Bourne Legacy - Flipside gets agent-trained
Matthew Ray | 17 August 2012
Jeremy Renner is assaulting cinemas as secret genetic experiment/ agent Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy right now. Flipside may not be genetically enhanced but someone once said I'm a bit sneaky so I went to a special training facility to see if I have the chops to make it in the secret spy game.
I'm in a warehouse near Milton Keynes with some other new recruits, and the chaps at Spy Games are going to show me what it takes to operate as an agent of espionage. First up and it's sniper training. Our ex-Commando sniper instructor James tells us the secret to being a dead-eye shot is taking your time. 'Your chest moves as you breathe so the technique I use is to take a couple of deep breaths, then take half of a breath, hold it and squeeze the trigger, don't grab at it.'
The target is a bit wobbly in my sights and I pull the first shots wide by mashing the trigger Xbox 360 style. So I follow James's advice, go zen with my breathing and all of a sudden I'm scoring points. As we collect the targets I'm congratulated on a 'nice grouping.' I think that's a polite way to say that I missed the dead-centre of the target but did it consistently, so that's OK!
Of course if I was out in the field, being hunted down like The Bourne Legacy's Aaron Cross I wouldn't be getting any second chances. 'Being a sniper in real life means sitting in the same position for 48 hours a time being absolutely focussed and ready for the one moment that the target pops into your sights. You have to take your time and make the shot accurate,' says James.
Of course, there's no point being a crackshot if you can't keep tabs on what the bad guys are up to and where they are. That's where the tricks of the surveillance game come in, as well as some highly cunning new technologies. Our spy skills instructor Dave has been tracking people for years and he knows all the best places to hide bugs and cameras. 'The first place you look to put a camera is a smoke detector. It's perfect because it has 360-degree view, slots in the side for a camera lens to look through and no one bothers to look at them much,' he says.
But the cameras are so tiny these days that you can get really good quality, colour footage with zoom from a pinhole camera in the most unlikely of places. 'The coffee mug is a good one, planted to look like someone has left it behind and with a tiny hole in the front for the camera to peek out.'
'I've also used a box file with a camera and wireless transmitter hidden inside that operated for weeks. The trick there is the attention to detail because you can't sneak into the building, get past the guards and plant your red box only to find out that all the other files are black. You even have to copy the ink and handwriting on the label to stop it standing out.'
As well as hidden cameras the art of the stakeout and follow is also essential to the spy's game. But Dave is quick to point out that two blokes sat in a Audi outside a bad guy's house is a dead giveaway so most films are totally unrealistic. 'And you can't just black out the windows as any vehicle that criminals and terrorists can't see into and isn't obviously a work van is suspicious to them.
So we set up camera cars by leaving empty vehicles with pinhole cameras hidden in cracks in the wing mirrors, bodywork and wheels for a 360-degree view.' Then when the follow is on and the agents track a suspect there can be a lot of people involved. 'To follow a single suspect on foot you're going to need a team on foot, one in cars another on bikes because they could get on a tube and emerge some where the vehicles can't get to. So you can end up with 20 people following one person. Once I followed someone out of a house in London, all the way to Heathrow where they got onto a plane. I had to buy a ticket and follow.'
But sometimes you don't even need to follow a target to know where they are going as tacking technology is also very advanced these days. 'I can put a small tracker into a vehicle, get out my iPad and track it across the whole world.'
Following isn't all you have to do as a secret agent - sometimes your target confronts you. What then? It's time to learn some pistol skills. 'The first thing you need to know about pistols is if you have to draw yours then you're in really big trouble,' says James. 'They are only accurate to about 25ft so you have to have a stable body position to fire accurately and be quick on the draw.'
This is why we're lined up with yellow banana guns, our hands hovering over our holsters. James shouts the direction trouble is coming from and we have to step, pivot on our foot in the correct direction, and draw our pistols all in one move. 'Contact left!' It's surprisingly difficult, especially when James points one way and says to draw the other. Now that is sneaky!
If you're going to win a gun fight then it's best to work as a team, as Flipside finds out when we head over to the assault training area. Our instructor Dan may or may not have been in the SAS but he has fought in Afghanistan and definitely looks the part. He teaches how to advance as a section, in pairs. 'When you have rounds pinging off the ground around you then it's hard to put your head off any get some shots. That's why suppressing fire is so important and why you have to have a constant wall of fire going at the enemy.' So as Dan shouts for Alpha to move the other two people in the unit keep firing at the targets, until they are ordered to move and Bravo lays down fire for them. It's simple but it does seem the only sensible way to advance in a gun fight.
But now there's a lull in the training for some lunch. Afterwards we file into an office to watch the Bourne Legacy trailer. We're all pretty sleepy so we're totally unprepared for what happens next. BANG! GET ON THE FLOOR, NOBODY MOVE! I'm pushed forwards onto the desk as out of the corner of my eye I see dudes with assault rifles wearing camo and hockey masks.
The next thing I know they have stormed out again and taken one of us with them! Dan swings into action. 'Right she's been kidnapped, we need to get after the kidnappers and rescue her. I've just head a chopper is inbound so we don't have much time.' We all pile into a jeep assault rifles (well BB guns) at the ready and charge over to the warehouse. We all pile out as Dan opens the door and chucks in a flash grenade. There's a muffled thump as it goes off and we charge inside guns blazing. The bad guys are retreating with their captive so we put our training into practice and advance giving each other covering fire.
Resistance is fierce as we run out into a car-littered courtyard so we take cover and Dan calls up an airstrike. WHOOSH! a Hollywood explosion goes off in front of us and we charge the prison van holding our colleague, finishing off the bad guys on the way. Mission accomplished! Despite all this being made up adrenaline is still surging through my veins and the whole thing felt surprisingly real. 'Excellent job guys, we've rescued the hostage and no one is dead. But who was that who made that massive 20-metre run at the enemy at the end there?' asks Dan. 'Err, that would have been me,' I reply. It seems I wasn't the coolest-headed agent out there today, must go and work on my survivability skills...
The Bourne Legacy is out in Cinemas now - watch this space for our review. And if you want to test out your own secret agent skills then get in touch with www.Spy-Games.com who run regular spy camps and other fun days out.