Living as I do these days in a cultural backwater, I didn’t get to see the new Bond film until last night. Although we had to wait for it, we haven’t been spared the hype, marketing, and product tie-ins, so it was surprising that given all that pre-publicity we were able to roll up to our local multiplex on the spur of the moment on the film’s Aussie release day and get tickets for that evening’s showing with no problems.
Now since everyone else has already had several weeks in which to see the film and form their own opinion, there is nothing original left for me to say about it. Of course it’s not as good as Casino Royale, but then I knew that beforehand and actually found it to be better than I was expecting as a result. If I were a lazy tabloid journalist reviewing the film, I might say that it was “packed with non stop action”, or something equally trite, and that some of it is a bit like the bits in the Bourne films with the jumping across rooftops and through balconies and houses in a picturesque old town. Unfortunately they seemed to have forgotten to include a properly fleshed out story. When it suddenly came to an end, with the bad guys having been disposed of without too much difficulty (oops. sorry–spoiler alert…), I found myself sort of thinking: “is that it?”
But mostly I came away from the cinema wondering what part of Bolivia that was supposed to be, with all those perfectly tarmacked roads. I guess they thought that if they didn’t film in Bolivia itself, most viewers wouldn’t notice. But their “La Paz” looked nothing like the real one, being neither at altitude nor on the side of a hill (Wikipedia tells me that this is because those scenes were filmed in Panama). And I’m not sure I saw a single building anywhere in Bolivia that was quite as plush as the hotel that Bond apparently stayed in.
But it’s the roads that are the dead giveaway: roads in Bolivia are a pot-holed, bumpy mess, and not the sort of thing you’d want to subject an Aston Martin to. And they certainly don’t have pristine road signs dotted along them. In fact, I thought to myself, the bit at the end looked a lot like the bit of Chile that we crossed into after our tour of the salar de uyuni, where the disparity in road quality was one of the first things I noticed, and this turns out to be because it was indeed filmed in the Atacama desert. Which is close, I guess, given that this part of the world was actually in Bolivia, once.
I did notice one nod towards Bolivian reality, though. When Felix Leiter and James pop out for a beer in La Paz it looked remarkably like they were drinking Paceña Gold, which is a real Bolivian beer (and probably the only one you can buy outside the country). I’m surprised it wasn’t Heineken or some other western brand who’d paid a fortune for some product placement, but I don’t think that the type of bar they were at would be selling the Gold version; it’d be much more likely to be the bog standard white label Paceña pilsner. And in poxy little chica bottles like that? Nah. Bolivian beer is mostly sold in whopping 600-odd ml affairs, although perhaps that would have made it too difficult for the actors to keep the labels carefully covered up, as they did throughout the scene (hardly surprising really, as I can’t imagine that the Bolivian national brewing company would have paid to have their brand appear in the film…)