James Bond ‘Quantum of Solace’ Filming Locations (Panama)

Casino Royale‘ (2006) set the benchmark so high that it was always going to be a tough act for ‘Quantum of Solace‘ (2008) to follow. It may have received some quite negative and scathing reviews but I actually don’t mind it and part of the reason why was that it was visually very exciting for me to see Bond (Daniel Craig) in Latin America.

Due to its diversity Panama doubled up for a couple of countries; Bolivia and Haiti, with the latter first appearing on 17 minutes as Colon fills in for Port Au Prince. I was hoping to make it up to Colon at the Caribbean end of the Canal whilst in Panama but sadly time caught up with me and the warnings of big crime in this slum meant I didn’t want to risk it.  On 18 minutes 007 gets into a bit of a tussle in a hotel and a few minutes after that is the crumbling street which Bond rides along to the waterfront docks in another dangerous part of the city.

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Thankfully, there were a couple of far easier Panama City locations from this film to be seen just a short walk away from my hostel in the historic district of Casco Viejo. Unhappy with MI6 officer Strawberry Fields’ (Gemma Arterton) choice of hotel as part of their cover, Bond takes her by taxi to a far more upmarket hotel on 52 minutes. The Andean Grand Hotel (below) in ‘Bolivia’ isn’t really a hotel but is actually the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) in the World Heritage area of Casco Viejo. It can be seen briefly again on 74 and 77 minutes.

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The main villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), holds a party 54 minutes into the film which Bond attends with Agent Fields shortly after he seduces her. The location of this is of course not La Paz in Bolivia but the Old Union Club in Casco Viejo where all the rich people used to go and party. The ruins were scouted out for the film in October 2007 and is (as it was back then) now like an old shell but believe it or not it was completely revamped for shooting which can be seen in the ‘On Location’ dvd extra. At this party, Bond again rescues the beautiful Camille (Olga Kurylenko) from Greene. As I explored this place it was quite hard to imagine how it was transformed for filming as it really is in  a bad state these days.

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It seems that the bar scene with Bond and one of his closest allies Felix Leiter on 77 minutes was also filmed in Colon. Leiter tells James to move his ass as the SWAT team descends on the building. This can be seen in one of the dvd extras titled ‘Bond On Location’.

See other James Bond filming locations by clicking on the places below:

Tokyo        London        Prague        Venice        Como        Istanbul        Las Vegas        Phuket        Vienna        Hong Kong        New York

 

TF Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

All good things come to those who wait is a very apt phrase given its been four years since ‘Quantum Of Solace‘ not to mention the extra 5 week wait for us movie fans in Japan. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the release of ‘Skyfall‘ which heightened by the fact that its also 50 years since the first Bond film, ‘Dr No‘ was released. That shouldn’t affect one’s judgement of this third film to star Daniel Craig in the secret agent role. However, I have to say that this isn’t just a great Bond film but it is indeed a fantastic film in itself.

First things first though, and one disappointment at the outset is that there is still no traditional gun barrel opener. The pre-titles Turkish scenes in Istanbul and Adana were thrilling and left me short of breath as the opening titles kicked in. Adele’s lovely theme tune is, unlike the last couple (which I do actually like), one where you can actually sing the title of the film.

I was pretty much spoiler free going into this film (albeit not quite to the extent of that of ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ back in the Summer) other than knowing that it had something to do with M’s past coming back to haunt her. Judi Dench’s character comes out from the background of past films to basically co-star alongside Daniel Craig. Together in this I think were both absolutely brilliant with the latter wrestling with both his emotions and his physical and psychological attributes which have served him so well.

Unlike ‘Quantum of Solace‘ the plot of ‘Skyfall‘ is actually understandable and very topical of modern times with its storyline but there are also a few other bits to keep us fans really happy such as the introduction (re-inroduction?) of Q, the backstory on Moneypenny, some of Bond’s family history and the return of the Aston Martin DB5 car (from 1964′s ‘Goldfinger’) which doesn’t make too much sense but it’s a nice nod to the past.

As ever there was a good range of locations taking in the aforementioned Turkey as well as China, England, Scotland and even Japan with Hashima in Nagasaki a.k.a. Gunkanjima (Battleship island) kind of being used as the ‘Dead City’ island retreat of antagonist Silva (Javier Bardem) although in the film it’s off the coast of Macau. The long shots are real but sadly this was all filmed on set at Pinewood Studios. Nevertheless, I’d still love to visit this island one day.

