The 007th Minute: SPECTRE
Chapter 19: A Barrel of Laughs. Or a Pipette of Mirth.
In which two drunks get into a fight on a train. It’s like the Monday morning Pendolino from Crewe.
She: So this Mr White went every year to that hotel?
She: And every year bashed through into his secret room, then plastered it up again.
Me: Looks like it.
She: Most hotels object to taking your own food in. No-one stopped and asked him why he was taking plasterboard up there? Every year? Or about the overalls? Not a summer look. And he wasn’t the most practical man, was he?
Me: I don’t think we’re meant to ask. There are always plot holes in these things, although they tend to move more quickly so there’s no time to think about them.
She: Or they used to be made when they could get away with it, and The Tragics could only enjoy the films as diversions from things that matter, rather than dissecting them relentlessly on the internet and treating that as a thing that matters. Which it isn’t.
She: I’m not sure the internet improved us as a species. Specious, yes. Species, no.
Me: Smash thee that loom, my honey darling; smash thee that loom.
film train ambles along. Even the music yawns. Meanwhile, Gary is dining alone, which probably happens to him a lot. Suddenly! He’s interrupted by people he should have fired several days ago.
Me: Good spycraft from Gary, sitting with his back to the door.
She: Spycraft? Grow up.
Me: It’s like macramé, but with fewer stranglings.
She: He’s wondering who’s being referred to as “Sir”, then remembers it’s him. Surprised and disappointed. He’s not alone.
Me: He is alone. Saturday evening in Rules and no bookings. Likely?
She: They serve veal, so yes. Surely he has some security?
Me: They guard people worth guarding. Although dining alone is a pleasure. Good book, glass of wine, alone with one’s thoughts.
She: More likely to be mediocre thriller, bottle-and-a-half of wine and thoughts not worth thinking, isn’t it dear?
Me: I can get that at home.
“If you look at the satellite blow-up, you can clearly see this!”
She: See what? What am I meant to see? Couldn’t see it.
Me: A “lair”. It is just a Bond film, y’know.
She: At least Moneypenny’s remembered her lines this time.
“We can’t help him”.
She: How true.
“C is watching everything we do.”
She: He’d have turned off by now, bored. Let’s be C.
She: Worth a try.
Me: Odd how Gary’s attitude to Bond has changed considerably despite the fact he hasn’t seen him since the opening bit.
She: Presumably Q’s filled him in.
Me: I don’t think they’re that close.
She: Q did say Gary was after his balls, though.
“We can’t just desert Bond.”
Me: Desert. And Bond’s in a desert. Pun.
She: Wasn’t deserting Bond exactly what they can and should be doing? There was three hours of that, earlier.
Me: They do seem to have fallen in quickly with a belief that Bond has a plan to do… something. Without evidence that Bond is doing… anything.
She: Well, Q knows about Bond’s ring, so doubtless debriefed Gary at length.
Me: Hmm… yes, but that was Bond investigating an evil organisation. Totally separate from Gary’s worries about C.
She: Unless… oh. OH COME ON, GARY. You really are crap.
Me: It’s unclear why they should suddenly consider the two stories connected, but this lot have decided they are, to bring them back onto Bond’s side for no discernible reason.
She: Other than to end the film within an average lifetime.
Me: Although Gary does know C's been recording Bond, so we have to assume that they assume that that was for a reason? But C was watching everyone so it can't really be that.
She: Assume makes an ass out of u and me.
Me: And there's a turd right in the middle of Saturday, which is equally meaningless. They’ve trouble enough sewing it together within itself. Wait until they try to connect this disjointed piffle to the previous three as well. It’s not robust enough internally for that to work. It does feel like stuff’s been cut out, here.
She: The thought that there was even more of this is quite chilling.
Me: But even if Bond succeeds in doing anything, does that help them? They seem to assume it will, so if that’s credible rather than convenient, they’re ignoring that they themselves have made the connection between C and what Bond is up to.
She: So they could just go off and stop it all themselves, now?
She: Why don’t they?
Me: They have to wait for Mr Marvellous to return.
Me: He does explosions. And he’s co-producer.
She: Alternatively the Secret Service is trying to get credible evidence before taking aggressive action.
Me: Back into the realms of fantasy with that one, then.
“We only make him weaker.”
She: That they’ve got right.
