Spectre | 2015
It’s early days so there may be minor spoilers – though I can’t imagine what hasn’t already leaked on the net.
Spectre kicks off with enormous confidence and a stonking teaser sequence (seemingly influenced by the legendary tracking shot which opened Orson Welles’s Touch Of Evil) set in Mexico City during spectacular El Día de Muertos (Day Of The Dead) celebrations.
The skull-masked reveler (who turns out to be Bond) mingling with the crowd suddenly ducks into the flamboyant lobby of the Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico, Avenue 16 de Septiembre 82, making his way to the roof where he’s on a mission to take out the assassin Sciarra in a neighbouring building. The same hotel was featured in the 1989 Bond film Licence To Kill, with Timothy Dalton as 007.
The seemingly simple task triggers off – almost literally – catastrophe. Amid the mayhem, Bond commandeers a getaway ’copter which has touched down among the crowds on the vast Plaza de la Constitución. Usually called the Zócalo, the second largest square in the world, after Moscow’s Red Square, can also be seen in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic.
The public holiday of El Día de Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico (especially the Central and South regions) as a time remember and pray for those who’ve died. It originated in the old Mesoamerican culture, when it was celebrated in early summer, but the coming of Europeans saw it moved to the end of October to coincide with Catholic All Souls Day celebrations.
Unlike the Gothic gloominess surrounding death in European culture, the Day Of The Dead is a colourful event with sugar skulls, marigolds, the favorite foods and beverages left as gifts at the graves of the departed.
The circular courtyard of the government office is that of the Treasury Building on Great George Street, off Whitehall, SW1. It’s becoming quite a busy spot – recognise it as the starting point of the street race in Fast And Furious 6?
When Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) delivers the sad remnants from the destruction of the former M’s office, it turns out that Bond’s apartment is over in Notting Hill, West London, just to the west of the famous Portobello Road market. It’s 1 Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill, W11, which makes him a neighbour of Madame Sousatzka (Shirley Maclaine), who lived across the road at 10 Stanley Crescent in the 1988 John Schlesinger film, and of Dick Emery who lived at number 9 in 1972’s Ooh… You Are Awful.
Having anticipated events, a posthumous message from the former M urges Bond to attend Sciarra’s funeral in Italy.
Peculiarly, the MI6 HQ at Vauxhall Cross remains derelict and abandoned after the battering it took in Skyfall (it looked perfectly fine to me the other day), while MI5 – homeland security – has sprouted a shiny new glass tower, the 'Centre for National Security', across the Thames at the other end of Vauxhall Bridge. This is pure fiction, of course, with CGI replacing a new luxury high-rise currently under construction on the site.
Much of the Centre’s interior is London City Hall – the thing that looks like a first-generation iMac – opened in 2002 on Queen's Walk on the South Bank alongside Tower Bridge.
It appears there’s a plan to merge MI6 and MI5 under the insufferably smug Max (Andrew Scott – how many fans of TV’s Sherlock were inwardly screaming ‘My God – don’t give Moriarty our secrets’?), and to retire the Double 0 section. For more on MI6 and MI5 and their real headquarters, see Spooks: The Greater Good (MI-5 in the US), which sticks very slightly closer to truth.
In contrast to the gleaming, hi-tech hi-rise, is MI6’s dingy old basement bunker where Q (Ben Whishaw) continues work on his gadgets. It’s alongside the Thames and seemingly reached by boat via a water tunnel. The secret entrance was actually filmed on the Regent’s Canal at, of all places, Camden Lock just yards from the crowds of tourists shopping at the famous market.
The inevitable super-duper car is intended not for the out-of-favour 007, but for 009 – not that such a petty detail is likely to stop James Bond. He’s soon breezing along the Italian roads in the borrowed vehicle to pay his last respects to the man he killed in Mexico City.
The rather grand arch through which he’s seen driving is the Garibaldi Museum, Largo di Porta San Pancrazio 9, in Rome, before arriving at the monumentally austere cemetery.
It looks like Fascist architecture and, indeed, it is. The row of columns is the entrance to the Museo della Civiltà Romana (Museum of Roman Civilization), Piazza Giovanni Agnelli, 10 in the EUR (Esposizione Universale) district, built under the reign of Benito Mussolini between 1939 and 1941. The museum is currently closed for major renovations so I expect the location fee will come in handy, along with that from Kurt Wimmer's 2002 dystopian sci-fi Equilibrium which also filmed here.
Bond follows Sciarra’s widow Lucia (Monica Bellucci), back to her home in time to save her from a pair of hitmen. Sciarra’s palatial house is Villa di Fiorano, Via Appia Antica, 400, on the outskirts of Rome.
From here, he goes on to infiltrate a high-level secret meeting in the ‘Palazzo Cadenza’. Originally, this was supposed to have been filmed at the Palazzo Reale in Caserta, near Naples (seen as the ‘Theed Palace of Naboo’ in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). In the end, the exterior seen in the film is that of Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill in the village of Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Odd camera angles and lighting disguise this familiar location, seen in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Avengers (1998), Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon among other films.
