Lots of Running Around Historical Sites

Da Vinci Code

A very popular and controversial book by Dan Brown.  The movie starred Tom Hanks as Professor Robert Langdon, a symbologist [fictional career] at Harvard.  Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf and older Magneto, amongst other roles in his illustrious career) appears as Sir Leigh Teabing.  Alfred Molina (the bad guy in the live-action Sorcerer’s Apprentice, briefly appeared in Prince of Persia, he voiced bad guy Viggo Grimborne in the How To Train Your Dragon series Race to the Edge [love the show, we will definitely cover it down the road]; but he’s most notable as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2…and may be reprising the role in the upcoming Tom Holland Spider-Man movie) pops in as a bishop.  And the talented Paul Bettany (Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander, Geoffrey Chauce in A Knight’s Tale, Jarvis/Vision in the MCU, Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Lord Melbourne in The Young Victoria) is once again naked at some point as Silas.  The film is also directed by Ron Howard (who has directed Tom Hanks in these movies as well as Splash and Apollo 13).

Angels and Demons was the book’s prequel, but the film’s sequel since they didn’t know if Da Vinci Code would be successful [there are further books in the series, including The Lost Symbol (which I have read) and Inferno, which I just started reading [not nearly as engaging at the moment as Once Upon a Time or Librarians] and unaware they made into a film as well…I shall have to investigate].  Hanks returns as Langdon, joined by Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast [where McKellan was Cogsworth], as well as appearing in Miss Potter, Moulin Rouge, and Down with Love) as Camerlengo Patrick McKenna [he was Italian in the book; they changed him to Irish because McGregor is certainly not Italian].  Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Bill in Mamma Mia, Captain Tupolev in The Hunt for Red October, and he even appears in the MCU as Eric Selvig) is Commander Richter.  If the Inspector looks familiar, he was General Glozelle in Prince Caspian.  (And yes, Alfred Molina provides the opening voiceover).

Da Vinci Code opens with an old man’s death inside the Louvre, Silas searching for answers.  Robert Langdon is called in because of the strange markings…and the police believe him to be a suspect.  He’s helped out by Sophie, who turns out to be the curator’s granddaughter.  Langdon was supposed to meet with the curator, but the man never showed.  Invisible ink at the crime scene reads “O Draconian devil, O lame saint,” and the Fibonacci sequence out of order.  If you rearrange the letters, it spells out Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa.  There are painted the words “so dark the con of man,” leading to Madonna of the Rocks where a cross topped with the Fleur de Lis is found.  Langdon and Sophie follow the clues, after distracting the police.

Langdon goes on to tell Sophie about the Priory of Scion, that worked against the church because it guards the secret of God’s power on Earth.  Opposing the Priory is another secret society, Opus Dei (to which Silas belongs).  Langdon claims that the Templar Knights were the military arm of the Priory, and that the reason for the Crusades were to find an artifact.  They did, but then the church turned on them and killed them.  Langdon tells Sophie they are searching for the Holy Grail.  The key leads to a Swiss bank with a long term safety deposit box.  Inside the box is a wooden box topped with a rose, supposedly the symbol for the Holy Grail.  But the police are onto Sophie and Robert, though they escape thanks to the manager because of a “safe passage clause” that came with the deposit box.  Except he turns on them once they’re safe and tries to kill them.  Robert manages to knock him out and they drive to an old friend of his who is a Grail historian, Leigh Teabing.

Inside the rose box is a cryptex, designed by da Vinci.  A five letter word will open the cryptex, but if it is forced, the secret map inside will be destroyed.  Teabing lets Robert and Sophie in after they have answered three questions.  He then explains that the Holy Grail is not a cup, but instead is a woman.  The bloodline of Jesus Christ; he married Mary Magdalene, but that was not the image that the Church wanted of their Savior, so they hid the secret [I must admit, McKellan pulls off academic speech rather well].

Silas has been after this secret as well and has made his way to Teabing’s house and attacks.  Leigh and Sophie take him down after he knocks Robert out.  Leigh determines they need to head for England now.  They find a clue beneath the rose in the box; they must find a knight interred in London, overseen by a Pope.  They first head to Temple Church, but the knights are effigies, not tombs.  Silas pops back up and kidnaps Leigh.  Sophie and Robert make a run for it and Robert finally deduces that “A. Pope” means Alexander Pope, who oversaw Newton’s funeral (because Newton’s work on gravity angered the church, supposedly). 

We discover that Leigh has been playing both sides of the game.  He is the voice of the “Teacher” that has been instructing Opus Dei.  He sends cops to kill Silas, who accidentally shoots his bishop mentor while trying to escape.  The bishop was also the one who planted the idea with the French police that Langdon was responsible.  Leigh catches up to Sophie and Robert at Westminster Abbey, where they’re trying to figure out what orb is missing from Newton’s tomb.  That orb will be the five letter word they need to unlock the cryptex.  Leigh admits he will do anything to find the Grail.  When he threatens to shoot Sophie, Robert works out the clue.  He then throws the cryptex to Leigh, who crashes to the ground, breaking the cryptex.  The police arrive then and arrest Leigh.

But Robert had worked out the clue: apple.  The scroll inside points Sophie and him to ancient Roslyn, where the tomb of Mary Magdalene lies under starry sky.  Their next stop is Roslyn Chapel in Scotland (supposedly built by the Templars [it was built by the Sinclair family in the fifteenth century]).  The couple ventures into the basement where there are carvings of stars and they find a secret door down further.  But there is no sarcophagus. There is research, detailing the bloodline and Robert finally makes the connection; Sophie was not the curator’s actual granddaughter.  The curator was the Grand Master of the Priory of Scion and he took Sophie in when the rest of her family were killed.  He trained and guarded her; for she is the descendant of Mary Magdalene [yes, the Sinclairs are descendants of the Saint-Clairs of Normandy, France…which Saint-Clair is actually a place name, so not really “the oldest family in France”].

They meet more of the Priory, who will protect Sophie.  Robert advises that she could reveal her secret to the world, but would the living descendent of Jesus Christ destroy or renew faith?  Back in Paris, Robert mulls over the Rose Line, which is a trail that runs through Paris.  He follows it and finds one over the Louvre, where the bottom of the glass pyramid meets a mirrored sculpture.  We’re shown that deep below that lies the actual sarcophagus, beneath the starry sky of Paris.

Angels and Demons begins with a Pope’s death and the ceremonial events that follow.  At the same time, the collider in Cern creates anti-matter for the first time in a large enough quantity to be studied.  Then one of the canisters is stolen.  The Vatican Police visit Robert Langdon at Harvard, requesting his help because it appears that the Illuminati have resurfaced.  He wrote a book on the subject and his recent involvement with the church (meaning the Da Vinci Code) have recommended him to their service.  The Inspector is pleased for Langdon to help, but Commander Ritcher doesn’t trust him.  The four favored Cardinals have been kidnapped and are threatened to be executed once an hour, by the Illuminati.  The Illuminati are a secret society made up by scientists who were persecuted by the church for their radical thinking.

Robert teams up with Vittoria, the lead scientist on the antimatter that was stolen and is now shown to be beneath Vatican City somewhere, where thousands have gathered to find out who will be named the new Pope.  It’s now a race around Rome to discover where the Cardinals are hidden, which may lead to the secret Illuminati church.  First, Robert needs access to the Vatican archives in order to find the first clue, hidden in Galileo’s journals.  Robert is granted access by Patrick; he holds some authority now since he was the Pope’s chamberlain.  (It is an exciting dash around Rome, but hard to write out.)

Robert manages to rescue the last Cardinal; they are too late to save the others each time they get to the marker.  He begins to suspect Commander Ritcher and is almost proven correct when Ritcher is discovered threatening Patrick.  Patrick has the final brand on his chest from the Illuminati.  It is also discovered that the previous Pope was poisoned, but now they have an idea where the antimatter is located.  Patrick agrees to take a helicopter up and let it detonate in the air, rather than below ground.  It seems like Patrick is the hero.

Until Robert has a hunch.  He finds security footage showing Ritcher confronting Patrick.  It was Patrick who arranged for the antimatter to be stolen because he feels that the church is going soft by embracing science.  If he resurrected the Illuminati, it would unite Christianity and bring faith back to the forefront.  Robert and Vittoria go to the head Cardinals and show them the footage.  Instead of them electing Patrick, he is to be arrested, though he burns himself alive before he can be handcuffed.  Instead, the Cardinals elect the final preferred Cardinal, who takes the name Luke, signaling that the world needs faith and science.  In thanks to Robert, he allows Robert to access the archives in order to finish his book, on the condition that in his will, the works are gifted back to the Vatican.

I first read Da Vinci Code for a project in high school; I recall the teacher not wholly agreeing with my assessment on the book, though we did go as a class to see the film when it released.  My friend, who was strongly religious, whispered disagreement with the film during the show.  It has also been proven after the release of his books, that statements Dan Brown makes as “fact” are inaccurate.

My take?  These are exciting and interesting books, a good page-turner.  The movies are also fantastic action-adventure films, but yes, a bit controversial.  I made the remark to a teacher once that I prefer the “Indiana Jones version of the Holy Grail.”  And really, da Vinci and Arthurian legends have little in common; they’re from different cultures, one born in Italy, the other with a strong basis in Britain with influences from France…yeah, you can thank the French for the love triangle.  But because a lot of history is unknown since records are hard to find for some things,  conspiracies are born to explain what we don’t know.  I do recommend both the books and movies as a good time, just don’t take them at face value.

Up Next: The best action-adventure movies, Indiana Jones

Gotta Do Crazy Things to Protect American History

National Treasure

I love these movies for the history.  They also feature an all-star cast.  Nicholas Cage leads as Benjamin Franklin Gates, Diane Kruger (you may recognize her as Helen from Troy) is Abigail Chase.  Jon Voight is Ben’s father, Patrick Gates.  The ever diabolical Sean Bean (GoldenEye, Patriot Games, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) is Ian Howe.  Christopher Plummer (we sadly lost him recently, but he will forever be Captain Von Trapp) is the grandfather, John Adams Gates.  And if some of the FBI guys look familiar: Sandusky is Harvey Keitel (Sister Act, the bad guy) and Agent Johnson is Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer in Supernatural).  And that is David Dayan Fisher (Trent Kort, not a very good guy in NCIS, and he’ll appear briefly as another baddie in The Librarian: Quest for the Spear) as Shaw. 