Me: Look, there were others in the restaurant. They just didn’t want to sit near Gary. The stench of failure puts one right off one’s veal.
She: Stench of his still wearing the same shirt.
Me: Given the opportunity to go out there to meet Bond and find out what’s going on, Gary decides not to. Another golden chance to end it goes gadding by.
“Delete all the Smart Blood files.”
She: Another waste of public money.
Me: Seems pointless, as the baddies are about to find Bond when, oddly, when the Smart Blood was working, they couldn’t.
She: You’re surely not suggesting this wasn’t thought through?
“He’s on his own.”
Me: He always is, these days.
She: If this is the best that musters as support, he’s better off that way.
It rains on Gary. It always rains on Gary. Life rains on Gary. Because he’s rubbish. Meanwhile, on a night train across Morocco…
She: Very pretty.
Talking of very pretty…
She: Still cuts a fine figure of a man. Despite the fact you can barely see him.
Me: It’s going for retro, even further back than the old Bond films. It probably looks good in black and white.
We try this. It only bloody does. Do this: it’s spectacular. Adds a dimension to it. Not a joke.
She: OK, I get it, Morocco, Casablanca. Very clever.
Me: A pre-Bond film reference. Might be a reference to the sort of milieu of the Bond books.
She: Milieu? You really are a pillock, aren’t you?
Me: I read it on the internet.
She: I’ve seen some of the things you’ve written on the internet, so don’t go using that excuse.
In walks “Still Basically a James Bond Film”.
Me: You can see what she had for lunch.
She: Made him stand up straight.
Me: He might have trouble sitting down again.
She: He’s remembering his manners around this woman, though.
Me: Is the idea.
“You shouldn’t stare.”
She: And now she’s all friendly?
Me: Ten lines ago she was threatening to shoot him.
She: But now he’s back to being sexually aggressive.
Dr Swann smiles, knowingly. Probably drunk.
She: I’d have punched him, for saying that. I was expecting her to punch him. This is a very troubled relationship already.
An admission of alcoholism.
She: The actress, whoever she is, is probably doing her best but they’ve given her a raw deal here. Is she her twin? Totally different character.
For a long time I went to bed early… a madeleine dipped
in tea a Martini. An involuntary memory. Bond… on a train… in Morocco… mystified by the change in his female companion… because they’re twins… it’s DoubleShot. We’ve hit the homage to Raymond Benson. Robust characterisation and convincing dialogue are spot on. Who saw that coming? They’re geniuses, I tells yer.
She: It’s nice to see him smile.
Me: He’s still playing it well, when he’s allowed to. She’s a stroppy mess, though.
“I have a question.”
She: Why am I here?
Me: How much of my character has been cut out of the film to make way for shots of trains?
She: When are you going to release me?
Me: Are you sure that white jacket is a good idea?
She: Where did we get these clothes from?
Me: Do I have to be in the next one?
It’s none of those.
She: I wonder what other options she thinks he does have?
She: Phwaorr. I can see that.
Me: Hm. The idea is she’s testing his limits far more than the “adventure” has. It’s time to go. He looks far more discomfited by this than anything else. The rest of it, he’s just complacent, as is the film. Mass destruction, killing orphans, even takes phone calls during a car chase, getting fired, all totally inert. It’s an unusual idea, considering those things are, I think, meant to be exciting us.
She: So his flippancy is deliberately unfunny? He’s run out of road in this life.
Me: Luxurious surroundings but going nowhere. Hmm. Film’s waving insolently at us all, now.
She: Not waving, but drowning.
“Is this really what you want?”
She: They’re laying it on as thickly as her lipstick.
Me: She seems quite excited by her disapproval of it, though.
She: They’ve a good idea here, Bond quits to save his soul, but they’ve rushed to it, whilst wasting a hell of a lot of time on other nonsense in the process.
“Answer the question.”
She: Which one? She asked nine.
Me: Ninety minutes in, here comes the point.
“I don’t know.”
She: He’s pathetic, isn’t he? Hateful and ignorant for the most of it, and tragic and hollow now.
Me: A $300 million-dollar exercise in absolute contempt for James Bond.
She: Such a weird film.
Me: They could have saved the money by not making another one, instead of this – what? – embittered catharsis.
She: A really sour vibe to it.