I really did love seeing the scenery from back home of London and the Scottish Highlands or maybe I’m just a misty-eyed Brit living abroad! It was also nice to see BBC News’ Huw Edwards as well as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer perform their cameo news anchor duties within the film.

The name Skyfall refers to Bonds family estate and childhood home in Scotland (filmed in reality in Surrey) where he retreats to with M leaving a trail behind so that Silva can find them and thus turn the tables as they had always been one step behind him up until then. Along with the innkeeper they then basically defend from within with limited resources akin to that of ‘The A-Team‘ or even ‘Home Alone‘! The ending took me by surprise and I was so thankful that I didn’t know what was going to happen beforehand. It is a long film but its 142 minute entirety thankfully passed me by with relative ease.

I’m now just relieved that I can finally read other reviews, listen to a backlog of 007 related podcasts and look into adding to my already substantial list of Bond movie locations visited. Bring on the next installment.

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Tokyo Fox Rating 9/10

TF Film Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I hadn’t even heard of this film until I went back to England at Christmas and saw the posters on billboards all over London in anticipation of its Boxing Day release. I then saw the trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson on my parents bookshelf which they’d read and enjoyed. With not enough time to read them I turned my attention to the original Swedish films which by luck were on sale in HMV at Heathrow Airport before I returned to Japan. I snapped them up and asked about the third one but unfortunately they didn’t have that.

         

It was quite nice watching a film without any knowledge of the storyline so that everything which happened was a complete surprise. This international re-make (or whatever you want to call it!) follows the original film closely to the extent that there is very little difference in the films apart from the fact that its in English. Therein lies a problem in where one may question what the point of this David Fincher adaptation is when there is already a fine Swedish/Danish one out there. Are western audiences really not prepared to watch any film with English subtitles if the language is not English. Well it seems so which is a shame as there are some great foreign language movies out there.

Furthermore, this 2011 version is also set in Sweden and stars many actors from that country playing Swedish characters speaking English which seems a little odd to me. I was thinking that this re-make would be moved to the United States or another English-speaking country with the same story played out in a different environment. Given that its not I see very little point in this one being made.

Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoyed this newer adaptation of the book and it entertained me albeit not quite as much as the original which has me on tenterhooks throughout as I was watching with baited breath for what was to come in each scene.

As for the sexual content, well I was pretty horrified when I saw the strong images in the original but I knew what was coming this time and this one didn’t shy away from copying those aversive scenes. I would have loved to have turned around to see the reaction of the Japanese during those moments.

Once I got beyond the fact that Daniel Craig wasn’t playing James Bond I very much got into his character Mikael Blomkvist who is the investigative journalist trying to crack an unsolved ‘who-done-it?’ mystery from 40 years ago on an isolated island in the north of Sweden.

Of course the real star of the film is Rooney Mara who follows in the footsteps of Noomi Rapace and delivers a more aggressive but equally fine performance as the enigmatic 23 year old bisexual computer hacker Lisbeth Salander; possibly the first screen heroine since Lara Croft. Of course I was comparing them from the offset and it took a while for her to grow on me but thats probably the idea with a character of such a unique personality and appearance.

The film played out a casual pace for the first couple of hours and seemingly sped up a bit in the final 40 minutes of a 158 minute film which just didn’t seem to want to end. I thought that it was gonna finish a few times before it did with an ending that is different to the Swedish one.

Como (Italy Filming Locations): Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig’s first outing as ‘007’ in 2006’s ‘Casino Royale‘ re-booted the ‘Bond’ franchise and gave it the kick up the ar*e that it needed. It is in fact one of the best Bond film’s and the ending to the movie was filmed in Como at two locations. We shall begin at the Villa del Balbianello which is where Bond recovers from his beating by the main antagonist Le Chiffre and is being questioned by the dodgy(?) MI6 Agent Mathis in the garden which is actually just outside the ticket office and bookshop entered through the door on the left of the picture below right.
 
Bond is one step ahead of Mathis though and has him tasered and arrested. He is then dragged away across the garden as we get to see the opposite direction of the first scene I mentioned.
 
