A spectacular new interactive 'cinematic experience' is available for James Bond fans in Austria – the mountainous location for 2015 007 adventure 'Spectre'. We took a sneak preview
The taxi driver looked confused as I heaved myself into his cab. This was off-peak tourist season – and I wasn’t even carrying skis. Furthermore, his Mercedes taxi hadn't witnessed a client all day.
As rain lashed the runway and gusts whipped thick cloud around sharp mountain ledges, conditions for flying into Innsbruck airport were far from ideal, so the cabbie could have been forgiven for assuming I was on the run. Perhaps hiding out from peaky governmental types – or 007’s nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Except, while the imposing Austrian Alps would prove a perfect haven for renegades when the skiers are elsewhere, this region will soon be drawing in all manner of film buffs. My dozing taxi driver may find the reason why to be something of a culture shock – Sölden’s new James Bond-themed attraction, 007 Elements. We went for a sneak peek:
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As if flying into one of the world’s most fiendishly tricky airport approaches before tanking up the A12 beyond Ötztal Bahnhof to Sölden isn’t quite enough to get you into the Bond mood, the brand-new cinematic installation is built into the permafrost – 3048 meters above sea level. Blofeld would be proud.
Utilising the building now famous as the Hoffler Klinik in 2015’s Spectre, it’s far more than merely a 007 ‘museum’ with some stuffy old displays under dank lighting. No, this is not for those who enjoy leafing through archives in serene quiet. Rather, it’s a cinematic walkthrough destined to convert even the most cynical of non-believers into true Bond aficionados.
Adverts are plastered on every available space upon approach to the cable-car station – a fierce, dominant portrait of the mistreated Britten-Norman Islander aeroplane that 007 employed to dispatch Blofeld’s fleet of unique Land Rovers.
There’s a good reason for that; Jaguar Land Rover is the official partner of 007 Elements, alongside the Omega watch brand as the official sponsor. MGM, Bergbahnen Sölden and EON Productions are the main partners – that last partner famous for producing all 24 official Bond films. Furthermore, JLR’s involvement is showcased when you reach the midway point up the mountain with an exhibit firmly positioned to grab your attention. It refuses to let go.
Meet and greet with the Range Rover SVR
Stepping out of the first of two cable cars employed during the full ascent, you are met by Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations’ all-conquering 550bhp Range Rover Sport SVR. Sporting a roof-mounted pod, this is no ordinary SVR. With its scarred, battered and fissured body panels it is, in fact, the very car seen on screen in Spectre carrying Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux).
It was difficult to pull myself away from the dirt-streaked automotive beast, but the crowd of mountain bikers swarming around its protective barriers was swelling with each arriving gondola. The next attention grabber was musical; rich orchestral sounds sliced the air like Rosa Klebb's poison-tipped shoe, emanating from the next set of cable cars.
For the final leg to the Ice-Q restaurant where 007 Elements is based, cable-car gondolas are employed, each one wrapped in golden 007 livery. Their golden doors open to reveal an industrial frame and darkened interior lined with vinyl seating, to the lush soundtrack of John Barry-penned Bond music. The perfect soundtrack to accompany your secret-agent alter-ego up the mountain.
With an instrumental version of the You Only Live Twice theme for back-up, it was hard not to fantasise about being Bond, especially while gazing through the curved glass onto the craggy, desolate rocks. I admit that the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end for the entire ten-minute trip, even if I remained unable to capture the scalding Daniel Craig glare.
Defender SVR on the rocks
At the final terminus, a group of hikers are shouting to one another excitedly. They're gathered around a rock looming through Sölden’s dense cloud like a cult congregation. I can heartily endorse what they're worshipping – out of the mist poke the headlamps of Land Rover’s Defender SVR, as used by Blofeld’s private army. Inky black and sporting more external equipment than Q-branch could comprehend, the Defender's aggressive tyres and fierce stance radiate cool. If the ten commandments had been delivered by car, this would be the scene.
The giant double doors into 007 Elements open, passing the 'Writing on the Wall' informing bystanders that they are down the ‘Barrel of the Gun’ – Thomas Newman’s instrumental, Oscar-winning orchestral Spectre theme song accompanies a large screen showcasing Daniel Kleinman’s intricate title work.
Very much now living our own movie, post-credits welcome you onto a balcony decorated with James Bond’s family crest – Orbis Non-Sufficit; The World is Not Enough. Although hampered by the unyielding murk, the view from 007 Element's open-air plinth is reportedly second to none. Yet, shrouded in white, the entire function adopts an eerie tone. It’s a cold one at that, but moving through the automatic glass doors brings the offer of warmth.
Rested upon heated cement (yes, you read that correctly) benches, the big screen fires up with a welcome message from director Sam Mendes, talking through a concise history of the 007 franchise. Not just that, but Mendes explais why Sölden was chosen for filming, and how the resulting 007 Elements remains so rousing for the area.
