Harry Sees CASINO ROYALE, But Wonders Where All The Japanese Schoolkids Killing Each Other Are!
Tone is everything. Nailing the tone of what makes James Bond magic has been so very hard for so very long.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of the JAMES BOND movies… hell, check out my BNAT poster for this year and it’s pretty fucking obvious how much I love James Bond. Honestly, I feared there was a part of me that would never buy Bond in a Tux again. Not after that very funny parody scene in XXX where it became all about killing the guy in the Tux.
In CASINO ROYALE – they have a luxury that none of the previous Bonds have ever had. A beginning. An introduction to the character. Sure, Sean Connery invented the character for the silver screen, but he showed up fully developed with no real learning curve. He just was Bond and there was no reason to question it.
It was really only ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE that they did one where something got to Bond in a very real way. But that film’s tragic box office flop told the producing family to steer clear from reality. Thus we got the “parody Bond” flicks – where it became about the gizmos and gadgets… and again – don’t get me wrong. I fucking love THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and MOONRAKER… as cheese as those are. But it’s sort of like the Johnny Weissmuller TARZAN movies. I love them, though they’re not the Tarzan I dreamed of, while reading the books.
Anyway… Daniel Craig wasn’t just handed the reins to the character… They gave it to him with the greatest opportunity that any of the Bond actors have ever had… the chance to reinvent and build the character on screen.
From the moment I saw James Bond driving a Ford… I was off balance. I mean… WHAT THE FUCK? You can see that it isn’t the car he believes he should be driving, but it is the car he’s driving. He gets his Aston Martin soon enough, but he does so because he earned it. And I love the scene.
He’s good with the ladies, but not effortless. At this point he kinda feels like the Tennis Pro at the country club. Taking pot shots at attached women wanting something that feels dangerous, naughty and good. Daniel Craig is definitely dangerous, naughty and good here.
M may call James a Blunt instrument, but I get the idea she does that to push him into becoming a sharper blade for her majesty’s service. Bond as a character in this film is exactly what I wanted him to become. He’s intelligent, direct to the point, but not entirely as cynically detached as we’ve come to know him. Craig’s blue eyes – which made him Paul Newman’s son in ROAD TO PERDITION – give him that same ferocity, but while he was a BLUNT malformed tool in that film… here, Bond knows what he’s doing. His eyes soaking in the details.
Take for example – the wonderful chase sequence with Sebastien Foucan in Madagascar. In terms of athleticism, Bond is no match for Mollaka as Sebastien plays him. He’s one of the world’s great free running performers and Bond doesn’t have that in him. Instead, the advantage Bond’s character has is this. While Mollaka can navigate his surroundings phenomenally well… James sees the shortcuts, the angles that Mollaka skips past out of a desire to simply move forward. Bond doesn’t have to do the astonishing leaps or climbs, because he sees how to do it easier than his prey. It’s Bond’s keen powers of observation – what his eyes see that others do not, be it a butane tank or a twitch of an eye, he’s soaking it in, looking for his advantage.
Just seeing Bond in these fights is awesome. Like when he uses his gun with the silencer to block a swung machete – it was like somebody hit my happy button. The fight scenes are at full speed, not slo-mo and 5 angles. Watching Bond kicking ass, slamming heads into anything, struggling to strangle or my favorite – fighting to stay alive. It’s just classic.
Audience willing, this storyline and invention of Bond could rival Connery for the character. It has that potential if handled right. Craig isn’t some pretty boy, he looks like someone that could take a hit, a rope to the balls even. That could take a licking and keep on ticking. Someone that’s learning to not give a shit, but isn’t quite there yet.
If this doesn’t quite feel like a James Bond film to ya at the beginning – it’s definitely hard to deny by the end that James Bond is right where we want him and that this is the exact right man to hand a license to kill to.
How is everyone else?
Fantastic. Eva Green is a dream. I fell in love with her in DREAMERS and again in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. She has an exotic quality to her, while also being an amazing actress. The scenes between her and Craig sizzle – not in eroticism, but in chemistry. There’s that special something going on when two actors love playing opposite one another.
Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre is wonderful in the film. He’s not a cartoon. He has his eccentricity that Ian Fleming gave the character, but there’s a sadness to not just his affliction, but also his situation. He’s a gambler that is feeling his luck run out. He has the ego to believe he can win, because that’s all he’s ever known, but he’s smart enough to know the odds and know he’s drawing the short stick. There’s this wonderful panic expression he gets that isn’t cartoonish, but just a brief realization that he tries to cover with his mask. It’s great.
Judi Dench finally really nails M. As Bond was played by Brosnan, it was as if she was battling with Bond’s machismo to prove her feminine superiority. In CASINO ROYALE, the way she plays M is different. It’s kinda like a coach that is watching their player become something beyond what they’ve coached before. Double O’s don’t have a long life expectancy, but you get the idea that she thinks this Double O might stick around. He befuddles her, catches her off-guard, perplexes her… but ultimately amazes her. She doesn’t want him to just be a man that takes orders, she needs him to be the man that gets the job done. And in this job, she needs someone that breaks as many rules as he follows, so long as in the end, England prevails.
OK – now how did the film make me feel?
High as a kite! Thrilled. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Everything wasn’t enough though. I wanted more. I want to see more James Bond films at this level of quality – and I want to see this one again. That’s important.
Can’t wait to see more of Craig’s Bond evolve in this series, just so long as they don’t make the character a static joke again. I want Craig to bring the honesty that he did to Bond here in more films. That’s just cool. Very Cool.