Disappointingly, the palazzo’s vast marble-walled hall, in which Bond first sees the supposedly long-dead Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) is no more than a set built on the famous 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios.
Nevertheless, as 007 is discovered and makes his escape, the ensuing car chase really is through the streets of Rome, through St Peter’s Square, and down the steps of the Scalo De Pinedo to Lungotevere, the road which runs along the bank of the River Tiber, where Bond at last manages to activate one of the motor’s useful gizmos.
Making his escape, Bond unceremoniously dumps Q’s precious prototype in the Tiber at Ponte Sisto, the arched 15th Century bridge in Rome's historic centre, which connects Via dei Pettinari to Piazza Trilussa in the Trastevere district.
The mountain-ringed lake he crosses by boat is Lake Altaussee, at the spa town Altaussee in the district of Liezen, beneath the Loser Plateau.
Bond finds himself obliged to protect White’s daughter, Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), who works in an Alpine clinic which recalls the mountaintop retreat of Blofeld (Telly Savalas) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
In fact, the glass-walled ‘Hoffler Klinik’ is the five-star Das Central Hotel, Auweg 3, atop the Gaislachkogel in Sölden.
The glass-walled cube is the hotel’s Ice-Q Restaurant (yes, that really is its name). It looks stunning and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to order something a little more appealing than an enzyme shake.
It’s on the resort’s 3S cable-car alongside that Q is monitored as he begins to analyse the mysterious ‘octopus’ ring passed to him by 007.
Enter the old-school strongarm henchman Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista), in the tradition of Oddjob and Jaws, who abducts Madeleine. Bond is quickly on their trail of their car in a commandeered plane, along the mountain.
After losing its wings, the aircraft crashes through a (specially built) wooden hut in the village of Obertilliach, down at the Italian border, but Madeleine is rescued.
She joins Bond to search for someone or something called ‘L’Americain’ in Tangier, Morocco.
The desert railway aboard which Bond discovers there’s little he can teach Dr Swann about firearms, is the Oriental Desert Express, which runs 200 miles between Oujda and Bouarfa, in northeastern Morocco. You’re likely to have a more relaxing journey, with time to enjoy panoramas of the Sahara punctuated by occasional sweeping dunes and tiny isolated villages.
Back in London, M begins to be frozen out, discovering an official meeting has ended even before he arrived. The corridors of the intelligence HQ are those of Freemasons Hall, Covent Garden. This is another familiar location, coincidentally having supplied the secret service exterior in the TV series of Spooks.
The magnificent art deco building has been seen in films as diverse as Guy Ritchie's 2009 Sherlock Holmes, as the 'International Court of Justice in the Hague' in The Hitman's Bodyguard, as a nightclub in Fast and Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and even as Saddam Hussein’s ‘Baghdad’ palace in Paul Greengrass’s 2010 Green Zone, with Matt Damon.
It’s up to Moneypenny and Q to get the despondent M back onside as he mopes in Rules Restaurant, 34-35 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2.
With such a past, it’s not surprising that the restaurant has an impressive list of patrons, including writers Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Galsworthy and HG Wells, as well as actors Laurence Olivier, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and John Barrymore. A favourite of author Graham Greene, Rules was listed among the locations for Neil Jordan’s 1999 adaptation of The End Of The Affair – with Ralph Fiennes. (although there’s no sign of the restaurant in the final film).
Alighting from the train n the middle of the Moroccan desert, Bond and Madeleine are met by a 1948 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith, which whisks them off to one of those wonderful hidden lairs loved by Bond villains – this hidden inside a ‘meteor crater’.
In reality, the impressive formation is an extinct volcanic crater, about 12 miles southwest of Erfoud. Fans of Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy might recognise it as the site of the lost city ‘Hamunaptra’.
Finally making it back to London, Bond, Madeleine and the beleaguered MI6ers hole up in a safe house, code named ‘Hildebrand’ (a sly reference to Ian Fleming’s short story, The Hildebrand Rarity – one of the few remaining Fleming titles not yet used for a Bond film), on Spring Gardens, just off The Mall, south of Trafalgar Square.
It’s a side entrance to the famous Drummonds Bank Building, next to Admiralty Arch, which has those impressive views of the Square.
It’s not over yet and there’s one more chase, presumably much to the delight of London’s tourist authority, around Westminster and the heart of Whitehall. In fact, you can glimpse the arch on Scotland Place which marked the entrance to the 'Ministry of Magic' in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.
From the bowels of the abandoned Vauxhall Cross, a boat and ‘copter chase races along the Thames under – and over – Lambeth Bridge (yet another location featured in both Spooks: The Greater Good and Fast And Furious 6), past the Houses of Parliament before finally ending on Westminster Bridge, at the foot of Big Ben.