Helen Mirren joins the party for Book of Secrets, as does Ed Harris (funny note; he played Beethoven in Copying Beethoven along with Diane Kruger) as Mitch Wilkinson.  Agent Spellman is played by Alicia Coppola (who has been in several television series, including JAG, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Castle, and MacGyver).  Yes, that is Bruce Greenwood (Admiral Pike in the newer Star Trek movies) as the President, and William Brent (or Billy Unger, he was my favorite character, Chase in Lab Rats) as the young Charles Gates.

Grandfather John Adams Gates tells young Benjamin Franklin Gates about their family history; in 1832, the last signer of the Declaration of Independence was dying.  He had his driver, Thomas Gates, take him to the White House to see President Andrew Jackson, so he could pass along important information.  But the President was out.  So he whispered it to young Thomas instead.  There is a treasure beyond all imagination, collected over the centuries, hidden in America.  The Knights Templar discovered it in vaults beneath Solomon’s Temple and smuggled it out.  They eventually became the Freemasons and members included prominent Founding Fathers, such as Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.  The old man’s dying words to Thomas were “the secret lies with Charlotte.”  Sadly, he had no clue what that meant, but the Gates men pass it down through the years.  Patrick interrupts story time, but John “knights” Ben before he leaves.

Fast forward to a more present day expedition in the Arctic Circle.  Ben’s theory is proven correct, Charlotte refers to a ship.  Ian is his investor and accompanies him below deck once they uncover the ship.  The skeletal captain is guarding one barrel in particular; Ben digs out a package, revealing a carved pipe.  Ben rubs blood over the carvings and rolls the pipe, revealing the next clue.  He works out the phrasing and figures out that there is an invisible map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.  Ian speaks up that he has a grey past and he can arrange to steal the Declaration.  Ben opposes the idea, so Ian has Shaw threaten to shoot him.  Well, Ben lights a flare in a room full of gunpowder, then dives for cover with Riley.  (Great guys, you just destroyed a historical artifact.) 

Now, Ben and Riley have to stop Ian.  They try to leave a tip with the FBI, but they’re dismissed.  Ben figures they need someone passionate about historical documents, so he heads to the National Archives and meets Abigail Chase [fun fact, she is part German like her character].  They bond briefly over her collection of Washington campaign buttons, but she still does not believe “Mr. Brown” (the name Gates has poor standing in the academic community).  Ben is then inspired by a line from the Declaration that means if one has the ability, they have the responsibility to take action against something wrong.  So, the only way they can protect the Declaration from Ian is to steal it.  Riley takes Ben to the Library of Congress to prove that Ben cannot, but Ben knows of a way they can.  If they use the upcoming Archives Gala as a distraction, raise the heat sensors in the casing so the document is in the preservation room, it will be far easier to sneak the document out.

Riley sets up his equipment, Ben sends Abigail the remaining campaign button she requires (dipped in a solution that will dye keys).  Ben sneaks into the event as maintenance, but switches to a tux so he can give a glass of champagne to Abigail, so he can retrieve her fingerprint.  Meanwhile, Ian and his crew use explosives and such to sneak into the lower levels.  So far, Ben’s plan is working, until he runs into Ian.  Ian starts shooting.  Ben takes a slight detour through the gift shop where there are reproductions of the Declaration for sale.  Ian’s entrance is discovered and security is alerted.  Abigail begins to suspect “Mr. Brown” and follows him outside.  Ben tries to get away, but now has to chase after Ian, who has grabbed Abigail.

Ian ends up with the reproduction, but Ben had to use a credit card to pay for it, so he can’t return to his house.  He heads for his father’s, letting Abigail know he is actually Gates, not Brown.  And the FBI start investigating, Sandusky as lead.  They had received a tip about the Declaration being stolen, but it wasn’t deemed credible, so no file was open.  Patrick Gates is not thrilled with Ben showing up at his house and still does not believe in the treasure.  He thinks it was a myth to distract the British.  But Ben carries on and Abigail helps him rub lemon juice onto the back of the Declaration.  Ink is revealed.  There are sets of numbers, creating a cipher.  Ben asks his dad for the Silence Dogood letters; written by Benjamin Franklin at fifteen under a pseudonym.  They used to have the letters, hidden in a desk, but Patrick has now donated them to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  Ian has also figured this out.

While Ben and Abigail change out of their party clothes, Riley hires a boy on a field trip to retrieve the letters from the cipher. Ian eventually notices the boy, but doesn’t catch Riley.  The clue leads to the Liberty Bell and its original housing, at Independence Hall.  They need to be standing at the right spot at the right time to find the next clue.  (I love seeing the singing room…it reminds me of 1776 [because no doubt they filmed there])  Ben retrieves a pair of spectacles, invented by Franklin.  “Heere at the Wall” with a Celtic cross is revealed.  And they catch sight of Ian’s goons.  They split up and split their pieces up; Ben has the glasses, Riley and Abigail have the document.  A chase begins in Philadelphia and Abigail almost gets hit by a truck, and loses the document to Ian.

The FBI intercepts Ben at his car, though Riley and Abigail get away.  Abigail has an idea to get Ben out of custody, though it means working with Ian.  Ben is to meet Shaw at the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York, then jumps over the side so he can meet with Ian at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, at Trinity Church.  The glasses have different colored lenses that can be combined to read different parts of the map. 

Now, they venture into the crypts beneath the church, joined by Patrick, who was captured by Ian’s men.  There is an ancient shaft they discover, leading lower.  But the years have rotted the structure and it falls apart on them.  Shaw plunges to his death and Ben and Abigail almost join him.  Ben had to drop Abigail so he could save the Declaration, but there was a landing below her; and she would have done the same thing.  Riley would have dropped both crazy people.  Ian insists they continue.  They find another chamber, but it is small and empty.  Patrick makes up a clue regarding the lanterns and sends Ian and his goon to the Old North Church in Boston.  That was just to buy him and his son time.  Ben finds another door to another chamber, but it is still empty.  Ben despairs.  He really thought he was going to find it.  Patrick points out that Ben has followed all the clues; they’ve led this far, they’ve worked, which means the treasure was real.  Ben ponders that there has to be another way out, in case of cave in.  The pipe comes in handy again and turns another door leading to a larger chamber.  A torch lights a line of oil revealing the treasure [the music almost sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean for a moment, considering Brukheimer was producer on both].  There are scrolls from the Library at Alexandria (drool), Roman and Egyptian artifacts.  And oh look, stairs!  (Riley cries).

Back topside, they call the FBI and Ben hands the Declaration over to Sandusky.  It is not a bargaining chip.  He would really like to not go to prison; maybe Sandusky will take a bribe.  How ’bout ten billion dollars?  Sandusky points out Masonic teaching states that it should not all go to one man; he is sympathetic to Ben.  Ben agrees, it should be split between various museums; it belongs to the people and the world should see it.  Credit goes to the Gates family, along with Abigail Chase and Riley Poole.  And if you really want to arrest someone, he knows someone who is breaking into Old North Church.  [So Sean Bean doesn’t die in this movie, but he does go to prison].

Riley spends his minuscule percentage on a Ferarri, while Ben buys a historical house; and starts a relationship with Abigail.

Book of Secrets starts on April 14th, 1865 in Washington D.C., five days after the end of the Civil War [which puts this prologue close to the prologue of Sahara].  Thomas Gates is hired to decode a message, at the same time that John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln.  Thomas hears the commotion and realizes who has asked him to find the lost city of gold.  He attempts to burn the page, but is shot for his trouble.  His son, Charles is watching, but spared.  Thomas is able to pass the phrase “the debt that all men pay” to his son.  Another time jump to Ben giving a lecture on this event.  A man in the audience comes forward with the missing page from the Booth diary, and claiming that Thomas Gates was a co-conspirator in the assassination since his name was listed in the diary.  Ben is now determined to clear his ancestor’s good name. 

Except, he and Abigail are split at the moment so he tries to sneak in to gain access to the page.  She allows him to run scans on the page (they negotiate furniture) and they discover residual ink from the opposing page.  The FBI agents are thrilled that Gates is in hot water, but Sandusky points out that they need to know why Wilkinson has come forward with the page now.

The residual ink shows some of Thomas’s work and Patrick recalls “the debt that all men pay,” that was passed down from his grandfather Charles.  This breaks the cipher to Laboule Lady; referring to the man who created the Statue of Liberty.  There is a smaller version in Paris that he referred to as his lady.  Riley uses a drone to capture an inscription on the flame and Ben charms French security to translate the message.  This leads them to the Resolute desks and Ben heads to Buckingham Palace.

Wilkinson attacked Patrick at night so he could clone his phone so he can keep abreast of the search.  Abigail has also shown up at Buckingham Palace and will unknowingly put a wrench into Ben’s plan, so he stages an argument with her so they are escorted to lockup.  This leads them to a service elevator so they can see the desk in the queen’s apartments [the desks are not actually identical and the queen does not actually use the Resolute desk, but it’s cool for the movie].  The desks are actually puzzles and are hiding a carved plank.  Ben gets the plank out of the palace, but they’re pursued by Wilkinson.  Ben tosses the plank after he gets a picture of it.

Now, they need it deciphered.  And his mother happens to be an expert on that language, though estranged from his father.  She teaches at the University of Maryland.  She is pleased to see Ben and Abigail, but snips at Patrick.  They think one of the symbols means Cibola, the City of Gold.  A more accurate translation is simply the Center of the World, or Sacred Temple.  And they’re missing half of the plank anyways.  Which means, Ben has to break into the Oval Office to look at that Resolute desk.  Abigail’s new boyfriend is their ticket in and she stages a kissing session with him so Ben can find the plank.  Except it’s not there, just a stamp.

Riley knows what that stamp means; he wrote a book on it (which doesn’t sell well and his friends haven’t read it yet).  It’s the President’s secret book; written by Presidents, for Presidents only and filled with every conspiracy America has.  Sandusky can tell Ben, outside of the FBI office, that the book does in fact exist, but only the sitting President knows where it is.  And, you guessed it, Ben has to talk to the President.  But away from everyone.  So he manages to get the President’s birthday party moved to Mount Vernon where Ben know there are secret passages.  One of these days, he’ll wear his tux to a party he is actually invited to.  But he does get the President interested in his map written by George Washington.  The door shuts on the passage, sealing the President away from Secret Service.  Ben will show him the way out regardless, but does ask about the book.  Once they’re outside, the President gives Ben the clues he needs to find the book, but he has to hurry, Ben is now the target of a federal manhunt for kidnapping the President.  Oh, and if he has a moment, check out something on page forty-seven.

Ben meets Riley and Abigail at the Library of Congress and they head for the special collections.  The call number is the combination to reveal the book.  He gets a picture of what he needs, sending Riley and Abigail ahead when the FBI shows up.  There’s a brief car chase where Ben has to get into Abigail’s car.  But they have what they need. 

