It probably won’t come as a surprise that screenwriters, directors, producers, and even actors take creative liberties to recreate real-life scenarios in the name of art (or rather entertainment).
That list includes Tony and Jonna Mendez, former CIA agents and Chiefs of Disguise, Jack Barsky, former KGB agent who became American intelligence, Peter Earnest, founding director of the International Spy Museum and 35-year CIA veteran, and William Colby , former director of Central Intelligence, check out some popular movie scenes that are more art than accuracy.
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0 Quick change
In this scene from Mission Impossible III, the improbable hero, Ethan Hawkes, uses the fast-moving method to disguise his identity. And he does it well, seamlessly transforming into a cassock and posing as a priest.
According to Jonna Mendez, however, it is forbidden to disguise an agent as a religious figure, media or peace corps. These vulnerable professions need to be protected from the controls they might be exposed to if they are suspected of harboring agents.
Believe it or not, one of the quick changes Jonna approves of in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles takes place when April switches from librarian type to naughty schoolgirl as it moves through a crowd. The bigger the crowd, the more forgiving they are and the easier it is to change up your look with small tweaks and layers.
If there’s one thing we all look forward to when a James Bond movie is released, it’s seeing the crazy and clever gadgets that Q has come up with in his workshop. The above clip shows the “gadget room” in the movie Kingsman and, according to Dr. Vince Houghton, most of them are either fictional or timeless.
During his career as an intelligence officer, Jack Barsky mainly used everyday items. He remembers passing messages in film canisters and finding a passport and money in a rusty oil can.
Pens are a popular spy film device, and while they’re not necessarily used as weapons in real life, Jonna Mendez recalls cases where a pen was used to power a camera and even an L-pill (fatal pill made by Agents used) to be captured and opted to commit suicide rather than torture). And yes, unfortunately, L pills are completely real and have been used in multiple instances.
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When you think of the Matrix costumes, you most likely think of leather and PVC. Who could forget Neo’s full-length leather jacket or Trinity’s PVC catsuit?
What do our real spies think of their outfits?
“I’ve never met a KGB officer in a leather jacket,” said Jack Barsky, former KGB. “The whole point of being a spy is that you don’t want to look like that.”
For William Colby, former director of Central Intelligence or America’s top spy, a true spy must be “a gray man who has a hard time getting the attention of a waiter in a restaurant”.
And Jonna Mendez agrees. When reviewing a clip from Avengers 1998 in which Uma Thurman wears another PVC catsuit, Jonna asks why they are so popular in films … and then answers her own question with “Because women look so good in them. Hollywood women, at least. “Most real agents, men and women, wouldn’t be trapped dead in them.
The Mission Impossible franchise is known for its gorgeous masks, which our experts say are based on CGI and clever camera angles rather than latex. Because although masks can change a person’s face significantly in real life, including gender and ethnicity, not even the chief of disguise at the CIA can guarantee animation. Masks are additive too; This means that you can add more volume to a small nose, for example, but you cannot hide a large nose with a small nose.
During his tenure with the CIA, Tony Mendez made masks and disguises so that CIA officers could slip past the KGB’s watchful eyes, meet foreign agents, and gather secrets that were cached in dead drops without being discovered by counter-spies. He even helped a black CIA officer meet an Asian diplomat in a city under martial law and under Soviet surveillance. He asked a Hollywood makeup artist to send him masks and turned the clerk and the envoy into Caucasian gentlemen. They met undeterred by roadblocks and checkpoints.
6th Self defense
Reviewing this clip from Iron Man 2, Jack Barsky notices that the Black Widow’s self-defense techniques, while very impressed with the acting, were vastly more aggressive than anything he has ever been trained in. That says a lot when you consider that he used to work for the KGB!
Jack goes on to explain that while the agents are trained in self-defense, in case they find themselves in a dark alley faced with an unsavory character looking to harm them (which seems likely based on the nature of the job), most are Agents, however, are not as skilled at hand-to-hand combat as Hollywood would have you believe. Your goal, after all, is to fly under the radar and gather information instead of drawing attention to yourself through a fist fight.
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5 Cultural customs
In this scene from Inglourious Basterds, the British soldier gives himself away by counting incorrectly on his hand. Europeans start with the thumb. Within a split second, the German soldier realizes that the man is a European.
Jonna Mendez notes that it is the spy’s job to learn not only the language but also the customs, mannerisms and practices of the country / area in which they operate. “And sometimes,” she says, “once you’ve outdone yourself, there is no way out and you have to live with the consequences.”
Following the example above, meddling in the crowd is the surest way for a spy to “disappear”. But even if you do little things differently than you do, you can help those who are in search of you. During this scene from the Casino Royale, the man in the crowd is asked to put his hand to his ear and touch his earphone.
Jonna Mendez’s team at the CIA developed a hand / body free system to prevent this from happening. She also made it a life’s work to understand how fashion affects people’s conclusions about their surroundings, to help her colleagues and other agents meddle.
Uniforms are also often used to help agents meddle, and while the CIA doesn’t have uniform supplies, they can arrange pretty much anything.
We all know this scene from Bourne Identity or some other spy movie – ID documents that are kept in a safe place just waiting for the right person to find and use them.
In reality, however, such documents are far too valuable to be left lying around just in case someone needs them. According to our experts, aliases are created specifically for certain agents and are very carefully controlled by secret services. Putting together alternative identities is laborious and meticulous.
Along with identification documents and passports, the agents also receive pocket trash – those little pieces of paper, pictures and random things that we all collect in our purses or wallets. They work hand in hand with the important cover story, which is also the next entry.
2 Cover story
“Spies are people too,” says Jack Barsky. To help them in their work, they need credible backstories. Something they can identify with and speak about spontaneously and believably, either as an individual or as a group.
Argo is the real story of how Tony Mendez helped create the escape plan, false identities, and brilliant disguises that six Americans used to escape from revolutionary Tehran, where they were held hostage, in 1980.
The film, with Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture, and both Tony and Jonna Mendez were instrumental in it. The cover story, a Hollywood location scouting team, had to be something Tony and his team could easily talk about.
1 Sex espionage
Based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews, a former CIA agent, the film Red Sparrow explores the idea of the seduction method, which is mainly associated with Germans (men named Romeos) and Russians (women named swallows).
All of our experts agree that the art of seduction plays a role in espionage these days and that it is not that far-fetched to believe that Americans are using it too.
“I think sex espionage is reality. I would be surprised if there are big secret services that in no way recruit women for dirty work, ”says Jack Barsky.
But unlike the one in the film, the CIA is highly unlikely to have a school of seduction.
At least that’s what Jonna Mendez says …
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