Me: Although strangely enough, Fleming got this way towards the end. Possibly a reference to him, but if so, an odd one to emulate.
She: Is this the end?
Me: I don’t know where they go from here, credibly.
She: I meant of the film.
Me: So did I.
The drinks arrive very quickly. Suspiciously quickly.
She: She does look sorry for him. He looks upset.
Me: This is better than I remembered it.
“We always have a choice.”
She: Ok, OK, we get it now.
Uh-oh – it’s Jennifer! Somehow. Best not ask.
She: He kicked that table into her face!
She: I can’t believe they kicked a table into a woman’s face!
Me: Looks like it.
She: She’s going to be badly injured. They kicked a table into her face!
Me: I know. You said.
She: Where’s Jennifer come from, anyway?
Me: It was time for a fight. These things have a rhythm. There had been a lot of words. It’s a ratio.
She: They kicked a bloody table into her face! She’ll be badly concussed, at least.
She: Well, that’s just rubbish. Her mandible’ll be shattered, for a start.
Where’s everyone got to now?
She: This is vicious.
Me: Good, though.
She: If you’re nine.
Dr Swann administers anaesthetic by wine bucket. It doesn’t work. Jennifer administers anaesthetic by fist. Marginally more successfully.
She: They’re really slapping her about, aren’t they? That’s two serious head injuries so far. I still can’t believe they kicked a table into her face.
Me: You wouldn’t believe it: it left no mark.
She: Abused and of undulating temper: she’s just a scribble of a character, but I don’t know if that’s good writing or bad writing. Or no writing.
Me: She’s meant to be Tracy Bond; this is how the book has her. All over the place, not particularly sympathetic, unstable and of mystifying allure.
She: Yes, but that was written by a mad, drunken bigot, wasn’t it?
The fight continues. It’s a good fight, insofar as that’s not utterly oxymoronic.
She: So does Jennifer maim him, or poke his eyes in, and then the rest of the film is a brain-damaged doctor and a blind Bond wandering off into the desert to die?
She: Missed opportunity.
Me: Look, there are other people still there.
She: Why doesn’t the barman pull the communication cord? Where’s the guard? Southern Trains kick you off for putting your feet on the seat, let alone demolishing it.
And now, Jennifer’s on fire.
She: This is really graphic.
She: Hmm. Bond threw a candle. Don’t annoy James Bond, or he’ll throw a candle at you. Or one of his brown scatter cushions.
Me: Jennifer seems to have forgotten about his thumbnails.
The fight continues. No one else stops them. Perhaps they’re embarrassed. It can be awfully awkward, witnessing an argument in a public place. Bit like the cringe reflex you get reading this nonsense, for example.
She: How come there’s nobody in the kitchen? It was dinner. Where have they gone?
Me: One reading has it that when he is violent he is alone and isolated…
She: Well, he’s not alone, there’s a besuited giant testicle clobbering him, didn’t you notice?
Me: …and when he is around Dr Swann, he safely enters society.
She: That’s the excitable and regrettably undergraduate reading, isn’t it?
Me: You interpret it, then.
She: They didn’t want to insure anyone else.
Me: You win.
Jennifer is about to throw Bond from the train, when suddenly…
She: Come off it, she’d be totally disorientated.
Me: It’s deep. She is rescuing him both emotionally and physically.
She: And drunkenly.
Bond falls down in a very amusing way.
She: She’s just going to get hit again.
Au contraire. Jennifer opts for throttling her instead.
She: Hmm. She’s been roundly beaten up, here. Distasteful. The violence and menace shown towards women in this film is really seedy.
Me: A woman produced this.
She: So what? A woman produced Hitler.
Given this is an argument recorded on the internet, I was wondering when he’d get a mention. Slightly gratuitously, Dr Swann’s whacked into a metal wall.
She: That’s terrible. She’d be dead by now. There’d be internal bleeding. Brain like couscous. Punch-drunk, poor woman. Intra-axial haemorrhage, at the very least. Mixed with all the booze.
Me: So, far from being an underwritten, inconsistent cipher, this character is actually a devastating insight into the pitiable wretchedness of relentless psychological and physical abuse.
She: She’s going to blow. These are two very, very broken people. Why are we watching this? It’s cruel. She’ll suffer atypical motor responses.