Wilkinson has been following Ben’s progress and goes to his mother first to threaten her; she cannot reveal the true translation to Ben, only to Wilkinson, who has further information.  She drops a hint to Patrick and Ben meets up with them at Mount Rushmore.  Wilkinson wants credit for finding the treasure and Ben hints that Wilkinson may also need the money.  Rocks in the lake behind the mountain lead to an underground temple.  They all get trapped and must find their way through.  Lots of traps lay in wait, like balancing on a board on top a pillar. They do find the golden temple, after water drains away.  Sadly, the water begins to rush back in and they’re almost trapped again.  Ben is willing to sacrifice himself to save his parents, Riley, and Abigail, but Wilkinson ends up drowning instead.  His final request is that credit goes to his family.

Ben meets with the President, who clears him of charges. Ben instructs that credit is to be shared with Wilkinson.  And there is another sequel hook that hasn’t come to fruition, when the President asks Ben about page forty-seven.  The film ends happily, Riley meets a girl, Abigail and Ben get back together, and even his parents may be on better terms now.

I do wonder how there is a connection between “pre-Columbian” culture and the Sioux of North Dakota; there is a lot of land between something that is reminiscent of Aztec or Inca and the Black Hills, and a lot of different people in between.

The action and adventure portions keep the suspense going; though I do wonder how these cultures created the booby traps.  Sure, they make sense trying to find the treasure, but how did they work creating them and how did they decide on those clues and such?  Probably a result of watching so many of these kind of movies.  Still like them; just have to suspend disbelief for a little bit.  And of course, the history!  If  these movies get more people interested in history, great!

Riley is comedic relief, though a bit whiny in the second film.  I think Nicholas Cage was a good leading man; he delivered a believable performance.  And I like Abigail; she’s intelligent, but not afraid to handle things on her own if need be.  And I really wished they had made the third movie, because I still wonder, what was the President looking for on page forty-seven?

Up Next: More history conspiracies with Da Vinci Code and Angles and Demons

They Did a Panama

Sahara

Based on a Clive Cussler novel [I have not read this particular volume, but I have read his first in the Dirk Pitt series, The Mediterranean Caper; it was quite good, I’d readily read more…and we have a whole collection in the house].  It’s an action-adventure film that I categorize as a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond.  Familiar faces abound; Matthew McConaughey stars as Dirk Pitt.  William H. Macy (a pilot in Air Force One) is Admiral Sandecker, Penélope Cruz is Eva Rojas, Steve Zahn is Al Giordino, and Lambert Wilson (he’s appeared in The Matrix franchise, and was Charles, the King of France in The Hollow Crown’s Henry V) is Yves Massarde.

The backstory of the movie is the last ironclad ship of the Civil War, the Texas runs the Union blockade, carrying gold coins from the Confederacy.  Fast forward a bit and we’re introduced to NUMA through newspaper clips, photos, and memorabilia.  Our main character, who hasn’t actually appeared on screen yet, was part of the Navy SEALS, then became a salvager through NUMA.  And another plot point is introduced, W.H.O. doctors are in Nigeria, tracking a disease that is spreading out of Mali.  Eva really wants to find the source of the disease, but is blocked by red tape.  She is attacked while tracking down a patient and rescued by a diver in the water; Dirk.  She wakes up aboard a ship and is briefly introduced to Al Giordino, Admiral Sandecker, and Rudi before Dirk makes another appearance, bringing up salvage from the ocean.  NUMA is presenting the sarcophagus at the museum that evening, which means Eva can pitch her plea to businessman Yves Massarde.  She gets her trip to Mali.

What we then find out is that Yves is actually in partnership with the local dictator who is making it dangerous to travel to Mali.  Dirk is also pursuing a lead on the Texas; he has a theory and a few supporting documents that the ironclad ship got caught up in a major storm and ended up in the Niger river.  He just has to find concrete evidence.  So he wheedles the use of Sandecker’s boat and agrees to take Eva up river.  They part, though agree to hook up again in Monte Ray.  Dirk finds evidence of the storm.  Eva and her partner are attacked again, though Eva hides in the well she is gathering evidence from.  Her partner is killed and by untying the rope and hiding her glow stick, she is not discovered. 

Dirk, Al, and Rudi run into local trouble on the water; bad guys are searching for the doctors.  They evade the bad guys, with Sandecker on the phone, asking about his boat.  Well, they “pull a Panama” [one of my favorite parts of the whole film] and the boat gets blown up.  Al and Dirk will go after Eva, Rudi is to report to Sandecker.  They’ve got some red algae that needs tested.  Al and Dirk make it in time to help rescue Eva, though she does quite fine climbing out of the well and shooting a bad guy.  They’re waylaid from getting out of the country by the local rebel group.  Eva finally figures out that the “plague” is a toxin.  Something is poisoning the water system, but far apart from each other.

Al finds the puzzle piece playing with the kids; when he has to retrieve a ball, there is a drawing of Dirk’s ironclad ship.  Years ago, what was desert was water, letting the ship ride upriver.  Then it dries out, burying the ship.  Which is how the toxin is spreading, through the underground river.  They find the Texas, they find the river, and they’ll find the source of the toxin.

Meanwhile, Sandecker is trying to wrangle up help to get “his boys” out of Mali, including going to an old CIA contact.  And Rudi runs his chemistry, discovering the toxin as well.  Which, if it hits the ocean, the whole world is in trouble.  But the U.S. Embassy guy doesn’t do anything, so it’s up to NUMA.

Al, Dirk, and Eva discover Yves solar power plant.  It has the side effect of storing some toxic barrels underground, which leaches into the water supply.  Yves finds them meddling and takes Eva hostage and dumps Dirk and Al in the desert.  The two buddies rescue themselves and fix up an airplane wreck into a ride (to the awesome tune of Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf.  Sweet Home Alabama played earlier).  Dirk calls Sandecker and works out a plan.  He and Al head back to the power plant to rescue Eva, but she has told Yves what his plant is causing.  So he decides to cut his losses.  (Here comes the Bond element) he’ll plant a bomb to blow up the plant, while he gets away in his helicopter.  Al goes after the bomb, Dirk goes after Eva.  He faces off with a bad guy on the top of the solar tower, and Eva jumps out of the helicopter.  Plant does not explode, but Yves still high-tails it out of there.

Now our heroes have to deal with the local warlord, Kazeem.  They hide in the ruins they find and discover the Texas while blowing up a sand dune.  They could hide out in the tough old ship, except Kazeem has armor-piercing bullets.  So they shoot an old cannon ball at him, blowing up his helicopter.  The rebels swoop in to intimidate the rest of Kazeem’s army.  Oh, and the Texas is full of Confederacy gold.  Which Sandecker reports to the Embassy guy, there is no gold belonging to the United States aboard the ship.  But he will consider to work for the U.S. government on a project-by-project basis in exchange for a new boat.  And of course, Dirk gets the girl.  And the fancy car.

To me, Sahara is a fun action movie that shows that history can be very interesting at times.  Who would have thought that a Confederate iron clad ship could end up in Africa?  History always ties to the present and there are several novel series out there that hit on that.  And it is really cool that an old cannon can blow up a helicopter! And kind of want to know what actually happened in Panama, and why did it involve blowing up a boat?

Up Next: More history in National Treasure

History Really Comes to Life

I’m back! I apologize for the hiatus, but between the holidays and working more and trying to read the very long list of books I have, it’s taken a bit to get back to blogging. But, we have lots of fun movies ahead, continuing with the action-adventure category. Onward!

Night at the Museum

A trilogy of films, more comedy than action/adventure per say, but considering they deal with history and a museum, they get placed here.  Headlining is Ben Stiller as Larry Daley.  Dick Van Dyke (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins) appears as Cecil, Mickey Rooney (whose career stretches back to the 1920s) is Gus, Rickey Gervais (funny man most famous for The Office [no, I haven’t watched]) is the no-nonsense museum director Dr. McPhee.  Robin Williams (y’all should know who he is; Mork from Ork, Genie in Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, etc) plays Teddy Roosevelt.  Rami Malek (recently played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody) appears as Ahkmenrah and Owen Wilson is Western miniature Jedediah.  In Battle of the Smithsonian, Amy Adams joins as Amelia Earhart and the Jonas Brothers are the three singing cherubs.  Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, the Beast in the live-action Beauty and the Beast) joins as Lancelot in Secret of the Tomb, as does Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect; and honestly, not one of my famous actresses; not my kind of humor) as a security guard.  Ben Kingsley is Merenhahre, Ahkmenrah’s father, and Brennan Elliott (very popular in Hallmark movies) is Cecil’s father.

In the first movie, Larry ends up taking a job as a night guard at New York City’s Museum of Natural History so he can have a steady income to support his son.  The former trio of guards act a little odd and hand him an instruction book, and warn him to not let anything in or out of the museum.  Then he’s very surprised when he turns around the first evening and the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is missing.  He finds it and it proceeds to chase him, until he reads he is supposed to throw the bone.  The skeleton really is just a huge puppy and wants to play fetch.  The Easter Island head calls him a dum dum and wants gum gum.  Animals are alive, as are all the displays.  Luckily, Teddy Roosevelt helps Larry out.  He explains that the tablet of Akmenrah brings everything in the museum to life at night.

Come morning, Larry initially wants to quit, but when his son tells him how proud he is, he keeps the job.  Cecil the guard suggested he read up on history, so Larry hits the books and even asks questions of the pretty museum docent, Rebecca.  Things go better the following night; he sets up his son’s remote-controlled car to drag “Rexie’s” bone around, lets Dexter the monkey steal fake keys, and tries to make peace between the Roman and Western diorama figures.  Sadly, it all goes nuts and Dexter lets some of the displays out.  The monkey gets in a slapping match with Larry, until Roosevelt puts a stop to it; “who is evolved?” 

Larry is almost in danger of losing his job, but begs one more chance.  He takes his son to work that evening and puzzlingly, nothing comes to life.  The tablet is gone.  They discover the three old security guards have stolen it, along with other artifacts.  Turns out, the tablet brings back their youth every night and they intend to keep that.  They planted evidence, hoping to get Larry fired.  It becomes a fight for the tablet and Larry gets the museum displays to work together so they can keep the magic alive.  They also release Akmenrah, who is very polite and knowledgeable.

Larry wins out, but is again in danger of being fired.  There are news reports of the exhibits outside the museum.  Except it has drawn in record crowds, so Larry gets to keep his job, and throws a party at night.

