Open on our intrepid (or is that insipid) duo of Craig and Swann walking through the streets of Tangiers, we know its Tangiers because once again the auteur Sam Mendes provided a label at the bottom of the screen. At least this time I’ll concede we weren’t told several times, in a multitude of ways, where Craig was headed in the previous scene as they have throughout the film, but why couldn’t Mendes do something clever to tell us where they were?
I'd also like to note this is the same Sam Mendes who claimed he couldn’t put the gun barrel walk at the beginning of Skyfall because he would have to insert an establishing shot in between it and the “artistic” opening with Craig emerging from the shadows in that film. Turns out all he needed to do was just insert “Istanbul” at the bottom of the screen! But seriously, how is it this “magnificent” “irreplaceable” (overrated) director couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative than just plastering the name of the city on the screen? Perhaps incorporate Tangiers in to the signs (yes plural) or mural that state the name of the hotel they arrive at, or have the bell person simply say welcome to Tangiers!
As if to add insult to injury, Craig is wearing a very near approximation of Dalton’s Tangiers outfit from The Living Daylights, tan chinos, blue polo shirt and tan jacket. Craig and Swann enter a building which is called… Wait for it… The Hotel L’ American! So that’s what she meant when she said it wasn’t a person! I imagine this is some sort of “wink” “nod” or “homage” to that other Moroccan based classic Casablanca, where the bulk of the action takes place at Rick’s Café American. speaking about the name of this hotel, everyone referred to this place as L’ American, even when they thought it was a person, why? If you think L’ American is a person rather than the name of a place, why would you not refer to him as the American if English is your native dialect, why are you referring to this “person” in French?
The two check in and are shown their room. Swann goes to the window, wistfully looks out and begins a dramatic monologue. She begins “This is where they spent their wedding night”, I assume she means her parents, she continues “They came back every year”, “Then they brought me with them too”, “He kept coming back even after the divorce”. Craig replies “Well then, I’m sorry”, for what? Sorry her parents were unimaginative vacationers? That her Dad couldn’t let go? That we were subjected to this retched cinematic stool sample?
Craig decides it would be a good idea to tear up the book shelf while Swann indulges in a glass of wine. Deep and I mean DEEP within the built in cabinet Craig finds a 75% full bottle of vodka, he offers Swann a drink of her “inheritance” which she properly declines. Craig on the other hand takes a big draught on the bottle of god knows how old hooch he found in the back of a cabinet! Ugh, now that's an example of having a problem! If you ever wanted to kill Craig’s “Bond” just leave any random bottle of booze out, perhaps under a large safe labeled “ACME” and wait to cut the rope holding it aloft!
The two share some very stilted dialogue about her disdain for her father, which I’ll gloss over to spare those who still have food in their stomachs. After boo-hooing about dear old Dad, Swann declares she’s going to bed, attempts to stand and is suddenly drunk! Not a sign of slur or stutter in her little speech about daddy disappointing her, but yet here she’s literally falling in to bed! She tells Craig if he comes anywhere near her she’ll kill him, she also mutters “what am I doing here?” (Funny again I find myself in concurrent thought with a character from this film) before passing out fully clothed (that’s important in a moment)
We find Craig asleep in a chair stirred by a rat scurrying about the room. Craig produces his pistol and aims it at the rat. “Who sent you”… “Who are you working for?” He asks the rat. So apparently James Bond, yes that James Bond, has been reduced to interrogating rodents! This scene also reminds me of a scene from Austin Powers, that most dastardly of pictures, which signaled the death knell of the Bond of old, the scene where Austin grabs hold of an assassin and asks “Who does number 2 work for?!”
