One of the (few) downsides of being a member of the Armed Intelligencia is that you tend to see through so many of Hollywood’s tricks and tropes. Once you begin your ride as a certified gun nut, you count rounds remaining in magazines/cylinders and wonder how long the bad guy waited for the ATF to approve his Form 4 for that suppressed SBR (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 all one-shot-one-kill and you wince every time the good guys blithely muzzle each other. Perhaps most egregiously, you grind your teeth to stubby nubs when our 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 .380 ACP pills has been questioned uncounted times, but I’m going give him a pass here. As Nutnfancy would say, there’s a second kind of cool going on with the Walther. Still, I lost count of the other ballistic absurdities. Here are those 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 absolutely dripping with rails and do-dads. I’ve never had the need to take down a kingpin in Mexico City during a parade (the day is still young), but should the opportunity arise, I can think of about 50 better assassination tools I’d choose than this obvious product placement. Heck, a $250 10/22 Takedown might make more sense.
- 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 a 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 in Condition 3. I realize the idea behind constantly racking the slide is to give the audience an auditory 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? Surely a highly trained killing machine can be comfortable carrying a pill in the pipe. Heck, I’m good with it, and I’m only a moderately trained killing machine.
- I wonder how much the makers of the AF2011 Dueller Prismatic paid to get one into the hands of Mr. Hinx, the mute hitman played by Dave Bautista. It 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 Swann, giving her a crash course on the gun’s anatomy.
“I hate guns,” she protests.
“SIG 226,” Bond retorts, giving her the tour. “Trigger, hammer, rear sight, front sight. Pull the trigger and it goes bang.”
Demonstrating she’s no noob, he 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. Second, the 226 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. Swann 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 (I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong in the comments), and it goes absolutely nowhere.
- We’ve already established that Bond is a member of Team .380 when it comes to the caliber wars. Q must have cooked up some pretty hot handloads for the PPK, because while most of us are agonizing over ballistic gel penetration at seven yards (with a few layers of denim if we’re feeling really kinky), Bond skips the gel tests and disables a flying helicopter at least 500 yards away with two or three well-placed shots. At night. While pitching and rolling in a speedboat. He must have some pretty amazing night sights on that PPK. No Trijicon knockoffs for Bond, no sireee. I guess it just goes to show that shot placement really is everything when it comes to a defensive gun use.
The ballistic bits aren’t all bad: Bond has noticeably dropped the “smart gun” from Skyfall from his arsenal, the gun that sent shivers and tingles up the legs of gun grabbers from sea to shining sea. I wish I could see this as a political statement by the filmmakers, but in reality, smart gun makers probably couldn’t pony up for the product placement fee.
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 clearing leather on a mouse that scurried across my kitchen floor last week, I could relate. Home carry, people. Home carry.
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 deeply chiseled Daniel Craig? He could have taken out that helicopter with a Hi-Point, and I promise you most of the gun blogosphere would be reconsidering the world’s homeliest (but apparently reliable) firearms because of its newfound style and panache.
Spectre is nowhere near the modern-era Bond Classic that was Skyfall. Where that movie hit the sweet spot between sexy, 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 TTAG 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 has grown 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 007 is put out to pasture.
As much as I appreciated Casino Royale and Skyfall (and to a much lesser extent, Quantum of Solace) the 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 of the Bond films of having overly simplistic plots, 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. Swann as he tortures Bond. What kind of question is that? Drilling into your foes brain 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 Swann, played by French actress Lea Seydoux. With those eyes, that hair, that figure and that accent? She’ll give any model linked by RF a run for her money, and she’ll do it fully clothed. Mostly. Dr. Swann may say she “hates guns,” but she knows how to handle the pistol when it counts. I’ll let you decide if that’s a euphemism.
Other guns that pop up, just in case you’re curious:
Steyr AUG A3 (never actually used)
Czech Small Arms SA vz. 58 Compact
Caliber: .380 ACP
Length: 148 minutes
Action: Not bad. Not earth shattering.
Price: $300 million (reportedly)
RATINGS (out of five bullets):
Style * * * *
It’s no Skyfall, but it’s still a pretty slick film. The opening scene at the Dia de los Muertos parade in Mexico City is very striking.
Reliabilty: * * *
Somewhat lacking. I needed a better villain and a tighter script.
Overall: * * * *
Lea Seydoux brings the average up significantly. If you’re a Bond fan, you’ll see it regardless.