The second film takes place two years later and the displays are getting packed up, ready to be shipped off to the Federal Archives for permanent storage.  Larry is now the CEO of Daley Devices, thanks to inventions he’s come up with inspired by his time as a night guard.  He visits the museum and speaks to Teddy and finds out what is going on.  The museum board wants to see progress, so they are installing lots of new holographic displays.  Teddy will remain in New York, as well as Akmenrah and the tablet.  Meaning, it is the last night many of the characters will be brought to life.  Some blame Larry for not being around for the past year or so to speak for the museum; he’s too busy on his phone.

The next night, Larry gets a call from Jed; they’re in trouble, the monkey has stolen the tablet and its now on its way to D.C. and Akmenrah’s brother, Kamunrah is a bad guy.  So Larry is off to D.C., aided a bit by his son.  It is his son who points out that there are nineteen museums that make up the Smithsonian Institute and the archives run underneath all of them.  Larry finds his friends and the tablet, then Kamunrah, who wants to rule the world and bring back his undead army.  Larry escapes, meeting Amelia Earhart and Custer along the way.  [I love how Sacajawea finds Custer to be an utter idiot.]  Kamunrah gathers Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone to help him.  They capture Jed and that forces Larry to agree to find “the secret at the heart of Pharaoh’s tomb” in order to save him.  The bust of Teddy Roosevelt helps a bit, but Larry has to find the Einstein bobble-heads at the Air and Space museum.

That is indeed me, as a child, in Captain Kirk’s chair

Side note: I’m a huge fan of the Smithsonian; history major and all that.  At one point, I thought of finding a job there (hard to come by).  I’ve visited them several times, including as a child.  A few memorable experiences: there is a picture of me in Captain Kirk’s chair from the original Star Trek series, and I can distinctly remember looking up at a camouflaged Italian WWII plane and telling my mother it was a “pizza plane.”  Mom looks up and yeah, looks like pizza to a three-year-old, with spots that resembled pepperoni.  My dad loves planes and flying so we make sure to visit the Air and Space museum and it was nice to revisit a few places when I was on a trip in college.

Back to the film: Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch try to join Kamunrah, but they’re not evil enough.  The Tuskegee airmen thank Amelia for “clearing the runway” for them and all the planes and shuttle almost take off in the museum, but Larry says no-go.  Einstein reveals the answer is pi.  Kamunrah’s men catch up, so Amelia and Larry have to use the Wright flyer to escape.  Then crash through the beautiful stained-glass window at the Smithsonian castle.  Kamunrah claims the tablet and the combination and opens the door to the Underworld.  Half-bird, half-men emerge.  Then Abraham Lincoln stomps in and scares the birdmen back to the Underworld.  Back-up arrives and Larry gets the bad guys to fight amongst themselves.  He pushes Kamunrah through the gate and all is right with their world.  Amelia agrees to fly the New Yorkers back before the sun rises.

Larry gets his old night guard job back and implements night hours at the museum, using the living displays instead of holograms.  The museum director reveals that a mysterious benefactor donated a large endowment, on the proviso that everything remains the same.  Larry happens to spot a woman who looks suspiciously like Amelia Earhart.

In the third movie, the crew heads to London because the magic of the table it fading.  This accidentally ruins a huge night at the museum and is close to costing the director his job.  Larry finally explains what has been going on and convinces him to send Larry, Akmenrah, and the tablet to the London museum.  Teddy, Sacajawea, Atilla, Jed, and Octavius manage to sneak along.  They meet Sir Lancelot and journey to find Akmenrah’s parents.  The full back story comes out, between Cecil being the boy on the original expedition to find the tablet and the history of the tablet.  It must be recharged by the moon every night to keep its power.  But it’s been locked floors underground for fifty years.  Now it’s a race to get it recharged before all the characters die.

Sadly, Lancelot is a little delusional and takes the tablet, thinking it to be the fabled Holy Grail and he’s determined to find King Arthur (not realizing he is a mythical character).  Who he does find is Hugh Jackman playing King Arthur in a production of Camelot.  (Yep, that is really Hugh Jackman.  He even does a Wolverine bit [hilarious!].)  Larry talks Lancelot around and the tablet it recharged just when you think all hope is lost.

The displays come to an agreement; Akmenrah should stay in London with his parents, and the tablet.  Teddy and the others will go back to New York, knowing they won’t waken again.  Lancelot has come around and will keep the triceratops skeleton in line.  Larry’s not ready to lose his friends, but says goodbye nevertheless.  Teddy’s final words are “it’s time for your next adventure.  Smile, my boy, it’s sunrise.”  Larry takes the heat for the disaster at the planetarium opening, losing his job but allowing the director to keep his.  Larry goes back to school to get his degree to become a teacher.  He watches outside the museum three years later when a display visits from London, including the tablet.  The director gets to finally see everything come to life and party.

The film ends “In Loving Memory of Mickey Rooney.  And For Robin Williams.  Magic Never Ends.”  This was their last film…so it makes the ending really sad.  Overall, I find these movies hilarious. For me, I already knew a lot of this history, but I hope it inspired others to read more about some of the figures brought to life.  Owen Wilson as Jedediah and his conflict with Octavius is probably my favorite part; these little guys taking on a huge world.  Robin Williams is superb and it was very surprising the first time to discover that Dick Van Dyke was a bad guy!  He’s lovable Bert!  And can still dance.  Great to see Hugh Jackman’s cameo and Dan Stevens was great as Lancelot.

Next Time: Sahara

Some Analysts are Good in the Field

Jack Ryan Wrap-Up

Clear and Present Danger follows Patriot Games and also stars Harrison Ford.  It involves drug cartels in South America [those, sadly, still exist], and the movie is quite frankly boring.  There’s no action until an hour into the movie.  It doesn’t get interesting until the last half hour.  Jack keeps getting sent into the field even though he’s only an analyst.  But he handles himself reasonably well in a fight.

There’s the threat of a political scandal reaching all the way to the President [and I have to stop and think, when this takes place, Nixon and Watergate were recent memory.]  But Jack is determined to do what is right; Admiral Greer’s final advice to Jack (he passes away from cancer in this film, so Jack has to do his job) is Jack took an oath to the people, not just the President. And Jack will not let the mess that happened stand.  And this is why I dislike politics; everyone is out to screw everyone else over.  One man takes it upon themselves, at the President’s quasi-orders, to start an unauthorized war in Colombia and of course there is corruption within the cartels and people will take advantage of a situation and innocent people end up getting hurt.  The first two Jack Ryan movies are much better.

Sum of All Fears came out in 2002 as a quasi-reboot and was not well received, particularly in my family.  It completely threw the book out the window.  We watched it once and refuse to ever watch it again.

Shadow Recruit is a more proper reboot from 2014 with an all-star cast.  Chris Pine is now Jack Ryan, Keira Knightley is his girlfriend, Cathy.  Kevin Costner is Jack’s handler, Harper, and Kenneth Branagh directs and plays the Russian villain.  It’s not based off of one of Clancy’s books; it re-imagines Jack post-9/11.  Actually, the film opens with the television report of the attack on the World Trade Center [bad timing, I managed to re-watch the film the evening of September 10th.]  Jack enlists and deploys to Afghanistan; there is a helicopter attack like the typical backstory and Jack meets Cathy during his physical therapy.  Harper recruits him because he notices patterns others miss.

It’s a good action film and continues to demonstrate that Jack Ryan is an analyst, not a field agent.  Of course, he survives and Chris Pine is an excellent leading man and handles action very well. Even watching the film more than once, it keeps the suspense.

There is a recent series titled Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan that airs on Amazon Prime.  I have not watched it (I think I’ll keep to my originals, thanks.  And I really don’t need another series to get involved in)

Next Time: After the holidays, we will return to Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Never fear, I’m not going anywhere, just trying to make time for reading and my own writing; and balance a job.  I love action movies, so I definitely want to cover these…and we haven’t even hit the major movies that claimed my heart and soul!

Harrison Ford to the Rescue

Patriot Games

This is a favorite of mine and has a rockstar cast.  Harrison Ford has taken over as Jack Ryan.  Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) is the Irish Sean Miller.  James Fox, ironic that he’s Lord Holmes here since he was in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes film.  There’s a young Samuel L. Jackson (before he was Nick Fury) as Robby and James Earl Jones reappears as Admiral Greer.

Jack is on vacation in London with his wife and daughter, though he does give a speech to the Royal Naval Academy.  He happens to be a passing bystander when an IRA splinter group makes an attack on the royal family (a cousin of the queen).  [Yeah, this takes place during the Troubles, a violent era between Ireland and England; lot of hate…boils down to the Irish want England out of Ireland]  Jack stops the group from shooting the royal family, disarms one man, shoots several others, and gets shot himself.  One of the men he shot was Sean Miller’s younger brother; you can see in Sean’s eyes that he would kill Jack for it.  Jack’s wife, Cathy, is a doctor and treats her husband at the scene; she’ll forgive him since he lived.  Jack is lauded as a hero and the royal, Lord Holmes, bestows the honor of Knight Commander of the Victorian Order.  Sean essentially vows revenge on Jack during the trial.

The Ryans return home and Cathy discovers that she is pregnant.  In the meantime, Sean is being transferred, but there is still a mole somewhere; his transport is attacked and his fellow Irishmen get him out.  The CIA visits Jack at home to let him know that Sean has escaped, but feel it is unlikely that Sean would be able to get to Jack and his family in the states.  They do ask if he would like to return to the CIA; Jack turns them down and Cathy agrees with him.  The IRA faction leaves Ireland so they can train and Sean struggles with his thoughts of revenge, while his leaders want to focus on the goal of freeing Irish political prisoners.

We see Jack in his element, teaching history at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland [my brother, a naval officer, did teach at the Academy for a few years; it is beautiful and there is indeed a picture of Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, listed as a former professor in the history department].  Robby presents his friend with the Purple Target for actions beyond the call of duty of a civilian: in hopes that “he will duck next time, lest he become a part of history, instead of a teacher of it.” [one of my favorite quotes, lol]  Catherine has also returned to her job.  And the CIA was wrong; Sean is in Annapolis, targeting Catherine and Sally.  There’s a young man waiting for Jack when he leaves the Academy out of Gate 3, to Hanover Street [it is known as the Jack Ryan gate now].  The man eventually pulls a gun, but Jack is prepared, sort of.  A guard shoots the man when he pulls the gun and Jack notices a Jeep following him as well.  He also realizes that it’s Sean after him and his wife and daughter may be in danger.  He tries to get a car call through to his wife, but has to wait for her to finish her call to work.  Sean’s van pulls alongside the car right after she hangs up with her husband and he opens fire.  They crash into a barrier.