It’s a seldom found opportunity for filmmakers to utilise a setting never before used for such an onscreen venture. In Spectre, the location played host to a reclusive, and expensive, clinic which Bond had to infiltrate, flushing out a contact required for his mission. Caught out, pursued by Blofeld’s (Christoph Waltz) henchmen using a Range Rover SVR and two highly-tuned Defender 110 Crew-Cabs, the contact is kidnapped – resulting in a spectacular downhill chase with a difference.
Bond uses a plane to disable the Land Rover fleet – amid a tree-lined, Austrian forest. It’s automotive and aviation carnage expertly choreographed as though a form of violent dance. With guns. And explosions.
For all the settings required – an open tundra, weighty forest, small village and road-wrinkled valley – Sölden provided everything within close proximity. It was a location manager's fantasy, with the permafrost-based 'museum' paying direct homage to the film crews’ efforts when on site.
The greatest bit of editing ever?
After Mendes’ introduction but before Naomi Harris explains all things local during her visual lecture, I enter a darkened hall of mirrors. From a circular platform, the eerie tone of Christoph Waltz oozes through the atmosphere. The internal temperature is deliberately kept at 1 degrees Celsius (permafrost, remember?), the room design inspired by The Man with the Golden Gun's climatic funhouse.
Joined by the snarling pitch of Christopher Lee and Christopher Walken, as Scaramanga and Max Zorin respectively, the montage to end all film reels instigates a wild ride through the most explosive 007 moments. The AMC Hornet barre- rolls to a rich Bond theme, followed in quickfire motion by the submersible Lotus Esprit, Aston Martin DB5 and all manner of vehicular gadgets.
We're whisked into the ‘Briefing Room’ to see a scale model of the mountain. Moneypenny (Harris) explains the importance of Sölden to the film, then encourages you to enter the ‘Tech Lab’ – essentially, this is Q’s lair.
What interactive aspects are there?
This state-of-the-art space allows visitors to interact with the gadgets and get up close with props, including Roger Moore’s Ski-gun and a replica of Scaramanga’s trademark weapon of choice.
Besides Brosnan’s grappling gun from Goldeneye and Q’s radio-controlled dog featured in 1985’s A View to a Kill, an all-new approach to car detail appears in the form of a sliding screen, highlighting the shape of Jaguar’s CX75 in virtual form.
You can even place your hand on the MI6 scanner for a predicted governmental report on how you would fare as a 00-agent. As it turns out, I would see 40 villains off, covering 5.4 million air miles yet causing £544bn worth of collateral damage. Who said men can’t multi-task?
After grappling with five decades worth of 007 tech, Desmond Llewelyn’s sordid voice echoing between your ears, the ‘action hall’ awaits.
Bond Action Hall
This is an installation that centres on the work of the special effects and stunt departments, featuring the front portion of the aircraft that Bond pilots in Spectre.
Furthermore, visitors also get a behind-the-scenes look at the exact makeup of Spectre’s thrilling mountain chase sequence. In model form, information is served up with creative 1:43 scale flare, demonstrating how air-cannons were employed to flip the Defender and how the Range Rover SVR remained the only vehicle up to towing the rig housing Daniel Craig and the plane for up close shots.
It takes real effort to pull yourself away, intoxicated with the displays and drunk on scenery, but it’s worth it for the next stage; a chance to witness the completed segment of the film. With new-found knowledge on how the scene was crafted, the appreciation of what appears on screen has never been so exciting.
With the silver-screen action wrapped up, the inevitable gift shop awaits; and it’s crammed with desirable merchandise. Not only that, but Moore’s ski suit from The Spy Who Loved Me stands alongside further props from The World is Not Enough and A View to a Kill. Then there are the t-shirts, soundtracks, DVDs, scale models and hoodies. Take a credit card – you won’t regret it. Better yet, take someone else's.
As a parting gift, the shop is peppered with interactive screens exploring each film’s advertising campaign and history. You could spend hours here, drenched in cinematic history and devouring quote upon fact, but my time is cut short. With the weather closing in and a plane to catch, I reluctantly depart 007 Elements for the return leg home.
Is it worth experiencing? Absolutely. There is no other ‘museum’ quite like it. If you happen to be planning a ski holiday anytime soon and fancy a Bond flare, Sölden’s 007 Experience won’t disappoint. You can even get a Vodka Martini on site with the Ice-Q restaurant. What more could you possibly want?
Officially open on July 12, tickets are priced at €22 for adults and €12 for children. Check out the official 007 Elements website for further information. Or better yet, book tickets here. We promise you – it’s worth it. You could even use a jetpack to arrive in frozen style.
Video shot and edited by Paul Harmer
Photography by Christoph Nosig, 007 ELEMENTS, and Calum Brown