There is a certain type of cinema fan who, through love of a film, has as much fun spotting errors and picking it apart as just watching it. This is an admirable trait . So many things can be revealed on a re-watch and if some of them are minor inaccuracies, that’s ok. In fact, could we say that spotting a whiskey bottle-related goof in a James Bond film gives us a more intimate relationship with the whole series, the whole mythology? The Bond franchise is a prime place for this kind of affectionate critique. After all, from the silliness of Moonraker (1979) to the seriousness and glamour of Skyfall (2012), Bond is here to entertain us. There are some fantastic goofs and inaccuracies in the series, which are well worth exploring.
Eagle-eyed aficionados of Bond films have spotted numerous geographical goofs, which mainly show that films are not always shot in the locations they depict. No surprise there. However, because the films, and the books depend on their author’s and main character’s reputation for being well-travelled, café signs in the wrong language and suspicious number plates can stick out. A particularly good moment for suspension of disbelief occurs during the London scenes in Skyfall, where an underground station gets knocked through by a train during a tense chase through the tube system. In Spectre (2015), the film messes with the streetscape of the Vatican, and London comes in for some reinterpretation! From Dr No (1962) onwards, the films have been shot on location, with over 35 countries lending their landscapes to the Bond juggernaut.
The Curious Poker Game in Casino Royale
Confidence is central to Bond’s character, so much so that we’re often convinced, no matter how outlandish the situation. Though the days of falling into shark tanks are long past, 2006’s Casino Royale features a poker game which surprised viewers in the know. Bond is playing villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) at No Limit Hold’em, and the whole plot hangs on the winning hand. Although the film did have a poker advisor in British poker player Thomas Sanbrook, he probably had to yield to the demands of the genre. For a start, the $115 million pot that Bond wins is far higher than any land-based poker game would usually involve. More subtly, Bond’s behaviour as the players’ hands are revealed is hardly consistent with poker etiquette, the general consensus of how players should behave at the poker table. Bond inflicts the “slow roll” on his adversary, not revealing his winning hand until the villain thinks he’s won. This is considered poor sportsmanship in poker circles and certainly not expected of the gentleman spy. Letting your opponent think that they are winning the pot only to very slowly reveal that they have lost is a serious no-no in poker tournaments.
Not Quite El Dia de Muertos
The stunning opening sequence of Spectre (2015) shows Bond tracking a mysterious man through Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City. James Bonds fans are always waiting in anticipation for the opening sequence of each new film, and this one was the most spectacular yet. To achieve this, some inaccurate scenes have been added, along with the 1500 extras. In fact, the 2-day celebration does not involve parades and Halloween-like floats, like it does in JB’s world. Instead, families spend time at home or in cemeteries, remembering and celebrating loved ones who have died. Bond may have been able to hide in busy city streets, but he’d be more likely to duck behind public altars called ofrendas, or walk along carrying a large bunch of flowers, used to beckon the spirits of the dead. The filmmakers could have been trying to avoid the comedy excesses of the Brosnan era, with Aston Martins knocking over carts of oranges. However, as it often happens, the need for thrills and spills has won out over accuracy.
The most, ahem, memorable moment in Goldfinger (1964) is the sight of Shirley Eaton apparently suffering death by gilding. There is a myth surrounding this idea and the scene itself, the belief that it is possible to suffocate by being covered in paint. This is not possible, and though there were doctors present during filming, Shirley was of course unharmed. Maybe it’s in the spirit of “don’t try this at home,” but the Bond series is full of dubious medical emergencies. At one stage during the poker match we discussed earlier, at the end of Casino Royale, Bond is poisoned. As he is diagnosed by MI6, in a genuinely thrilling scene, he self-administers a defibrillator. This is not a good idea, and could in fact cause changes to the heartbeat or stop it altogether. Similarly, in Skyfall the creepy villain Silva (Javier Bardem, on top scary form) claims grotesque injuries from an unlikely substance. It’s these moments which require our suspension of disbelief the most and if you’re a true Bond fan, it’s freely given.
This is the important thing about the Bond films – they have survived so long because there’s so much in them to admire, and to enjoy. The reinventions over the years have helped, bringing female characters to the fore and finding ways to make the bad guys ever scarier. But like all fictional universes like Marvel’s Avengers, or J.R.R Tolkien’s world, there is a whole Bond hinterland waiting to be explored. We think this includes the goofs and movie mistakes. When we spot these, or joke about them we’re celebrating the longevity of the series and the intention behind the work of hundreds of cast and crew. That is, to entertain us.
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