Cathy and the baby are alright, but Sally is in critical condition for a day.  She will ultimately be okay, but Jack is perturbed at the IRA leader, Patty O’Neil denying that the IRA has anything to do with the incident.  Jack walks back into the CIA and gets put on the team investigating the splinter group.  He starts making connections and remembers seeing a red-haired woman at both attacks; in a car in London and in the Jeep in Annapolis.  If they find her, they’ll find the leader (Kevin), and they’ll find Sean.  Sean places a call to Jack at home, taunting him.  Cathy tells her husband to get the man, whatever it takes.  Jack decides it’s a good idea to provoke Patty O’Neil.  O’Neil may disagree with the actions of the faction, but he’ll never sell out a fellow Irishman.

The faction has relocated somewhere in North Africa and manage to keep out of the satellite sweeps for a most part, until Jack asks for them to be re-tasked.  It’s not great information they get, but it’s something.  O’Neil even passes along information to Jack; the woman is English, not Irish, so he’s not betraying his countryman.  Jack watches the hit made on the camp from a room inside the CIA; welcome to the new world.

Lord Holmes is making a visit to the U.S. and wants to stop by to see the Ryans and ends up invited to their welcome home celebration for Sally.  He presents a medal to Jack, then the lights go out.  They first think it’s the storm, but Jack has a feeling.  He can’t raise anyone on the radio, so he tells everyone to hide.  Indeed, Sean and his team are at the house, ready to invade.  Jack discovers that the secretary was the mole in Holmes’ staff.  The CIA gets word of the attack and sends back-up, but Jack fights off the team at the house first.  He gets everyone outside and heads to the boats.  He takes one and the team hurries to the other, Sean determined to follow him.  When Kevin protests, shouting that the royal is more important, Sean shoots him and the woman and continues his pursuit.  He jumps on to Jack’s boat and they struggle while the boat catches fire.  Jack eventually forces Sean back on the anchor and bails before the boat hits rocks and explodes.  It at least gives the rescue team an idea where he is.  He holds on to his wife and daughter during the aftermath and in the final scene, they’re about to find out what the gender of the new baby will be.  Well, Cathy knows.

Harrison Ford plays a great hero; he’s one who will always take a punch.  Then he comes back swinging.  It’s all very realistic.  I like seeing the Academy and I like the action at the beginning and the end of the film.  Research is understandably boring, but very necessary (never let anyone convince you it is glamorous).  Are Hunt and Patriot Games outdated since the Troubles are over and the Soviet Union disbanded?  Not to me.  I may not have been around during their heyday, but I remember the aftermath.  I’ve been to Belfast; I’ve seen a school that had metal coverings on the windows to protect the children from rocks being thrown.  There are murals mentioning Oliver Cromwell and his atrocities against the Irish.  And that was probably twenty years or so after the Troubles ended.  These are great action movies; yes, a bit dated due to the technology, but it’s advancing at such a rapid pace, it’s impossible for anything to stay current.

Next Time: A wrap up on Jack Ryan

Research Helps Save the Day

Hunt for Red October

The 1990 film based on the first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy.  The film stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, Sean Connery (the original James Bond, we’ll see him in Last Crusade, early in his career he was in Darby O’Gill and the Little People [playing an Irishman, he even sings] and who sadly passed away on Halloween at the age of 90) as Marko Ramius, Sam Neill (he was Merlin in a short movie series, and Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors; some of you may recognize him from Jurassic Park; I have not seen those movies) as Captain Borodin, James Earl Jones (Mufasa, Darth Vader; need I say more) as Admiral Greer.  Tim Curry (Wadsworth in Clue, he starred in the disturbing Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rooster in Annie, a wonderful Cardinal Richelieu in the 90’s Three Musketeers, and a plethora of voice roles, including the recent Clone Wars series) appears as Dr. Petrov and a young Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, part of the MCU as Erik Selvig, Mamma Mia)  as Captain Tupolev.  Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation) has a very brief appearance at the beginning of the film as Jack Ryan’s wife, Caroline.

Some interesting trivia bits:

Three main actors had prior military experience; Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy when he was fifteen and served onboard the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Formidable.  Scott Glenn (the captain of the U.S.S. Dallas) was  U.S. Marine, and James Earl Jones was an Officer in the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Naval Institute, a private, non-profit professional military association, located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has been publishing books and magazines related to Naval strategy and maritime history since 1874 (we see a copy of their monthly magazine, Proceedings in an opening scene).  In 1984, they published their first work of fiction, The Hunt for Red October.

Clancy, who passed away in 2013, is known for his thorough research.  My mother, who has read most all of his books (which are 600+ pages) remarked that when The Hunt for Red October was first released, Clancy had to prove that all of the information he included was available publically; officials were worried he had gotten a hold of classified information.  The Hunt for Red October is the only Clancy book I have read and I found it very good and would not be opposed to reading more (though they are very long and detailed).  I had to read it and a Cussler book in exchange for making my brother read Mists of Avalon.

Carrying on with the plot:

There is an opening scrawl explaining “In November of 1984, shortly before Gorbachev came to power [set during the Cold War], a typhoon-class Soviet Sub surfaced just south of the Grand Banks [Nova Scotia].  It then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem.  Unconfirmed reports indicated some of the crew were rescued.”  According to the Soviet and American governments, none of what we are about to see ever happened.

We begin on a Soviet sub as it leaves its base in northern Russia [and I adore the theme for the movie; though if you listen to it a dozen times, you get Russian stuck in your head] and briefly meet Ramius and Borodin.  Next, we see a study full of books [pretty sure my brother, a naval historian, either owns or has read most of those books]; Dr. Jack Ryan is getting ready to leave and fly from England to the U.S.  He’s not fond of sleeping on flights, but it is imperative that he sees Admiral Greer of the CIA.  The Soviet sub, Red October has launched with Ramius as its captain.  The sub has odd doors on it and Ryan wants to discover what they are for.  Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the sonar team of the U.S.S. Dallas.

Onboard the Red October, the orders are opened.  They are to rendezvous with Captain Tupolev and run through drills to test the new sub.  Ramius has other intentions; he kills the political officer and passes it off as an accident.  He later announces to the crew that they will indeed test the new sub, but the Soviet fleet will be unsuspecting; they will also attempt to get through the American navy.  Ryan has also discovered that the doors on the Red October are for a caterpillar drive; the sub will run nearly silent [technically not true, but we don’t know enough about how subs run anyways that we’re honestly not going to know the difference].  The U.S.S. Dallas has found the Red October and begins tracking her.

In Russia, Ramius has sent a letter to Soviet command, resigning.  Russia now wants their sub back and sends their fleet after it; with orders to kill Ramius.  Dr. Ryan’s question is no longer simply research; he needs to brief the Joint Chiefs and the President’s Security Advisor.  The military feels the Red October is a threat and obviously, must shoot it.  Ryan ponders a little longer and realizes Ramius means to defect.  He has three days to find the Red October and determine if his hunch is correct.  Now, Ryan has to get out to the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Then hop over to the U.S.S. Dallas.

Ramius is indeed attempting to defect, along with the rest of the officers of the Red October.  They’re worried though, that the crew may mutiny and what sort of punishment they will face if they’re captured.  But Ramius has been teaching the submarine captains of the Soviet navy for forty years; he knows their tactics.  They just have to find the right American.  After they enter an underwater canyon, their caterpillar drive overheats and they have to shut it down; meaning they will no longer be running silent (sabotage from a crewmember onboard).  The U.S.S. Dallas already has gotten in position at the end of the canyon; their superb sonar man has figured out a way to listen for the Soviet sub.  Unfortunately, they have to surface to get Ryan onboard.  Then he has to convince the captain he’s not crazy.  Has Ramius done any Crazy Ivans (turning the sub to see if it’s being followed, meaning the sub tailing it {in this case, the Dallas} has to stop and hopefully not run into the enemy sub)?  Yes.  Ryan predicts he’ll do another one.  He’s right.  Well, let’s see if they can get a hold of the Red October.

By this point, the Russian ambassador (played by Joss Ackland, who has appeared in the Mighty Ducks movie and the 90’s Miracle on 34th Street) asks the White House for assistance in “rescuing” a “lost” sub.  While the Red October is no longer silent, one of the Russian planes searching for it detects it and drops a torpedo in the water.  Ramius holds his position longer than normal in the canyon, moving at the last possible second so the torpedo hits an underwater mountain.  After this, the Russian ambassador has to admit that Ramius has gone crazy and intends to fire missiles on America, causing a war (this is a lie; but Soviet naval command won’t want the truth getting out).  So now the ambassador is asking for American help to find and kill Ramius.

The Dallas and Red October have found each other and weapons are aimed at each other.  They don’t fire.  Instead, they both go to periscope depth to take a peek.  Dallas signals Red October, betting that Ramius will be at the scope; does he want to defect?  He sends a signal, yes.  Very well, meet them due south in a deep trench.  When Red October arrives at the location, the radiation alarm goes off in the nuclear reactor.  Ramius surfaces the sub and evacuates his men.  He sends the doctor (who is not in on the plan) with the men.  Ramius and the officers will go back down with the sub and fend off an impending American “attack.”  A torpedo is dropped, but Admiral Greer makes sure it detonates early.  Ryan, the captain and sonar guy from the Dallas make their way over to the Red October.  Ryan luckily speaks a little Russian and endears himself to Ramius.  Ramius officially presents the Red October to the Americans and declares that he and his officers wish to defect.   Before they can get too friendly, another torpedo comes through the water.  Not American, Russian.  Captain Tupolev has found Red October and will follow orders and sink her.

Ryan is in a spot of trouble; he’s a former Marine helicopter pilot, not a naval officer, he doesn’t know how to operate a sub.  He now writes history books for the CIA.  But he’ll follow Ramius orders to turn into the path of the torpedo.  The torpedo breaks apart on the hull; they closed the distance so the torpedo wasn’t armed yet.  But the next one will be.  On the surface, the Russian crew believes that their captain is fighting the Americans.  Tupolev’s next torpedo locks on to Red October.  Dallas dives to the rescue and distracts the torpedo long enough to turn it back on to Tupolev, blowing him up.  They have to surface quickly, again, making the Russians believe their captain is winning; until they see an explosion.

After that, the saboteur shows his face, attempting to shoot Ramius.  Borodin pushes his captain out of the way and is shot.  Ramius and Ryan go after the shooter while the Dallas captain pilots the sub.  The saboteur?  A cook.  He runs towards the missile bay, most likely to blow up the ship.  Ramius warns Ryan after Ramius is nicked, be careful where he shoots.  Ryan corners the guy and fires.  Ryan suggests the Red October head towards Maine; they can sail it up the river, far from any naval station and far from where people are going to look.  The Russian ambassador now has to admit they have lost another sub (Tupolev’s).  As the theme plays again, Ryan is on a flight back to his wife and daughter, accompanied by teddy bear brother for the daughter’s bear.  And he actually manages to sleep.

