What’s a James Bond movie without gadgets? “SPECTRE,” the latest film in the decades-long series, delivers way-out innovations that aren’t yet ready for real life, tributes to classic gee-whiz-ware and a couple of high-tech twists that are ripped from the headlines.
Here are seven technological tropes to watch for when Bond goes after the shadowy crime organization known as SPECTRE.
Aston Martin DB10: One of James Bond’s best-known sports cars is the Aston Martin DB5, which made its debut in “Goldfinger” and was outfitted with a rear-facing water cannon and a jetpack in the trunk for “Thunderball.” The DB10 was custom-produced for “SPECTRE” and features a rear-facing flamethrower plus other options. For what it’s worth, a less high-tech type of flamethrower-equipped car won a tongue-in-cheek Ig Nobel Prize in 1999 and inspired the invention of the flamethrower motor scooter.
Nine Eyes surveillance network: One of the biggest threats that Bond faces is being laid off, due to the British intelligence service’s plans to join an all-seeing intelligence alliance called Nine Eyes and ax the double-oh operation. The way Nine Eyes works in “SPECTRE” is similar to the way the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance works in reality. And some of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggest that if you add Denmark, Norway, France and the Netherlands to the “Five Eyes” (United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand), the numbers match up.
Smart blood: The British secret service’s fictional quartermaster, known as Q, injects Bond with a concoction of nanoparticles called “smart blood” to track his every move. Despite what you see in the movie, injectable nanoparticles are still in the realm of science fiction. Or are they? Medical researchers are working on several kinds of injectable substances that can identify cancer cells. The folks at Seattle-based Blaze Bioscience are among the pioneers.
Spy-vs.-spy poisoning: One of the bad guys in “SPECTRE” falls prey to thallium poisoning – which parallels the strange case of KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko. In 2006, Litvinenko was poisoned, fell ill and died in London. At first, toxicologists blamed thallium, a colorless, odorless metal substance that can be fatal in doses as small as a gram; however, the poison was later determined to be polonium-210. The evidence suggests that Russian spies slipped a lethal dose of the radioactive substance into his tea. An earlier KGB defector, Nikolai Khokhlov, is said to have been the target of an unsuccessful thallium poisoning attempt in 1957.
Brain-drilling torture: One of the most memorable scenes in “Goldfinger” involves a laser beam inching its way toward James Bond’s privates as he’s strapped to a table. “Do you expect me to talk?” Bond asks Goldfinger. “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” the bad guy replies. In “SPECTRE,” the unnecessarily complex torture technique has to do with a tiny robotic drill boring into Bond’s skull. It’s not much of a spoiler to say he survives, but the moment could make moviegoers squirm even more than 007 did.
Trick watch: The gadget-equipped wristwatch is an old standby for James Bond movies, used by the bad guys (for example, the watch with a wire garrote in “From Russia With Love”) as well as the good guys. Bond’s various wristwatches have been equipped with a Geiger counter, or a laser cutter, or a built-in printer for receiving secret messages, or a detonator. Keep an eye out for what his watch does in “SPECTRE.”
Planes with snowmobiles: You might not notice one of the movie’s coolest high-tech twists – and that’s exactly what the filmmakers are hoping for. During one of the splashiest scenes in “SPECTRE,” Bond has to steer an airplane that’s crashing down a mountainside. To get the exterior shots, several airplane fuselages were outfitted with hidden snowmobiles and driven down the slope as the cameras rolled. Totally safe, right? It doesn’t look that way in the movie, as you can see toward the end of this video clip: