Thursday, January 11, 2007

Casino Royale

Although I'm not a fan of actioners as a whole, I am a devotee of Bond. (Not in a scary, convention-visiting way, but in a watch them at the flicks and again when they are shown at Christmas and so on way). Which means that when I watch a Bond, I'm not so much comparing it with a standard for action films, but with one for Bond films as a genre of their own.

So how does it match up, and how does Daniel Craig, the blond Bond, match up?

It matches up. Big style. I don't think it's too much to suggest that it's among the best of the Bonds, if not the best. With a genre that had begun to show signs of having nowhere to go but bigger stunts and bigger bangs, someone had a stroke of inspiration. They took it back to its roots, capturing the flavour of the original Ian Fleming book. And Craig matches up. Fleming's Bond is not a wisecracking playboy. He is like a dog on a leash, a coiled spring, ready to go off at the slightest provocation. Acting that is not easy, but I could imagine Fleming nodding and saying "that is it", because he captures that tension. Where Dalton brooded and Brosnan capered, Craig is vicious, catlike. He is a dangerous, amoral man, who will do whatever it takes. And ladies, pack spare knickers. You're going to wet yourself when you see his bod. (He looks great in a DJ but they had to shovel him into it: there's a ton of gym hours in him.)

The first half an hour sets the tone. If, like me, you consider "parkour" or free running a bit gay and wholly risible, prepare to have your mind changed. The sustained, thrilling action is simply brilliant. (If you suffer at all from vertigo, prepare to be scared. Part of the action, up on the arm of a crane, is shot in a way that made me almost panicstruck with fear of falling.) And it doesn't let up. It avoids the longueurs of some of the earlier Bonds, in which the convoluted plot had to be explained, by having a simple (and quite ludicrous) story. The dialogue is sharp, and not overlarded with the cheap humour of previous Bonds. And for the aficionado, it is quite faithful to the book (peek through the fingers faithful when Bond is captured by the villain, who does something with a knotted rope that will send a shaft of fear through all grown men).

All this and poker too! (It's rather fortunate that Bond just happens to be a genius poker player, but to be fair, Craig is quite brilliant in the poker scenes, steely and unreadable.) I thought it was a fantastic rereading of the Bond story, with a new Bond who promises to make the role his own (I'm of the opinion that no one has come close to Connery, but that changes here: it's a measure of how good Craig is that I consider that he might be Bond in the same way Connery was), a wonderful villain and a stunning Bond girl in Eva Green. In sum, it's as good as From Russia with love, which makes this my new favourite Bond.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Arleen said...

Totally spot on critique. I tell men who haven't seen it yet that this will be a Bond movie that even their girlfriends and SOs will like, and not because of Dalton's physique. It's nice, granted, but he isn't my type in general. It's the story itself that I enjoyed, and the way the actors played it. My husband says this is the Bond he always envisioned. I never really thought of it one way or the other, but this movie, as a movie apart from its Bond identity, was thoroughly enjoyable.

January 11, 2007 at 11:24 PM  
Anonymous Sour Grapes said...

I rather worry for anyone who's sent a story in for your workshop, since that post must have used up all your gush-resources for 2007. I've a feeling even Pynchon or De Lillo would get short shrift after that.

Interesting, meanwhile, that parkour is gay while salivating over Bond's DJ isn't. Must be a different definition down under.

January 12, 2007 at 3:22 AM  
Anonymous Nobody said...

What are you talking about, Grapes, all men have crushes on Bond. It's gay NOT to have a crush on Bond. Dur.

January 12, 2007 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr Zen said...

A beautiful DJ is a work of art. And I defy anyone, male or female, not to look at Craig's upper body without admiration.

January 12, 2007 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Don said...

I do, and would put in more gym time if I worked actor's hours. The great thing about this movie for me was that Bond was human again, the gadgetry was limited, and the cards were played without high-tech cheating. I liked that the CIA was good for nothing but money. I liked that this newly-minted 007 resigned after his first assignment -- any human would -- and then underwent a painful transition that put him back in the game. I loved Judi Dench. ANd I loved the cameo appearance of an Aston-Martin DB IV.

January 12, 2007 at 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Jefe said...

Hey, after seeing Casino Royale, I can safely say that I'd fuck Daniel Craig, but only in a strict heterosexual sort of way.

February 6, 2007 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Jefe said...

strictly (don't want to get my hand slapped by the editor)

February 6, 2007 at 8:04 AM  

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