Nov 25, 2006

casino royale

While I like all the 007 movies (I have to. I'm English. There's a law.), there has always been a certain amount of cheese involved with the series. The bad one liners. The evil villain who somehow manages to finance the launch of a powerful laser beam satellite that will bring the world's leaders to their knees. The corny glances he gets from every passing woman. The intricate miniature models the evil villain builds for the target they are planning to hit. The elaborate rotating floors that bring said model into a huge room the evil villain has built just to show off his evil plan. Hoardes of single body suited henchmen that can't aim a gun. Terrible fight scenes that include judo chops. The multitude of specialized, improbable, single use gadgets that all get used by the end of the movie. The list goes on. Austin Powers built a second empire from these cliches.

The conventional wisdom is that Sean Connery was somehow exempt from these shenanigans and was a more sincere version of Bond. That's not true (see Goldfinger for all the above criticisms). Connery's movies were just as corny as Roger Moore's but Moore's were filmed in the 70's and 80's and his hair style and awful flared suits just make it look cornier. Go look at Moore's earlier work in the 60s (The Saint) and you realize he's just as cool as Connery. The underappreciated George Lazenby who came between these two, made the only movie in the early days to be largely uncorny. He really is the only stoic, immoral, humorless Bond. Hell he was even a military instructor. He could actually fight. He's actually got some training. But it's not cool to say you like George.

And then poor Timothy Dalton had to pick up the part right in the middle of the PC, sensitive-guy movement. He was a putz through and through. Brosnan brought a little more respect to the character but the gadgets and evil leaders all got a little out of hand.

Now comes Daniel Craig and Casino Royale. One-liners? I counted one. Evil madmen who want to take over the world with satellites? Zero. Rotating floors? None. Gadgets. None really. Women swooning in his presence? One. Intricate miniature models? Zero. Judo chops? Gone. What's left? A simple story of small-time espionage. Some serious action sequences. Ass-kicking fight scenes that leave knuckles bloodied and faces bruised. The new Bond doesn't smile much and has some serious social issues. He's completely politically incorrect. He's not entirely likable. He is, in short, perfect.

The new 007 movie with Daniel Craig as James Bond is, without a doubt, the best film in the series. By leaps and bounds. All the pretenses are gone. In fact the little humor there is, makes fun of the Bond series itself (e.g., the Aston Martin which makes a brief appearance is trashed quickly). And the movie even toys with you a little - halfway through - by making you think it will delve back into schtick. And then without warning it yanks you back to reality. Go see it.

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