Casino Royale

Once again I review something much too late to be useful. I wasn’t keen to see Casino Royale. Once upon a time, and against my better judgement, I felt a slight twinge of excitement or interest whenever a new Bond movie came out. Having reached the point where even a new Bond didn’t provoke a flicker of curiosity, I was in no hurry to get sucked back in. But it’s had great reviews, so when my sister said she was going I went with her.

I can see why it’s been getting so much praise; it’s a good film and and a positive change of direction for the Bond franchise. Basically they’ve cut down on the kitschy excess that had accumulated around the Bond films – the endless one-liners, the ludicrous gadgets, the jokey names, the bizarrely contrived stunts and supervillain lairs – and made it into a tight, modern action movie. It has a bit more edge to it, in that the violence is more brutal and that Bond is played as a bit of a thug, and it’s a bit more ‘realist’ (or at least less absurd). The locations are glamorous, the cars are fast and the women are beautiful, though, so its slightly harder-edged realism never goes so far as to actually feel realistic; let alone, to use another bit of movie-review shorthand, ‘gritty’.

So I basically give it a thumbs-up, although it could probably have been a bit shorter. Some of the credit has to go to Daniel Craig, who is surely the most physically intimidating Bond since Connery, and does a good job of the hard-boiled killer act. But too much of the comment about the Bond films is in terms of who is ‘the best Bond’; they can only act the script that’s put in front of them. If Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton had been put in this film, I’m sure they’d have done a decent job. It’s the script and direction that make most of the difference. It’s impressive what a change in style they’ve managed; it must have taken self-control by all concerned to resist falling back on the familiar Bond schtick. It’s the kind of change you might expect if there had been a break of twenty years since the last one that allowed people to look at the material afresh. I suppose it comes down to making a film which takes itself seriously.

Having said all that, I’m not going to rush to see the next one. It’s a well-made spy yarn, but it’s still just a spy yarn. It may be more serious but it’s not actually any weightier. And it’s not a lot of fun. There’s not a single likeable character; Craig’s Bond is intense, charismatic and even a bit scary, but not very nice. And they’ve cut down on the jokes so much that it’s become rather humorless.

It’s undoubtedly a much-needed refreshing of the brand, and probably the best Bond film for a very long time. I still wonder how much of an impact it would have made without the Bond name attached. It’s not a patch on The Bourne Identity, for example.

Having made a statement by making this one such a radical break with recent tradition, I suspect they’ll loosen up a bit for the next one and reintroduce some of the sillier elements of the Bond films – like a few gadgets and a villain with a plot for world domination – as well as a bit more humour. Which might be just what the film needs or it might just lead to them making the same old mistakes.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. The locations are glamorous, the cars are fast and the women are beautiful, though, so its slightly harder-edged realism never goes so far as to actually feel realistic; let alone, to use another bit of movie-review shorthand, ‘gritty’.

    *ahem*

    The locations are The Bahamas. Most of ’em.

    Having taken vicarious credit for something that has very little to do with me, except the fact that I could get to look at the water on a daily basis if I was so inclined, let me now say I haven’t yet seen this film. But I haven’t heard one bad review yet.

  2. The Bahamas certainly look fabulous. And when I saw them I thought of you. But the scenes in the Italian lakes and Venice look pretty gorgeous too.

  3. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

    Mmmm, Venice. I want to go there someday.

  4. I’ve just noticed that your URL is appearing as scavella.blogspot.com instead of scavella.wordpress.com.

    Presumably your computer is autofilling the boxes. Something to watch out for.

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