The movie is very faithful to the book.  While not as non-stop action as some other classics, or even later Jack Ryan films, I like that it can show “enemies” getting along.  And even professors can be heroes.  Let’s give a cheer for research and history!  [Am I the only one cheering?  Oh well, may just be me then, lol].  It’s great to see some of these famous actors a little younger, like Alec Baldwin, and even Sam Neill and Tim Curry.  And who do they get to play a Russian submarine captain?  Sean Connery, complete with Scottish accent; but it’s Sean Connery, so we’re okay with it.  He’s a quiet, but firm lead and Alec Baldwin is kind of adorable in a dorky way; a professor a little bit out of his comfort zone.  This movie has grown on me over the years; as a kid, I thought it was boring.  Now, older and wiser, hey, these things make sense!

Up Next: Patriot Games

A Tribute to Sean Connery:

Alec Baldwin reported to Rolling Stones on Saturday, October 31, that Connery wasn’t chatty, “he was there to work.  But he was happy to help you get the job done.  He’d been through what I [Baldwin] was going through.”  To Alec, “Sean was always the most impressive combination of actor and star that I’ve ever seen.”  “Connery had that trifecta dynamic of knowing where masculinity, sensitivity, and intelligence intersected.  You gotta be emotive, you gotta be tough, you gotta be smart.”

Sean’s successor to Bond, Daniel Craig noted to Variety that Connery “defined and era and a style…he helped create the modern blockbuster.  He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.”  The Bond producers made the statement “Connery was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words, ‘The name’s Bond…James Bond.'”  Pierce Brosnan also commented that Sean Connery was “my greatest James Bond as a boy….You cast a long shadow of cinematic splendor that will live on forever.”  Of the Bond role, Brosnan also wrote on Instagram, “you led the way for us all who followed in your iconic footsteps.  Each man in his turn looked to you with reverence and admiration as we forged ahead with our own interpretations of the role.  You were mighty in every way, as an actor and as a man, and will remain so till the end of time.”

Harrison Ford made the comment “‘You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm.  God, we had fun – if he’s in heaven, I hope they have gold courses.  Rest in peace, dear friend.'”

“I also have a mortgage, and two cats to feed.”

Spectre

The most recent Bond film and this is the first movie in my blog series that I have not previously watched.  I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.  Of course, Daniel Craig is back as James Bond, Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny.  Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) slinks through as C, Dave Bautista (such a surprise to see Drax of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) as the mostly silently and basically never named Hinx.  We briefly see Léa Seydoux, who plays Madeleine Swann in this film, in Robin Hood as Isabella of Angoulême.  Christoph Waltz (Richelieu in the newer Three Musketeers film; making him the second Bond villain to come out of that movie; Mads Mikkelsen was Le Chiffre in Casino Royale before he was Rochefort) is creepy as Blofeld.

This is the first of Craig’s Bond films to open with the gun barrel sequence.  It opens properly on a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico and everyone is walking around wearing skeleton masks…off to a creepy start.  The camera follows one man in a skeleton suit, he follows a woman to her room and removes his mask to reveal Bond.  Except he has more important things to do that bed an all too willing woman.  He just causally walks along the roof’s edge to set up an assassination shot.  The building ends up blowing (though I’m not certain that was caused by Bond) and crumbles towards him.  A well placed sofa saves him from breaking bones when he falls.  He then pursues his target through the parade towards the city’s square.  A helicopter is waiting for the bad guy.  Bond jumps in after him and there is a terrifying fight between the two men; terrifying because it causes a helicopter to spin wildly over a crowd of people.  Bond manages to kick his target out of the helicopter, then the pilot, and regain control of the helicopter and steers it safely away from the crowd [because it’s hard to view the main character as a hero if he kills loads of innocent people just to get his man, ten minutes into the film.]

The opening credits continue the creepy vibe by featuring an octopus.  There are flashbacks to Silva, Vesper, M, and Chiffre (and I will admit, Daniel Craig does not look too bad shirtless).  In London, Bond is in trouble with M again.  His mission to Mexico was not sanctioned and it does not help the situation that MI6 is merging with MI5, calling the double-0 program into question.  Bond is introduced to the man overseeing the change, Max Denbigh, whom Bond refers to as C.  Denbigh’s brilliant plan is that human agents are no longer needed; drones can gather all the intelligence they need (continuing the debate from Skyfall).  Bond has Moneypenny bring his personal effects from Skyfall to his sparse apartment.  And he trusts her enough to reveal that his mission is a dying request from the previous M.  A video had arrived in his mail shortly after her death, instructing him to hunt down a man and attend his funeral.  Moneypenny agrees to help cover for Bond and do some research for him on “the Pale King.”  In the personal effects, we see a copy of temporary guardianship paperwork for a young James Bond, along with a photograph.

Tanner fills Bond in further on C’s new plans.  The old MI6 building will be demolished and an impersonal glass skyscraper has been erected to house C’s surveillance.  He wants to get the whole world in on it and give access to those countries.  Q has set up shop away from prying eyes.  He implants nanotechnology to keep track of Bond, per M’s orders.  Oh, there’s a new car, but not for Bond.  Q is working on rebuilding the vintage Aston Martin, but Bond misunderstood his instruction to bring the car back in one piece, not bring back one piece of the car.  Q has a new watch for Bond; it tells time.  Bond asks Q for a favor; make him disappear, for forty-eight hours.  [And yes, Bond is totally flirting with Q; Q gets flustered; and it’s rather adorable.  And a bit hilarious]  Q returns to his bunker later in the evening to discover the new Aston Martin gone. 

Bond jets off to Rome to observe the funeral as M instructed.  He saves the widow’s life and seduces her to get information on her husband.  He was part of a dangerous organization that is now meeting.  Bond takes the man’s ring as his ticket into the meeting.  The bad guys have organized and are reporting how their criminal activities are progressing.  The leader remains in the shadows and they are all silent as a henchman kills a member for the honor of going after “the Pale King.”  The leader is aware that Bond is present and welcomes him.  Bond gets out, but the silent henchman follows him in an equally fancy sports car.  The gadgets aren’t all quite installed, but the rear flame throwers at least work.  And the ejector seat (so Bond lets a brand new shiny car just sink into the river).  He calls up Moneypenny while he’s driving and she reports that Bond has run into the Pale King before; he was known as Quantum, or Mr. White.  Bond has a new direction, but he needs Moneypenny to also look up Franz Oberhauser, someone presumed dead.

Back in London, C is getting closer to success with his goal.  Q lies to M to cover for Bond.  Bond jets off to Austria and finds Mr. White.  The old man is already dying, but he’ll let Bond protect his daughter in order to lead him to the organization he’s searching for.  Then commits suicide to cut short his agonizing death.  Bond meets up with Madeleine Swann, though she has no desire to be involved with her deceased father’s life.  Q also shows up, with orders to bring Bond in.  Bond hands off the ring and goes after Swann’s kidnappers, led by the silent Rome guy.  Q is almost nabbed, but escapes in a crowd and Bond utterly crashes a small airplane (bit by bit, losing wings, then the tail).  Swann finally agrees to go with Bond.  Q fills them in that Bond was right; there is something to this ring.  All of his previous enemies, Greene, Chiffre, Silva, are all connected to Oberhauser, the head of the villainous organization Spectre.

The L’Americain that White mentioned is not a person, Swann reveals, but a hotel in Tangier.  She resists Bond’s advances, but insists on accompanying him.  Bond discovers a secret room (and a tape of Vesper Lynd’s interrogation…even after this time, he still mourns her).  He and Swann are now off to the desert.  Back in London, C is continuing to succeed with his intelligence data plan.  M points out, just like Bond did in Skyfall, that a  man on the ground is the only way to make the decision whether someone needs to die or not.  Unfortunately, C has managed to shut down the double-0 program.  C mocks M, calling him the past.  M retorts that C is a cocky little bastard.  Q and Moneypenny go to M with information on Bond, but he orders them to hide it.  C is watching MI6 agents; they’ll just lead him to Bond.  They must abandon him (even though Bond is a pain in the butt, M still protects him).

Rome guy attacks Swann and Bond on their train and Bond almost loses.  Madeleine luckily knows how to use a gun (side effect of her father that she dislikes) and rescues Bond.  He manages to get Rome guy off the train.  What to do now?  Why have sex, of course.  The pair eventually make it to a complex in the middle of the desert.  And their host is playing mind games, leaving personal pictures in their rooms.  Blofeld, the leader of Spectre is their host and his complex houses intelligence gathering; C is one of his stooges…meaning if C’s program goes online, Spectre will have further access, spelling trouble for governments.  While Bond has come to kill Blofeld, Blofeld has brought Bond to his complex to die.  He is the author of Bond’s pain; he is behind the villains Bond has faced recently.  He is ultimately responsible for Vesper’s death, and M’s death.  “You interfered in my world; I destroyed yours,” Blofeld comments.  Blofeld also turns out to be Franz Oberhauser.  His father was awarded guardianship of Bond and asked Franz to be the orphan’s brother.  Franz disliked the notion and arranged to kill his father and has spent his life seeking revenge on Bond by destroying all he loves (cause that makes a whole lot of sense).

He knocks Bond out and straps him into a chair.  Swann will watch as Blofeld probes Bond’s mind, ultimately killing him.  Yeah, those drills are disturbing.  While Blofeld monologues to Madeleine, Bond removes his watch.  Madeleine comes over to whisper she loves Bond when they figure Blofeld’s next move will be the killing one.  Bond hands Swann the watch and it starts an explosion in the complex.  Bond escapes, with Swann.  Explosions ramp up until the whole complex is engulfed in flames (this set the Guinness world record for the world’s largest film stunt explosion ever).

But it’s not the end.  Bond meets with M, Q, Tanner, and Moneypenny.  They’re going after C.  Q will hack in and stop C’s program.  But Bond is taken hostage on the drive over; M escapes and joins up with the other three (Madeleine has decided she cannot be part of this life and leaves…dangerous move).  Bond is  taken to the old MI6 building, which is rigged with explosives and escapes his captors, but follows the arrows down into the depths of the building [by the way, that trick with the zip-tie cuffs; you can legitimately escape that way {it’s even explained in The Official MacGyver Survival Manual}].  M continues with the plan and confronts C (who sounds so much like Moriarty…can we push him off a building yet?).  M gets the upper hand and Q is finally successful in shutting down C’s program.  M and C struggle for the gun and C falls down several floors.  Pictures of those who have died around Bond are posted to mess with his head and Bond discovers Blofeld isn’t dead yet.  Scarred, yes, over one eye, but not dead.  And he has Madeleine.  Will Bond choose to save himself and live with the regret, or die trying to save the woman who may understand him, being the daughter of an assassin?  Of course, Bond races after Madeleine, the three minute countdown on.  He rescues her, but they only have seconds.  They jump through the floor, caught by a net.  Blofeld and the four MI6 agents watch as the old building collapses.  Bond and Swann escape by boat and chase after Blofeld.  Bond brings down the helicopter and strides towards Blofeld who is crawling from the wreckage.  M watches at one end, and Swann at the other.  Bond does not shoot.  He chooses Swann, tossing his gun.  M makes the arrest.

