Spectre ★★★★

"The dead are alive."

Bond is alive but dead. M (Judy Dench) is dead but alive. Lucia Sciarra is alive but dead. Blofeld is alive but dead. Vesper Lynd is dead but alive. Mr. White is alive but dead. I could continue, but the film effortlessly demonstrates the manner in which mortality permeates it, along with the psychological weight of living with lives that are (never)ending.

One senses the desensitisation effected upon Bond's selfhood by his commitment to carrying out the dead's orders—even as we also become aware that this desensitisation has a history, with Bond having been groomed from a young age as an assassin. This unfeeling disposition is exhibited well in the coolness of Bond's many early interactions, from those with M and Denby to those with Bellucci's Sciarra and White. The emerging futurity and life-in-understanding that Léa Seydoux's Madeleine Swann offers Bond is then palpably visualised in the unjustly short amount of time they are given to realise their chemistry, yet for me it is most clearly seen in three scenes: the moment Bond touches Swann's face, for the briefest of seconds, following his torture, as if relishing his ability to still recognise it; and the mirroring between Bond and Swann's dismantling of firearms on the train and on the bridge. It is in Bond's echoing of the order of Swann's actions on the train that emphasises the manner in which she has impacted his psyche and offered him concrete grounds for a new form of life; but only insofar as they both skirted an organisation committed to both their and much of the world's negation.

What I felt on the first occasion I saw Spectre—that of a far reaching, insidious, near-omnipresent organisation, only counter-acted in some sense by Bond's ability to mirror it—has very seriously diminished. There is still the alluring barrenness of many scenes (the slinking rooftops, the funeral, the wides of the train, the crater), but these visuals reflect little of the inner nature of SPECTRE due to much of its work being textual assertions regarding unseen attacks and bombings and wedding its working to a tragically realised government surveillance conceit. The last of these is truly ham-fisted, even as the time spent with the other members of MI6 gives the film an unusual and often humourous sense of camaraderie.

For all this, Spectre in the end proves itself strongly as an expressionistic piece that richly, even idiosyncratically, develops what has been the Craig Bond's soft thematic undercurrent regarding the fallout of Bond's work upon his soul. It is the perfunctory nature of Bond's actions throughout the film, his constant ability to be equal to or above the task, his being unaffected by the wasteland in which he moves that underlines the beauty of and life given in Madeleine Swann.

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