Posted at 7:00 PM on November 15, 2006
by Euan Kerr
Riding up the escalator at the movie theater the other day I found myself in the shadow of a huge image of Daniel Craig, the new James Bond.
It's rare that you can say this nowadays, but what you see in that movie poster (pictured) is pretty much all you need to know about what kind of Bond Daniel Craig plays.
After four decades of 007 the Broccoli bunch is trying to revitalize the franchise, and with "Casino Royale" they've succeeded.
"Casino Royale" was Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, and it's an appropriate vehicle both to introduce Craig, and to re-invent the central character.
This is a Bond for the 21st century: gritty, violent, and with a clear understanding that very little is black and white. His focus is terrorism and the organized crime which feeds around the edges. The action blasts through Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Fans will be pleased to see the requisite heart-thumping chases (including a building site sequence reminiscent of "District B-13") and exotic locales. There's even a nod to the past with the reappearance of the classic Aston Martin DB 5.
There are elements of the classic Bond formula missing. However that's not a bad thing. There are a few smart-alec one-liners, but the bizarre wackiness of some of the recent films (as evidenced by cameos by John Cleese and Rowan Atkinson) is mercifully absent. And in the age the cell phone it only makes sense that the gizmos aren't stand alone, they are just part of the landscape. There are some super villains too, but they too are only human.
Gone too are the bevy's of Bond girls who just melt into his arms as he crinkles his eyes. The attractive women are there of course, but he has to work a lot harder in the new Bond World. It just adds to the realism.
As does the violence. There's more blood in "Casino Royale" than all the other Bond films combined. It raises the stakes significantly and makes you worry what really could be lost here. James Bond doesn't die of course, but he can be hurt, which adds to the drama. It's an important lesson the Bond band seem to have remembered from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."
The bottom line is can Daniel Craig pull it off? He can and does. He has a lot to carry in the film, and he does it well. Craig is tough, and uncompromising as Bond, but there is an important flicker of uncertain humanity behind the ice-blue eyes.
This could well be a change for the good.
Euan, you called it. This *could* be a change for the better.
Frankly it was simply a good movie. It was refreshing to see a Bond film without having to wince at bad dialogue or even worse cgi-based stunts.
This movie was very human and brutal while retaining movie glamour and I credit Fleming's book, the screenplay writers, and Craig.
I'm already looking forward to the next one.
and a p.s. to you Euan - thanks for keeping the cards close to your chest. I loved getting to the movie without spoilers or a tip. *huge grin*