Bond visits Q one last time, to retrieve his original Aston Martin.  Swann is in the passenger seat.  The Bond theme plays as Bond smiles and drives off.  So, did Bond just retire?  According to press released on the upcoming twenty-fifth Bond film, No Time to Die [why is it that “die” features in a lot of Bond titles?], Bond did indeed retire.  The new film will take place several years after the events of Spectre.  Blofeld and Madeleine Swann will both return and Rami Malek is slated to portray the villain.  I do hope the movie makes its November release; after watching Spectre, I am geared up to watch what is possibly Daniel Craig’s final Bond film.

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would, but I still consider it creepy.  I’m not as likely to watch this one over and over like I do with Skyfall.  So, Pierce versus Daniel?  Pierce is the classic James Bond to me; suave, charming.  His Bond has the highest body count, but there’s an elegant style.  Daniel; they just like to beat him up.  And there’s lots of action, lots and lots of action.  Chase scenes within chase scenes.  But I prefer the storylines from Daniel’s time, despite being darker than Pierce’s.  That may have to do with how movies have changed over twenty years or so. 

As mentioned, Skyfall is my favorite Bond film (a bit to my mother’s disappointment, I believe).  I do like the direction they’ve taken Moneypenny and Q; making them more active.  Samantha Bond and Pierce Brosnan had excellent flirt chemistry and that Moneypenny certainly wanted to sleep with Bond, despite his reputation.  Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny is an action girl, a good pairing with Bond.  And Ben Whishaw as Q is adorable.  [And I certainly subscribe to the fan notion that he is the third Holmes brother; his resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is uncanny.]  Judi Dench is the primary M I know and she played it marvelously.  She was more ruthless with Daniel Craig, but you saw how much Bond cared for M in Skyfall.  I have determined that Bond needs someone to protect.  That is how he operates.  And I love that about the character; I think I love that in a character period (the Winchester brothers, Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon…characters who will throw themselves into danger to protect someone).

I haven’t quite decided with the reboot if it changes the notion that James Bond is a bit like Doctor Who: the Doctor has many faces, but they are all the Doctor.  So mayhaps, James Bond is a codename.  Skyfall insinuates that this is the true James Bond.

As just mentioned; I hold to the idea that Q is a Holmes.  And there are several fanfiction authors who have written brilliant pieces.  And warning; they often pair the new Q with Bond.  I’m okay with that.

I highly recommend ktwontwo’s series starting with Brothers Three.

A Wandering Minstrel has several good oneshots

And I recently discovered over on AO3, White_Noise’s series The Other Life of Quentin Holmes, Quartermaster

Also on AO3, Beginte has a wonderful Work and Play series, amongst other oneshots.

Threshold by AtoTheBean is a wonderful Spetre fix-it where Q is actually the one who gets kidnapped by Blofeld.

And I have utterly fallen in love with Only­_1_Truth’s stories.  The Chaos and Logic Chronicles are delicious at times and are apparently a play off of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods book [which I have not read, but I now might be interested in].  I’ll Be Your Light, Your Match, Your Burning Sun is rather good, as is Alley-Cat Quartermaster.

Next Time: Another film series based on bestselling books; these by Tom Clancy, starting with Hunt for Red October

Put Your Back Into It

Skyfall

My favorite Bond film; also commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond film and includes several call backs.  Daniel Craig returns as Bond, Judi Dench returns as M.  Naomie Harris (her voice gives her away at times as Tia Dalma from Pirates of the Caribbean) joins the cast as Eve (we find out at the last minute her surname is Moneypenny!) and Ben Whishaw (Richard II in The Hollow Crown [he’s brilliant, check it out], grown up Michael Banks in Mary Poppins Returns) is the new Q.  Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort, the Duke in The Duchess) is Gareth Mallory and Albert Finney (the reformed pastor in Amazing Grace and Daddy Warbucks in the 1982 musical film Annie…a bit hard to believe) appears as Kincade [this was his last role].  The opening song is performed by Adele.

The opening involves several chases throughout Istanbul (Craig’s Bond does a lot of chasing) [this also influenced a scene I intend to include in my eventual fantasy series, though there will be no motorcycles or trains involved].  M orders Bond and his fellow agent, Eve to reacquire a very important list.  It leads Bond to fight with their prey on top of a moving train (Craig did his own stunts) and Bond even gets shot in the shoulder, though he rather cleverly uses a construction vehicle as both a shield and a method to hold the train together for a few minutes.  Eve follows in the car and eventually sets up to take a shot.  But she warns M it won’t be clean.  M orders her to take it anyway and Eve shoots Bond by mistake.  He falls over a waterfall and is presumed dead.  The opening credits foreshadow a large home with stags in front, as well as a graveyard.

M works on Bond’s obituary, then has to meet with Mallory, who is the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  She has to answer for the muck-up that is the list of undercover NATO agents falling into enemy hands.  Mallory states the Committee wants her to honorably retire.  M sees it as them firing her; she’ll leave when the job is done.  On her way back to the office a message comes through her computer and traffic stops just before the MI6 office building blows.

Never fear, Bond is actually alive, hiding out on a remote beach.  But he hears the news of the MI6 bombing.  He sneaks back home to London and into M’s house (again; he did that in Casino Royale).  “Where the hell have you been?” M demands.  “Enjoying death,” he responds, looking worse for wear.  But 007 is reporting for duty.  He also admonishes M, that she should have trusted Bond to finish his job.  MI6 is under attack; they need Bond.  But he must pass the tests to be reinstated to active service.  They are now stationed in underground bunkers, leftover from Churchill during the Second World War.  Tanner fills Bond in as Bond preps for his evaluations.  But we see the tremor in Bond; he’s not quite back to full capacity.  His shoulder still aches and he struggles with the shooting test.  Then walks out of the psych eval when the word “skyfall” is mentioned.  Afterwards, Bond digs the bullet fragments out of his shoulder and orders they are for “her eyes only” (a reference to an earlier film starring Roger Moore).

Bond meets Mallory and M informs him that he has passed his tests and is ready for the field.  Mallory does question Bond whether he wants to continue in the spy game; he had the perfect way out.  Why not just remain dead?  M defends Bond.  Mallory tells her later that she is sentimental about Bond (this film really seems to delve into that mother/son bond that M and Bond possibly have.  Just in Quantum of Solace, Bond remarks to Camille that M likes to think she is Bond’s mother, and Pierce Brosnan has remarked on it in interviews).  And in actuality, M reveals to Tanner, Bond did not pass his tests.

The shell casings lead MI6 to an assassin for hire and leads Bond to Shanghai.  First he meets the new Q, a young nerdy-looking man [regularly referred to in fandom as a “boffin;” a British slang term for a scientist or engineer, though the fandom uses it with endearment].  Bond is not impressed at first.  “Age is no guarantee of efficiency,” Q informs the agent when the older man questions his competency.  “And youth is no guarantee of innovation,” Bond fires back.  Q hands him a gun coded to his palm print, and a radio transmitter.  Sorry Bond, no exploding pen (like in GoldenEye).  Bond tracks his adversary to a glass skyscraper in Shanghai where he watches him execute a man in another building, then attacks.  The man falls to his death without revealing who he’s working for, but Bond finds a chip in the case for a casino in Macau.  Eve joins Bond and he finally fully cleans up, clean-shaven and in a tux.  Eve even spiffs up to assist him in an evening gown.  Bond meets a woman he recognizes from the assassination; she’s connected to the man behind the operation and Bond offers to protect her.  First, he has to get by the guards.  He joins the woman in her shower afterwards.

They sail to a deserted small island and Bond is led away.  The slightly creepy Raoul Silva introduces himself; he once worked for MI6 and is upset with M.  He was once her favorite in Hong Kong between 1986 and 1997 (about how long of a hiatus the films took between Licence to Kill in 1989 and GoldenEye in 1995).  He also has Bond’s file and tries to get Bond to distrust M, revealing that he did not pass and M sent him into the lion’s den.  He also attempts to hit on Bond.  Carrying on, Silva holds the view that technology has changed the game; Q and Bond hit on it when they met: Q can accomplish quite a lot in his pajamas than Bond can in the field in a year.  But someone will still have to pull the trigger; or not. “It’s hard to tell in your pajamas.”  Nevertheless, Silva takes Bond outside and improvises a William Tell-like shooting competition with the girl.  Bond can’t, or doesn’t make the shot.  “Is there any of the old 007?” Silva whines, then shoots the girl.  Waste of good Scotch, Bond huffs.  Then has no problem taking out Silva’s goons.  The cavalry arrives (and the Bond theme), thanks to the latest from Q branch, a radio.

M visits Silva alongside Bond.  The man in the glass case has a lot of issues with M; he was tortured for five months and she didn’t lift a finger to retrieve him.  He tried his cyanide capsule, but it didn’t work properly, he didn’t die (his mouth is a bit deformed [creepy as all get out], which he hides).  M flatly tells him “soon your past will be as nonexistent as your future,” his name will be struck from the memorial wall.  M clarifies to Bond that Silva had overstepped his bounds in China and was going to cause them problems.  [If we recall, M has issues similar to this with Pierce’s Bond; in their first encounter, she assured him that she had no problem sending a man to his death, but it would not be on a whim.  And in Die Another Day, Bond himself is held prisoner and tortured for fourteen months and does not break.  And is actually angry that M made the trade for him; he understood the risks…just proves to me that Bond is stronger than Silva]

M continues to face an inquiry and Q tries to hack into Silva’s laptop.  Bond helps see a key in the code, which unfortunately backfires on them and frees Silva.  Bond chases after him into the tube system (some wonderful banter between Q and Bond…love it), deducing that Silva is going after M.  He indeed enters the building and begins shooting.  M, meanwhile, puts the inquiry in their place, with support from Mallory.  The shadows of the world are still evident and that is where the bad guys hide and that is where her people operate.  This new world they are in frightens her; Britain’s enemies are no longer visible and known, they are no longer a nation.  They are individuals and a lot harder to spot.  She quotes Tennyson: “We are not now that strength which in old days/ moved earth and heave; that which we are, we are/ one equal temper of heroic hearts/ made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/ to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  As she ends, Silva bursts in.  Mallory pulls M down and gets a shot to the shoulder.  Bond to the rescue!  As well as Eve and even Mallory picks up a gun to cover Tanner getting M out.  But Bond is a step ahead; he drives off with M in the car.  If Silva wants her, he’ll have to come and get her. 