The rat mistakes Craig for an albino boa constrictor and runs off in to a comically stereotypical mouse hole. If you’ve ever seen a Tom and Jerry cartoon, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Craig sees this, eyes a crooked picture on the wall and grabs his trusty Heineken™, takes a healthy pull and approaches the wall. Trying to figure out where the rat went to, he commits what the frat boys who worship at his alter call a party foul and pours his swill, I mean fine Dutch lager, on the floor which runs under the wall. I’m sorry if I’m a bit thick, but rats live in walls and basements, why would the presence of a rat and its exit through a wall cause one to assume there was anything suspect about it. Craig being the great thinker I am not, deduces there is a false wall there and like the Incredible Hulk that he is, smashes through it. This wakes Swann who somehow is inexplicably wearing a satin night gown! We just watched her pass out fully clothed not a minute ago, she also declared in no uncertain terms just how much she detests Craig, but she had no problem apparently slipping in to a slinky negligee during the night?!
Craig says “Of course” as he steps in to the secret room; yes of course this plot point would be included in this collection of non-sequiturs EON and Mendes call a film! He flips on a light, because why wouldn’t a secret room in a hotel suite in Tangiers not be fully hooked up to the power grid, the room complete with fully operational 1984 era commodore 64 computer springs to life! It’s full of various espionage gear, sniper rifles, AK-47s, passports, and the afore mentioned computer all covered in an inch of dust. Between this and the cabin, White must have been quite the slovenly housekeeper!
Let me back up here, first of all how absolutely ridiculous this is! White built a secret room in a hotel in Tangiers, let me repeat that, a HOTEL, not apartment, not condominium, a HOTEL! A room hundreds of people pass through yearly, not to mention more ridiculously, the staff! Nobody, not one of them noticed that room 246 was suddenly missing the water closet?!?!
Then, there is Swann herself, she knew about the hotel, she knew the room number, but she didn’t know about the secret chamber? She had no recollection of how daddy would bust down the wall and rebuild it every holiday? Or let’s say he started this after Swann and her mother left him, she should have realized that the suite was one room short!
Amongst the dusty 1980's era spy toys are poorly photo shopped pictures (yes more) of a young Swann and daddy tacked up on a bulletin board. The touching music begins and she starts to get visibly choked up emotionally; in sort of an “I guess daddy did love me after all” sort of way. Which is confusing as White’s love of his daughter was never in question, she left him because she couldn’t stand his “sick life” as she called it, so what gives? Why are we surprised? What’s the big reveal here? Like everything else in this film it’s “cause we said so”. Craig finds a video tape, yes you read that right a VHS video tape labeled “Vesper Lynd interview”. OK, Casino Royal was made and took place in 2006, VHS was long dead by then, remember even the Bahamian hotel security footage was recorded on DVD in that film! As Craig holds the tape Swann asks what is it, Craig sets it down and says “nothing” how existential!
As Craig logs in to the dusty, fully functional computer, Swann just so happens to find a small bit of paper tacked next to her pictures on the bulletin board and brings it to Craig. “What is this?” She asks, “Map coordinates” Craig replies. How convenient! White just left those lying around. Craig punches them in to the computer revealing a compound secreted inside a crater in the middle of the desert. Craig says “He was looking for someone, he was looking for him, and he sent me here to finish the job!” Did he? Then why the bloody hell didn’t he just tell you about “The secret room in suite 246 at the hotel L’American, I have map coordinates tacked to a bulletin board, they lead to a secret lair in a crater in the Moroccan desert, kill him for me!” We could have saved the 45 minutes of my life that was wasted on two hackneyed chase sequences and a giant steaming pile of stilted dialogue!
Swann states “I’m coming with you.” Craig replies “No you’re not, I want you alive, and I may not be coming back.” Ooooh, a suicide mission! She says “I know, but I want to learn what happened to my father.’ Uh, yeah, you already know what happened to your father, he was poisoned with radiation, then he took his own life. It seems as if they wrote two versions of the Swann/Daddy storyline, one in which she is told what happened, and one in which she wasn’t, and they constantly confuse the two.
Back to London where M finds he wasn’t included in a mass email and missed a meeting, there is nothing more compelling than office politics! C states that South Africa is “now onboard” and 9 eyes is a go! M and C bicker about the “future” and “past” of intelligence, and C states he will be shutting down the 00 section, which should come as no surprise, as he said he was doing exactly that throughout the film.
So you’re off to find a secret desert lair in the middle of nowhere, how do you get there? You take the train of course…