Results tagged “spy” from kwc blog

Spy Museum

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The Spy Museum in DC is a fun way to spend an afternoon. It's full of real-life spy gadgetry like cameras and bugs as well as historical artifacts like a letter from George Washington directing the creation of a spy network (more about George Washington, spymaster). There are also interactive touchscreen displays, such as exhibits that invite you to spot the dead drops and a visualization of the Enigma encryption engine.

The museum starts off with the tools of the trade. Some of my favorites included a beautiful example of hiding in plain sight -- a camera hidden in the side of a camera case -- as well as a camera attached to a pigeon. There was also a great display of various bugging techniques and a replica of a bug so ingenious that I still don't understand it: Russian school kids gave an American ambassador a carved eagle seal with a hidden air cavity and passive antenna, which could be activated as a bug by aiming a particular frequency at it.

The museum then moves you through a wide swath of spy history from historical figures like Sun Tzu, George Washington, and Harriet Tubman, to historical events like World War II and the McCarthy trials. Of course the vast majority of spy history may never be known, but its fun to peruse some of the more notorious cases.

There are side-games to participate in as you journey through the museum. One is keeping your cover, which requires you to memorize an identity and mission. I thought this would be fun until I discovered that it just involved answering questions at a computer screen -- it would have been much more fun if employees were trained to come up to you and ask you questions about your cover; it just isn't scary when you walk up to a computer screen vs. someone walking up to you.

A less official side game is sneaking into "secure" areas, such as a door with a combination lock that opens into a "Top Secret" room -- actually just a facilities room with the air conditioners. This is a more difficult game to play because it requires you to distinguish between allowed secret areas and actual private areas. I had to debate for awhile whether a staircase marked "No Admittance" was truly that, or just another opportunity to test my covert skills (I figured out that it was the stairway to the administrative offices, so I aborted).

Movie: Casino Royale

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casinoroyale.jpgI went to the Spy Museum in DC, which I thought would be good preparation for Casino Royale, but as it turns out, it wasn't. The new 007 flick is less spy-gadgety and much more blunt assassin who's not much for covers. With this latest reboot of the 007 series, the producers decided to do away with the Pinky-and-the-Brain-world-domination schemes, Swiss Army cars, and overly cute dialog, instead delivering something more realistic: a bad guy who's just trying to make a paltry $100M. Even Dr. Evil wouldn't be blown away. The bad guy does have one ridiculous trait -- crying blood -- but you can almost believe that all of this all of this is happening as we speak. It is perhaps for that reason that the new Bond feels more violent and dark, as every punch is more believable. Or perhaps it is the fact that even the opening credits do away with the female silhouettes, instead treating you to scene after scene of silhouettes being murdered.

Daniel Craig plays this Bond role well: a gentleman in a suit with a psychopath beneath. Well-adjusted human beings don't go around murdering people in bathrooms. The psychopathic elements remind me of Frank Miller's Batman and the more realistic spy drama reminds me of Rucka's Queen and Country, but at its heart you still feel that you are watching a Bond movie, albeit stripped of some of its more silly trappings.

A lot of the reviews have been billing this as a origins-style movie, ala Spiderman and Batman Begins, but that seems to be misplaced in my opinion. Bond is still learning in this film, but that is not the nature of this film.

I'm a bit surprised by the sky-high 95% Rotten Tomatoes score, which you generally see for movies that are more well executed than this. I attribute it in part to lowered expectations from previous films, as this movie is not without its faults. It is a very long 2 hours and 24 minutes, the pacing is a bit off with some really rough cuts, and my mind still hasn't made chronological sense out of the cuts in the casino scene. But is a good action film, assuming you like something a bit darker but still PG-13.