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A Stiff Drink of Bond (Spoiler-free)

December 10th, 2006

Casinoroyale TixI went to see Casino Royale today, and like many others, I was impressed. To me, that’s what a Bond film should be more like. Sure, the gadgets, bad puns, cartoon villains, and contrived elaborate death traps can be fun, but hardcore Bond can be so much better. One of the most impressive Bond scenes in the past, for me at least, was the fight between Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Donovan Grant in the train compartment in From Russia with Love. The fight came across as very realistic, unlike so many of the cartoonish Bond fights since. And I’m sorry to fans who like Roger Moore, but to me the man was a dreadful Bond, and most of the films with him were little more than bad jokes. Connery was the best, though I think Craig will give him a run for him money; I liked Brosnan best after that, then Timothy Dalton. I don’t think there was quite enough of Lazenby to form too much of an opinion, but he scores higher than Moore, of course.

The new Casino Royale is a return to a more serious Bond. Brosnan was pretty good and did come closer with his last Bond movie, but it just wasn’t quite good enough, and was still too gimmicky. The unconventional choice of Daniel Craig as 007 and the harsh, hardcore treatment in Royale made the movie less a whiz-bang comic-relief funfest and much more of a realistic, hard-hitting action spy thriller. I hope they keep up with the new/old style; I’d much rather have this than the nonstop one-liners and the wristwatches that can kill a man seven different ways (Now, do pay attention, Bond!).

Past Bonds came across as cool; Craig comes across as cold. Something he even carries somewhat convincingly into the romantic scenes of the film. He is brutal, relentless, and in any other Bond film would have made a more convincing villain than other actors who have taken on such roles. And yet they were able to maintain this cold, hard killer’s image without making him unlikable or an asshole; he comes across as safe to anyone not in his way, but you know that he could be ruthlessly brutal to the bad guys. This allows for the character to be much more likeable even as he is made out to be something of an anti-hero. In short, both Daniel Craig and the new way Bond has been written are a success.

The romance is also very well written; this is far more than a woman unconvincingly swooning over Bond simply because he walked in front of her. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is one of the best Bond women, along with (and in many ways better than) Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies. Hopefully this is not a fluke and the Bond producers have caught on to the idea that strong, serious, intelligent women make Bond films much more enjoyable. Even the disposable bimbo in Royale had more substance than most other Bond girls.

A few small notes: I liked the details that were incorporated into the film. The fractals that were incorporated into the opening sequence were a nice touch, as was the fact that the sequence did not involve the once-normal collage of flying naked women. Virgin Airlines must have had some tie-in (there were, in fact, several incidents of product placement), but I enjoyed catching Sir Richard Branson with his arms out, being searched at at an airport security checkpoint. And I think that it was a good idea to change Baccarat to Poker, despite all the cinema cliches involved. Baccarat has always been a bit too unfamiliar for me to get into it.

My only big complaint for the film, however, is the way you are kept in the dark about so much; you see stuff happening and only find out what it was all about ten or twenty minutes later, by way of someone explaining what happened to someone else–and even then, some things still don’t get explained, or at least there are so many small details that I missed a few along the way. You had to go too long without understanding what the hell was going on some times, and then had to work too hard to remember all the events and what significance the explanations have to the story.

Still, it was a great film, and the “Parkour”-style chase sequence at the beginning is one of the better action sequences for a Bond film that I can remember.

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  1. ykw
    December 11th, 2006 at 13:18 | #1

    I saw it too. I’m a bit confused about time. This shows him in recent times (e.g. 2006), after he just became a 00 agent recently. Where do all the other films fit in?

  2. Luis
    December 11th, 2006 at 13:21 | #2

    I think that each new actor is treated as a new person, hence the “short life expectancy” line, and the continuity with different Ms. To treat all of them as the same agent would be a continuity nightmare, not to mention that the man would be as old as Sean Connery.

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