Engines revved, tunnels, flashing lights, police sirens, screeching tyres, angry looking people in cars; Yes, I was in London traffic before going to see the Bond movie.
I'll describe it as 'old school Bond with less humour'. Car chase along the Italian Riviera, the Aston Martin that can't out run a jumped up Fiat full of machine gun toting bad guys. We know we are in for a car or two to explode in flames before the title sequence and are not disappointed.
But did it deliver overall? Only partly. I thought it was going through the moves rather adding a new overall sparkle. Bond films should have signature elements but some were really missing. No gimmicks from Q, rather little overt humour from the almost silent Bond. A few playboy moments but rather more chases around quarries and building sites.
The scene where they arrived at a backpacker quality hotel and then Bond decides to move their 'teachers on sabbatical' cover story to the local equivalent of the Ritz was about as funny as it got as well as presenting a self reference to the films generally more gritty side.
Of course there was a reasonable trail of car/boat/plane chases, with the propeller driven transport plane able to out-manouvre a stunt fighter plane and a steel hulled fishing boat able run rings around a couple of purpose built high performance assault dingys. Its all in the jump cuts - and there were plenty.
After climbing over thirty minutes of advertisements for Bond linked merchandise, the movie itself was a couple of hours of predictable escapism - you just knew that the hydrogen fuel cells powering the desert hotel would go properly unstable even before one of the colonels mentioned it.
I'll describe it as watchable, certainly good Christmas season 2009 television but somehow the core of the Bond franchise needs revitalising beyond adding a few 'kerching' product placement moments (although I did like the drink recipe interlude).
I don't mind having a tough guy version of Bond, but previous films could also give us good chuckles and pantomime as well as the thrills. I don't think of it as Bond baggage. More its heritage and a way to delineate it from Bourne and some of the other successors. It seems like the direction is out to emulate others now rather than pay more than fleeting oil-coated homage to the line. This villain didn't even have a limp, let alone a cat or piranha fish in a tank.
However, it can still make for a fun night at the movies, ideally rounded out with a pizza, glass of beer and some amateur film analysis. Its one of those films where everyone has a viewpoint.