Me: Still, she can diagnose her own post-traumatic stress disorder.
She: She just keeps coming back for more, despite being repeatedly beaten about. It’s a textbook case of dependent abuse.
Me: Perhaps she’s a Bond fan.
She: Top marks for trivialising the cruelty. It’s an attitude like that that lets these absolute bastards get away with it.
Me: Abuse isn’t the sole preserve of men, scrumblenumpkin.
She: I was talking about the people who made the film.
Me: Bu..wha…bu… Oh, I give up. I just don’t get the rules any more.
Bond does something clever with barrels that might be a double-level “Jaws” reference. Might be.
She: They only gave Jennifer one line?
Me: Yes. And it was a naughty word.
She: Wouldn’t that have ripped his head off?
Me: They have a certificate to achieve.
She: Whereas relentless smashing about of a young woman is fine. I’ll miss Jennifer. He was a barrel of laughs.
Me: Oh, not fair. I had that one prepared.
She: Grow up. Rather than sideways.
Me: Oddly, Bond doesn’t quip.
She: Knackered, the poor old soul.
Me: If they wanted to make a Bond film – although it’s still unclear what they wanted – he would have quipped.
She: Quipped not in the script.
Me: You did a rhyme.
She: Did you buy that degree from the back of a magazine? He could say “And that’s what happens when you hit women.”
Me: There’s a body of opinion on the internet that there’s a feminised agenda in these current films.
She: There’s a body of opinion on the internet that thinks raping children is fine, too.
“What do we do now?”
Me: Get thrown off?
She: Is that a euphemism?
I do hope so.
She: Get medical attention?
Not as such.
She: An appealing message for a young lady; get beaten up and you too might get sex later. Such a sinister film. Buy her a drink, whack her round the head a bit, easy lay. Did the writers go to American universities?
Me: I think Robert Wade went to Kent. He appeared on University Challenge, the celebrity one.
She: Is he a celebrity?
Me: He’s achieved more than many have.
She: You don’t say.
Me: Considering he went to the University of Kent, he deserves fame through having survived that ordeal.
She: She looks feral.
Me: He’s excited her by the violence she claims to have shunned.
She: He’s corrupting her into his dirty, shameful world. He really is despicable.
Me: Time to hurl his drip.
She: Really doesn’t work, does it? Nice music – is the squeaky man going to sing again?
Me: I think he’s still recovering from his first go.
We cut away.
She: So violence is allowed, but an element of tenderness isn’t? It’s odd to be so coy when we’ve had eye-gouging, immolating and birds picking at a man’s face.
The train rumbles on. It’s dawn. Sunday morning. As in “Easy like”. If craving a shorter audiosynchronous version of where the rest of this film is likely to get to - I dunno, perhaps you can’t read, or have simply had enough of this rubbish - consider that ditty in which Lionel Ritchie (I believe he is “with-it” amongst preening irony hunters of today) sings about things being easy like Sunday morning, or your Mum, and halfway through emits a sound as if his microphone mated with an overripe durian fruit. That.
She: Even if only for the welfare of the other passengers, you’d think they would have stopped the train. Or kicked these two violent trouble-makers off.
Wish/command interface paradigm scenario.
She: More clothes out of nowhere. The virginal white’s not kidding anyone, lovey. We know you’ve been rutting.
Me: He wore white before the [sausage roll], and she wears it afterwards.
She: Is that significant?
Me: Some idiot will think it is.
End of Chapter Nineteen.
She: Institutionalised inertia and cyclical abuse.
Me: But Christmas dinner was months ago.
She: With ejector seats and daft jokes. It’s like making a Carry On film about Jimmy Savile.
Me: Carry On Up The Children?
She: You can't seriously think that's acceptable? I’m not sure that comment does you justice. No, my mistake, it absolutely does. I suppose, if Bond is the Best of British, whatever that means, then this is savagely using it as a unexpected and dark allegory on the evil and rottenness at the heart of the Establishment.
Me: I think you’re taking it too seriously.
She: Who’s the one wasting their life picking fights about this rubbish on the internet?
Me: Stepped up and scored the Golden Goal with that one, didn’t you?
She: Why do you do that, anyway? Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of an anonymous smart-arse?
Me: Well, it was either that or suing the priesthood.
She: I’m serious. Is this really what you want?
Mrs Jim will return.