Rated PG-13, 148 minutes (watched 11/7/15)
One of the (few) downsides of being a gun owner is that you begin see through so many of Hollywood’s tricks and tropes. Once you begin your ride, you count rounds remaining in magazines/cylinders and wonder how long the bad guy waited for the ATF to approve his Form 4s for that suppressed short barrel rifle (spoiler alert: he didn’t). You shake your head when dozens of baddies can’t hit the broadside of barn while the White Hats are one-shot-one-kill and you wince every time the good guys muzzle each other. Perhaps most egregiously, you grind your teeth to powdery nubs when hero unnecessarily racks his shotgun over and over.
Even for the most die-hard 007 fans among us, the latest James Bond installment, Spectre, will drive you absolutely bonkers.
Bond’s reliance on a PPK spitting out the anemic .380 ACP has been questioned many times, but I’m going give him a pass there. The aesthetics and tradition of the old Walther make up for a multitude of sins, so there’s definitely a second kind of cool going on. Still, I lost count of the other ballistic absurdities. Here are the ones I can remember:
- In the opening scene, Bond covertly (sort of) snipes at a terrorist with a Glock 19 in a FAB Defense KPOS Carbine PDW Conversion just dripping with rails and do-dads. I’ve never had the need to takedown a kingpin in Mexico City during a parade (but hey, the day is still young). Should the opportunity arise, I can think of about 50 better assassination tools than this bit of obvious product placement.
- A henchman politely asks Bond to disarm before entering the villain’s inner sanctum (I love it when henchmen are polite!). Bond dutifully plunks down his PPK… in a Galco IWB holster. What with all the government spending cuts, it’s good to know that Her Majesty’s Government only had to spend $26.26 on Bond’s holster. Heck, if they sprang for an Amazon Prime membership, Bond even got free shipping. As he lays the weapon/holster on the silver platter, our hero smirks at Polite Henchman and quips “be careful; it’s loaded.” The trouble is that it’s not “loaded.” Bond – our expert operator with a license to kill – spends the entire freaking movie carrying his PPK without a round the chamber. I realize the idea behind constantly racking the slide is to give the audience an audio clue that the gun is ready to rock and roll, but can’t we just get by with the click of Bond thumbing the hammer back? You can’t afford to waste a shot by racking the slide when the PPK only has 7+1 rounds of .380 on deck. Surely a highly trained killing machine can be comfortable with a pill in the pipe. Heck, I’m 100 perfectly comfortable with it, and I’m only a moderately trained killing machine.
- I wonder how much the makers of AF2011 Dueller Prismatic paid to get into the hands of Mr. Hinx, the mute hitman played by Dave Bautista. The sight of two 1911s smushed together looks absolutely absurd on screen, though it can apparently punch 4-inch holes in the sides of airplanes. Apparently.
- In yet another painful bit of product placement, Bond arms his lady friend du jour, Dr. Madeleine Swan, giving her a crash course on the gun’s anatomy:
“I hate guns,” she protests.
“Sig 226,” Bond retorts, giving her the tour of the German classic. “Trigger, hammer, rear sight, front sight. Pull the trigger and it goes bang.”
Demonstrating she’s no noob, she pops the mag and snaps out the chambered round (NOW he carries with one in the chamber?). Two things here: Bond thought he was introducing her to guns for the first time, pointing out features on a loaded weapon. Even if you suspect Baddie McBadderson with that double-barreled .45 is on the train with you, there’s no way you’d give your Guns 101 lecture with a loaded gat. Secondly, THE GUN IS NEVER SEEN AGAIN. How much did Sig spend to have their name mentioned, only to have it sit impotent on a table while Dr. Swan picks up Bond’s dropped PPK? This is the only time I can remember a non-Walther firearm being called out by name in a Bond movie, and it goes absolutely nowhere.
- We’ve already established that Bond is Team .380 when it comes to the caliber wars. Q must have cooked up some pretty hot hand loads for the PPK, because while most of us are agonizing over ballistic gel penetration at 7 yards (with a few layers of denim if we’re feeling festive), Bond skips the gel tests and just disables a flying helicopter at least 300 yards away with two or three well placed shots. At night. While rolling and pitching in a speedboat. He must have some pretty amazing night sights on that PPK. No Trijicon knockoffs for Bond, no sireee.
The ballistic bits aren’t all bad: A drunken Bond interrogates and seriously considers shooting a mouse that sneaks into his room. “Who are you?! Who sent you?!” he demands. As someone who seriously considered opening fire on a mouse that scurried across my kitchen floor a few years ago, I could relate.
Here’s the thing though: who the heck cares? Bond has always been absurd and always been awesome. Even Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby oozed cool, and they’re the lame kids in the class. The chiseled Daniel Craig? He could have taken out that helicopter with a Nerf crossbow, and I promise you the gun blogosphere would be reconsidering the manufacturer of the world’s spongiest firearms in terms of style and stopping power.
Spectre is nowhere near the modern-era classic that was Skyfall. Where that movie hit the sweet spot between sexy, slick, silly, somber and (fan) service, the latest entry lacks zest and gets lost in the weeds. This is surprising, because when I heard Cristoph Waltz was playing the throwback main baddie, Blofeld, I giggled like [insert your favorite simile here]. What a waste that the script gives him nothing fun to do or say.
Despite breathing life into the franchise with 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig is tired of the role and it shows. He looks genuinely pained to be saying the sillier lines of dialogue or to pilot a wingless plane down a ski slope. Who knows what direction the series will go when his Bond is put out to pasture.
As much as I appreciated Casino Royale, Skyfall and (to a much lesser extent) Quantum of Solace’ Bond films of the Craig era are too concerned with continuity and tying all the films together in one cinematic universe. No has ever accused any on the Bond films of having too simple a plot, but Spectre’s makes zero sense. There is some half-hearted hand-wringing about living in a police state under constant surveillance, but no one really seems to care that much. I also don’t need a half dozen references to Bond’s deceased lover from two movies ago, Vesper Lynd. “Did he tell you about her?” Blofeld asks Dr. Swan as he tortures Bond. What kind of question is that? Drilling into your foe’s brain with is one thing, but bringing up his ex with his new girl in the room? That’s a serious Bro Code violation. Not cool, Blofeld. Not cool.
The high point is without a doubt that Bond Girl, Madeleine Swan, played by French actress Lea Seydoux. She has great hair, a great accent and great trigger discipline. What else is there in a Bond Girl?
All that’s wonderful, but what’s the movie’s grade? I’m in a hurry here, buddy.
Not amazing but I enjoyed in. 3.5/5.
Where do I know that guy from?
What is the star’s spirit animal?
What color socks are you wearing right now?
Heard any good jokes lately?
We went to the “5 Star Lounge,” which means individual recliners, wait service and a full dinner menu. I think Megan had ribs and a milk shake, and I had a burger and Diet Pepsi.
Unrelated Word of the Day:
Would the movie have been any better with the addition of Morgan Freeman as narrator?