hefty introduction! The scene feels like a film in itself rather than just the set-up for another 2 and a quarter hours of espionage adventure, there is just so much condensed into those first 10 minutes. The title sequence that follows this scene is an audiovisual delight, complete with cryptic and foreshadowing messages masked within the hypnotic soundtrack and seductive special effects that have been iconic to the franchise since Goldfinger established the formula back in 1964.
After this, the pacing slows down as we are taken back to MI5 to flesh out the plot, all the while using typical British wit and sarcasm to add a comedic undertone. Furthermore, by utilising the major events in Skyfall we can determine various characters’ emotional states, reminding us that inside every operative beats the heart of a human being. Also, taking into account that Skyfall was based around the trust that characters had in each other, along with it being very emotionally driven, Spectre grabs the aftermath of those emotional scars and manipulates it into psychological torture. If the phrase, “And this time… it’s personal”, could ever be applied to a Bond film, it would be Spectre. Bond, after being deemed as too much of a loose cannon, goes on an even more invasively personal mission driven by the damage that Skyfall has left on our protagonist’s psyche, which is particularly evident in one scene that is sure to both surprise and sadden viewers.
Spectre uses the juxtaposition of extreme close-up reaction shots and sweeping high angle location shots to add plenty of visual splendour to the cerebral writing. All of these visual components create a certain atmosphere to every scene and the cutting between the events involving MI5 and the events with James quicken the pace and build up the suspense as the two narratives begin to intertwine, revealing that the seemingly concluded past will still have an impact on the future regardless. Even with their jobs on the line, there is a real sense of comradery in our new team as both Moneypenny and Q insist on providing backup for James in his pursuits, and even our new M takes a stand against one of the antagonists during the climax of the film.
So, where does the dramatic climax of the film take place? In none other than the remains of the old MI5 building, another shadow of Skyfall’s destruction, only in the literal sense. But the physical remnants of James’ past are a metaphor for the psychological remnants left behind by those who he has lost throughout his life. Spectre highlights how dangerous the profession is both physically and mentally; living with loss, pain and guilt can be just as devastating to a person as punching, hitting and shooting. “Having a license to kill also means having a license not to kill” and every operative bears that thought on their conscience every day.
This is a Bond film with morals that stretch much farther than the conventional “good triumphs over evil” scenario because when faced with determining the fate of another human, who really triumphs? With such moralistic values, it’s this that sets the composition of the film apart from others in the franchise’s history as it takes the hegemonic value of a blissful equilibrium and darkens it with the shadow of actuality. That shadow had been stalking James for years, haunting him like a ghost, a demon, a spectre.
What did you think of Spectre?
Comment with your thoughts.
– Letitia Lemon