It’ll just be him and M and they’ll finally get a step ahead of Silva.  Bond calls Q for some tech help, then switches cars with M to a classic silver Aston Martin (along with the Bond theme).  It even has the ejector seat, which Bond threatens M with if she continues complaining.  They’re going back in time, Bond remarks.  Mallory checks in with Tanner and Q and even gives them the go-ahead with their plan.  Bond and M head north to Scotland [I adore the Scottish landscape; while Italy and the Med would be beautiful to visit, I want to live in Scotland].  M knows Bond’s story and again comments that orphans make the best agents (recalling conversations from GoldenEye and Casino Royale).  They arrive at Skyfall, Bond’s childhood home (flanked by a stag statue) [it’s a gorgeous home, I’d love to restore it].  The old groundskeeper, Kincade is still there (originally written with Sean Connery in mind, but the director ultimately decided that it would detract from the story).  The three of them set about MacGyvering ways to defend the house.  While they’re at it, Bond assures M that she did her job correctly.

Troops arrive.  Bond is hiding in his car and uses machine guns to take out some.  Their tricks inside the house help; Kincade greets them with a shot and “welcome to Scotland” [I laugh out loud].  A helicopter finally arrives and shoots up the house [poor house].  Silva exits with more men and throws grenades into the house, starting a fire.  Bond sends Kincade with M through the priests’ passage to the church (Bond had hid in there for two days after the death of his parents).  M is wounded, despite her assuring Bond she was fine, so the going is a little slow.  Silva blows up the Aston Martin, which pisses Bond off, so he blows tanks in the house, catching the helicopter, which finally destroys the rest of the house [did they really have to blow those up?], though Bond grumbles “I always hated this place,” as he takes cover, diving out of the shockwave in the tunnel.

Silva spots the flashlight from Kincade on the moors and goes after M.  Bond takes out the last two men, after a dip in the frozen lake.  Silva makes it to the chapel first and motions Kincade to not interfere.  He’s saddened that M was hurt, against his orders, and asks her for a quick death for both of them, holding his gun to her head so it would go through both of them.  Bond throws a knife into Silva’s back and finishes the man.  He catches M as she collapses and holds her.  “At least I got one thing right,” and she dies in his arms.  Bond sheds tears [as do we.  Except I would have cried more if Pierce’s one idea had been followed through; he felt he should have been with M when she died].

We end in London, Bond looking at the skyline (Sherlock echoes this in a later season).  Eve presents Bond with a final gift from M, her British bulldog figurine, and reveals her last name to Bond: Moneypenny.  Bond greets Mallory, the new M (in rooms that recall the original Bond films and alongside the theme).  There is a folder for 007: Top Secret.  M remarks there is lots to do, is Bond ready to get back to work?  With pleasure.  And the gun barrel sequence.

This is a  more cohesive story that Craig’s prior Bond films and I utterly adore the bits in Scotland.  And all the little bits thrown in calling back to the old Bond films make me actually want to watch them.  Silva is creepy as all get out, because even when he’s gentile, we can tell it’s a mask, there is something sinister lurking beneath the surface.  And yes, technology helped in the film: Q tracking Bond and Silva, but it does boil down to hands-on work, Bond versus the villain.  As M points out, the world may be changing, but it’s still dangerous and MI6 still has a use and work to do.

Up Next: Finishing the current Bond movies with Spectre

Dead Ends

Quantum of Solace

Craig’s second outing as Bond.  Gemma Arterton (Tamina in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) briefly appears as Strawberry Fields [homage to the Beatles perhaps] and there’s a brief appearance at the end by Stana Katic (Kate Beckett opposite Nathan Fillion in Castle [loved that show; and there was mention in an early episode of Richard Castle potentially ghostwriting James Bond books, lol], and Simone Renoir in The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice [we’ll be covering those soon]).  This is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, picking up within twenty-four hours of the previous tale ending.  Oddly, it starts silent with a fast car chase, until the sound drops in and you have to rush to turn down the volume.  I almost thought they were going to wreck an Aston Martin within the first five minutes; it loses a door and is certainly scraped up, but still drivable at the end.  Bond naturally dispatches with his pursuers and pulls Mr. White out of his trunk to face interrogation.  M is clearly worried about Bond before they go in to interrogate Mr. White.

But he holds a card up his sleeve, so to speak; his organization has so far stayed off MI6’s radar and they have people everywhere, including M’s own bodyguard to her surprise.  Bond chases him and ends up shooting him (after causing destruction along the way in typical Bond fashion).  When he returns, Mr. White is gone.  M is angry with the turn of events and frustrated to learn that Mr. White was correct; how does an organization like that exist and MI6 doesn’t know about them?  How did one of their people get to be her personal bodyguard for several years and not get flagged?  MI6 does manage to track tagged money used by Le Chiffre to pay off associates.  Bond heads to Haiti to hopefully pick up a new contact.  But a fight breaks out easily in the man’s hotel room and Bond kills him in self defense.  He then takes the man’s briefcase and meets a young woman named Camille.  Inside the briefcase is her picture and gun, so she throws Bond out of the car.  But he pursues her and discovers that her boyfriend, Dominic Greene had arranged for her to be killed.  Well, that didn’t work, so he passes her along to an old enemy to cement a deal he’s working in Bolivia.  Bond goes after the girl again, ending in a high speed boat chase (they still like to beat this Bond up; apparently Daniel Craig was injured three times filming this movie).

Bond asks MI6 about Dominic Greene and M checks with the CIA.  They claim to not know anything; in fact, they’re tracking the man and he’s even getting on a private jet with them.  They make the deal to ignore the upcoming regime change in Bolivia in return for oil.  M orders Bond to follow them, but please avoid killing every possible lead.  Bond winds up at a party, sneaking into a tux and getting a hold of an earpiece.  He overhears a business deal amongst the wealthy and interrupts them.  Several of the key players leave and he snaps photos, then goes after Greene.  It’s still a bit of a mess and M tries to restrict Bond’s movement; Bond responds by staying in Italy and looking up Mathis.  He was found innocent of betrayal from the previous movie and agrees to accompany Bond to Bolivia.  The pretty Miss Fields is waiting for him with orders to return directly to London.  Bond insists in his usual manner on staying.  He quickly charms Miss Fields (and she hates herself for it) and they’re invited to Dominic Greene’s charity gala.  Camille shows up to confront Dominic and Bond gets her out.  Miss Fields helps by tripping Greene’s bodyguard.

The police, who are supposed to be on Bond’s side, stop him.  Greene’s already gotten to them.  Mathis is discovered in the back of the car, beaten.  He’s then mortally shot and Bond consents to stay with the man as he dies.  Mathis’s final words to Bond are to forgive Vesper, who truly loved him, and for Bond to forgive himself.  Bond then takes Camille into the desert to look into Greene’s property.  A fighter plane chases them after they get a plane of their own.  Bond forces it into a cliff, but they have to dodge a helicopter.  They jump out of their plane with one parachute and discover once they land that Greene has dammed the water, creating a drought.  There is no oil.  The pair manages to get back to Bond’s hotel.  He meets with M and finds out that Miss Fields was killed; she’s lying on his bed covered in oil (an homage to Goldfinger).  M has already been told by the higher ups that they are fine with dealing with Greene; there is no evidence of foul play and they need the oil.  Bond is running wild and may have been turned; the Americans have orders to kill him.  She suspends Bond from duty and he seems to go quietly.  Until they’re in the elevator and he escapes.  He assures M that he is good.  M knows he’s on to something and she’ll protect her agent, to hell with the CIA.

We see Greene’s deal, handling the regime change and he confesses that the Quantum organization now controls over sixty percent of the water in Bolivia; the new leader will have to use them for utilities.  If he doesn’t comply, they will simply find a new leader.  Camille moves in on the general, who murdered her family and burned down her house.  They fight and Camille manages to kill the man, but a huge fire has started, thanks to Bond trying to take Greene, trapping her in the room.  Greene and Bond fight as explosions rock around them.  Bond makes the choice to save Camille, rather than killing Greene there.  The worm crawls away.  Camille is terrified by the fire and Bond is willing to shoot them before the fire takes them, but at the last minute, causes another explosion to create an opening out of the room.  He picks up Greene, gets his information, and leaves the man in the middle of the desert.  Camille returns to Bolivia to help in the wake of recent events.  Bond’s next stop is Russia.  He has tracked down Vesper’s boyfriend; who is not in danger and already has another girlfriend [Hello, Stana].  She is Canadian intelligence and Bond advises her to report to her agency that they have a leak; the boyfriend will get captured and she will be blackmailed for information…just like Vesper.  Bond does leave him alive, to M’s surprise.  She’s squared the situation with the U.S.  “Bond, I need you back.”  “I never left.”

This film is very disjointed.  A reason for that may be that it came about during the writers’ strike and the script was finished by Craig and the director.  The villain is bland and at least Bond doesn’t sleep with the main girl this time (though he sleeps with Strawberry Fields and bad things happen).  Admittedly, we do see Bond risk his life to save the girl and he tries to not leave destruction everywhere he goes; it’s just the side effect of him doing his job.  Yet, it’s still not a well like movie.

Up Next: My favorite Bond film, Skyfall

I apologize for the brief absence; between work and a well-deserved vacation, I haven’t been on my computer often.  But I’ve got the next batch of posts already drafted up to the point I tend to take a holiday hiatus.  Plan seems to be to finish off James Bond (and the latest movie release date still seems up in the air…I’d really like to see it!) then round up the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan films.  At that point, it will be hiatus time, but I’ve got the next several months planned out after that (yes, most likely will only be one post a week so I can maintain some other writing and reading projects.  But I love these action films, so I will not abandon them).

Besides, I went on a bit of a Shakespeare stint for a few days off, so you get a bonus post today.  I guess it would fall under the “Random Fandom” label, though it’s not a fandom I tend to fall into.

Speaking of fandoms: the final seven episodes of Supernatural begin airing this week and I am…looking forward in a way to see what will happen.  I may share some thoughts on the end.  The new MacGyver has been renewed for a fifth season, but no word on when it will air because I don’t think they’ve even started filming yet.