Mr White’s Hotel Conundrum

When I writing yesterday’s review of Casablanca, it set me thinking about how perfect that film’s script was. The setting and the premise were clearly set up, the characters and their motivations all clearly defined, the dialogue full of character and precisely furthering the story. The humour worked, the emotion felt real, the character arcs and the general plot were interesting and made sense. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even though the hero didn’t get the girl, it was nonetheless completely satisfying, it all made sense. I didn’t start second-guessing it after it finished and I haven’t spent days splitting it apart.

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Here’s the thing: it’s Mr Whites’s hotel room, in L’American (I’m talking the latest Bond flick, Spectre, now). You see, it doesn’t make any sense. Bond has rescued the late Mr White’s daughter, Madeline Swann, from the bad guys and has gone with her to Tangiers to find L’American, only it’s not a person, it is a place- a hotel in fact. There’s a room there that Mr White kept going to, where he spent family holidays with wife and daughter every year. Only in the room Bond cannot find anything unusual. Until, that is, he spots a mouse running through a gap between the floor and wall.  Bond dramatically smashes through this false wall and discovers a secret room beyond, containing all Mr White’s intel and secrets. Hurrah.

But it doesn’t make sense. First of all, Bond has smashed through a wall to get in. How the hell did Mr White use the room if it doesn’t have a door?  A room without a door? Did Mr White have to smash through the wall every time he visited the hotel and then rebuild it and redecorate the hotel room to hide the fact? Does the hotel owner know about the room? You’d think the owner would have to, as you’d think even the cleaner would notice part of a hotel room has disappeared behind a suddenly-new wall. Or notice that the decor changes every time Mr White pays a visit.

So maybe the hotel owner is ‘in’ on it. Maybe Mr White pays him a retainer. Maybe he even keeps the room rented out all year; I mean it’d be embarrassing if Mr and Mrs Jones from Texas with their little boy Tristam on a lovely holiday accidentally noticed, like Bond does, the false wall and hidden room behind it full of horrible terrorist stuff and then posted it all on Facebook.  Where’s the (secret?) way in to the secret room; does it have one? Is it really a room without a door?

I have a theory; it’s all about spectacle and the catharsis of the moment; a moment that outweighs the logic of the whole in favour of the thrill of that moment. We are supposed to be thrilled/excited at how Bond discovers the room and smashes into it with his fists. We aren’t supposed to think,  hold on, where’s the door? All Bond had to do was find a secret catch and a hidden panel/door, it would be fine, maybe less exciting/thrilling, except for the lingering question what the hell was Mr White doing hiding all his stuff in a hotel? 

And of course, there’s the rub. If this is Mr White’s Holy Of Holy’s, his Secret Base of Operations, his motherlode of sensitive intel, incredibly valuable and secret, why would he have it in a hotel room on the other side of the world from where he lives? Does he really think it is so well hidden, so safe? How often does he go there? Is anyone watching the place for him just in case? Would he only learn something was amiss if he paid the place a visit to find  someone else had redecorated the place again? What if the hotel burnt down in a fire? Add to that, it’s already been established when Bond discovers Mr White back at his home in Austria, he has a secret basement/lair full spy stuff anyway; why not just keep it all in there? Why bother with the hotel in the first place? What does it do to enhance the plot/film?

This seems to be happening all the time with films now. The script isn’t worked out, no-one seems to be debating it, testing it. Mr White hides his intel in an hotel room- why? He He thinks its safe – why? Bond breaks into it by punching through the wall- why? There is no door – why? There’s no encryption on any of the data and the laptop is still switched on/logged in -why? So much could just be fixed by asking ‘why’ and establishing a logical explanation.

Its like, a few scenes later, Bond and Swann on a train journey to the Spectre base are ambushed and nearly killed by Spectre assassin Hinx- why? The central plot of cat and mouse is a scheme orchestrated by Oberhauser who intends Bond to find him- indeed Bond and Swann don’t find their own way to the Spectre base, Oberhauser arranges a car to meet and take them there, where they are greeted like expected guests. Why send Hinx to kill them if Oberhauser wants to finally meet Bond/reveal his identity and masterplan and himself torture and kill Bond? If Hinx succeeded, wouldn’t that ruin Oberhauser’s plan for his personal revenge against Bond? Wouldn’t that just piss him off?

Agh. No. I’m getting a headache. God, it’s Prometheus all over again…

…and the best film of 2015 is….

I’m rather torn on this one. On the one hand, the biggest film of the year (The Force Awakens) turned out to be a flawed, ‘safe’ reboot/continuation of the beloved Star Wars saga that didn’t deliver everything it promised, and the years perhaps most audacious film, Mad Max: Fury Road, was a veritable tour de force and more daring than I could have possibly hoped. And yet my best film of 2015 is neither of them. Instead, it’s…

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 yes Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, something I would never have believed twelve months ago. Somehow I find it hard to believe even now. Indeed, many of you are probably thinking I’ve had too much to drink over the holidays. Somehow though it is indeed my favourite film of the year. Its just one of those films that simply delivers- it is what it is; a daft spy caper with lots of high-octane thrills, quite a few laughs and a great cast. It can be argued that it is the film Spectre should have been, and it does share many themes and plot devices with that Bond entry (so much so that it rather stole Bond’s thunder, what with its central hero going rogue in order to uncover the existence of a shadowy super-criminal organisation). While Spectre was generally grim and moody with at least a passing nod to realism, Rogue Nation is wildly over the top fun and great entertainment because of it. I recently watched Rogue Nation again following its Blu-ray release and yes, it was huge fun all over again. High art it isn’t, and neither is it sophisticated or thoughtful, but it is a much better film than it possibly has a right to be. The script is tight with plenty of twists and turns, the cast is terrific (particularly Rebecca Ferguson), the stunts are fantastic and the direction by Christopher McQuarrie (who is, thank goodness, returning for the next film) is a genuine marvel. Even Tom Cruise outdoes himself. Frankly, it blew me away and it really surprised me how much I enjoyed it. It delivers from start to finish everything you’d expect from a Mission Impossible film, leaving me eagerly anticipating the next in the series.