The next scene begins with a beautiful sweeping shot of the loggia.
 
Bond wakes up to see Vesper (played by Eva Green) and they start to whisper a load of sweet nothings to each other on the south side of the loggia.
 
Monsieur Mendel interrupts the romance by coming up the path which tells anyone who has visited the Villa that he actually arrived by boat. One would thing that that kind of thing is fairly unlikely but you never know. Like it matters anyway!
 
Swiss Bank manager Mendel then ignores Vesper’s pleasantry and puts his briefcase on the table where, after a joke about Swiss chocolates, he asks Bond to input the account number and password into some special device within the case so that his 120 million (dollars?) casino winnings can be transferred. Herr Mendel then exits leaves the Villa grounds the same way he arrived and for all we know he may have sped off on his boat!
 
More flirting, a declaration of love for each other (basically) and a kissing scene follows before the camera is peering down on them from up somewhere in the loggia and that is the last time we see the Villa del Balbianello.
The very final 90 seconds of Casino Royale were shot at Villa La Gaeta in Aquaseria, and was a real pain in the ass to get to. First, I had to wait about 90minutes for a bus but that bus stopped at the depo where I had to wait a while longer before changing to another bus which needed another ticket. Although very easy to see from the lake, when going there by road it is a lot more difficult to spot. After going through a long tunnel you come out and then go almost straight away into another tunnel and as soon as you exit that one its on the right. Very easy to miss!
The first shot we see of the villa is from its front gates as the car of the mysterious Mr White goes down the driveway.
 
This is easy enough to copy as one can just poke their camera through the gates and snap away. At worst this is all I thought I might get as the villa is a private home but I was determined to try and get in somehow. Luckily, as soon as I arrived at the villa a young guy in his twenties was going in the side gate. I asked in my bad Italian if he spoke English to which he thankfully said yes. I asked if I could go in for a few moments to take a photo or two but he said it wasn’t possible as it might upset the other guests. I begged and begged and even offered cash but he wasn’t gonna change his mind. He did say he would take a few quick photo’s for me and sensing that this would be as good as I would get I duly handed him the camera and so that’s why the following photo’s aren’t as good as match-up as I’d usually try and do.
A fantastic aerial shot of the villa in all its glory is followed by Mr White parking his car, looking out across the lake and getting a call from Bond not that he knows it’s him. In fact he even says “Who is this?” which sets up the final line very well.
The response to Mr White’s question is a shot in the leg from a hidden Bond which leaves him crawling across the gravel in front of a bench.
    
Mr White is then shown crawling towards the steps of the villa of which the second step is very recognisable as it has a rusty colour mark in the middle of it. As the villain tries to climb the steps we see the feet of Bond appear and the camera pans up to show his face and we see him holding his mobile in one hand and the gun in the other which he used only moments before. Proof that some things are best left to last as Bond finally answers Mr White’s question in typical 007 fashion; “The name’s Bond…James Bond.”

TF Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Here it is then – a review of a film which came out in November last year apart from the fact that it has only just been released here in Japan. These delayed releases really are annoying as you can basically get the movie on download before it comes out here. I know that promotion and subtitling can take time but if some films have a worldwide release date then surely so can most others, especially the Quantum of Solace which is even distributed by Sony who are of course a Japanese company.

I was very late to get into the Bond franchise with ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ in 1997 being the first one I saw in its entirety and from then I on I was hooked and over the years I have made the effort to see many of the others, both new and old. I even went to James Bond Island near Phuket (featured in 1974’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’) which was a highlight at the time for me and Ethan.

Having bought my ticket in advance (its 500 yen cheaper and also including a free bottle of Coca Cola Zero zero 7) I got up early last week for the 10am showing before work. I’d been doing my best to avoid any article or TV report about the film but couldn’t help but hear that it was now more similar to the excellent Bourne films and that was constantly in my mind as I watched some of the opening scenes which were remnant of The Bourne Ultimatum in my opinion but I guess that film franchise also borrowed heavily from Bond.

Overall, I enjoyed the action parts of the film but coudln’t really explain it plot-wise (luckily so for those who haven’t seen it yet!) but thats never been such an important thing for me. I didn’t think it was as good as Casino Royale and as much as I like Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond I do miss the little things which made 007 iconic such as the gadgets, quips and memorable lines.