Spectre is an opus and, like it or not, perhaps the most scintillating Bond film ever
Makeup Designer Naomi Donne says it is the most exciting opening to a Bond film ever — we completely agree.
Let me draw the veil of mystery by saying, Spectre is the most haunting James Bond spectacle so far.
The film opens in Latin American environs, on a packed street during Dia de Muertos — The Day of the Dead. As Director Sam Mendes says, you are immediately dropped into a “very heady, very rich environment” full of colour and life.
Here, amidst the lush costumes and heat of the Mexican sun, body heat also rises as a couple emerges from ‘the walking dead’. The two of them make their way to an apartment along the street.
As the skull mask comes off, our male protagonist is unveiled as Bond. How poetic. In the previous film, Skyfall, he had ‘resurrected’ to once again walk in the land of the living.
This evocative and emotionally-charged scene sets the tone for the remainder of the film, as Bond (smoothly) steps from scene to seduction to action to scene once more, in an arresting and aesthetic cycle of mystery, mayhem and — dare I say it — love.
The Ghost of Vesper Lynd
Bond characteristically steps into various surreptitious minefields, at times barely escaping unscathed. But the most insidious one of all, which causes our force of nature to stop in his tracks for a few ponderous moments, goes by the name of Vesper Lynd.
In Casino Royale — the first film in the ‘reboot’ of the series and starring Daniel Craig — we saw the love of Bond’s life fall in love with him, deceive him, then proceed to break his heart, upon her passing. In Spectre, her ghost resurfaces in the form of a grim memento found: “Vesper Lynd Interrogation”.
Lea Seydoux aptly typifies an old soul in a young face, in the role of Madeleine Swann, the youthful daughter of an assassin.
He only stirs when questioned by the new woman in his life, Madeleine Swann, who may become his only other true love. Can this daughter of an old nemesis be the only person who can empathise with our tormented knight errant?
Credit must be given to Lea Seydoux (of the recent Beauty and the Beast) who, in the character, aptly typifies an old soul in a young face — the youthful daughter of a former assassin.
A Principled Assassin
From start to finish, Spectre is action packed and fans will be pleased to see WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, whose last notable appearance was in Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax the Destroyer.
Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, or a man after his resurrection, we are also privy to the evolution of Bond and his role of a “double-0” agent. Our current (and much-adored) Bond is far removed from the frivolous playboy-spy character of the past.
What’s interesting, and perhaps a good indication, is that he is referred to — several times — as an “assassin”. He is not simply a spy.
Nonetheless, he is certainly not just a cold-blooded killer but a principled one, with a conscience. When queried about his infamous “double-0” status, Bond answers, “A licence to kill is also a licence not to kill.”
Spectre is at once seductive, stylish and smart. This is a different Bond for a different age.
Sartorial Stylings and Cool Threads
Spectre is full of slick moves and smooth suits.
Of course, a Bond (and his compatriots) of the millennial age needs impeccable sartorial style. I may not be the fashionista but I found myself constantly staring and gawking at how stylish and impressive the suits (and dresses) in the film were.
After I came out of the theatre, I half wished that I could’ve immediately gone shopping for a dapper new suit.
A Most Haunting Piece
Aside from the aesthetics and artistry, a titanic battle between good and evil, and conscience and necessity, takes place. From all this pain and struggle, a most haunting work is born.
This might be the darkest, most spine-chilling Bond film yet. When Mr White enunciates, “You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr Bond,” and when the shadowy nemesis, Oberhauser, nonchalantly states, “It was me, James, the author of all your pain,” goosebumps were rising on my arm.
Spectre further boasts the most haunting Bond theme so far — even surpassing Adele’s “Skyfall” — in Sam Smith’s dark incantation, “Writing’s on the Wall”. It is the first Bond theme to reach No. 1 in the UK.
Should you catch Spectre? This may well be Craig’s second-last Bond film and, whether or not you’ll like it, you’ll certainly find it an intriguing spectacle.
Perhaps the answer lies in the lyrics: “For you, I have to risk it all… ‘cause the writing’s on the wall.”
By Lester J Wan
P.S. Did Bond commit a faux pas? He wished Lucia Sciarra “Buona fortuna” but in Italian it is bad luck to wish someone “Good luck”!
Director Sam Mendes had always thought Monica Belluci was the sexiest woman in the world and exudes “old-style glamour, beauty and class”.
Spectre opened in cinemas on Nov 5, with a rating of PG13.