CASINO ROYALE (2006)
|Bond. James Bond.|
Ah, Thanksgiving. To most, Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, to enjoy the company of family, and wear elastic waistband pants. To me, Thanksgiving means one thing: the James Bond marathon on Spike TV (which has been switched to the Syfy channel this year because Spike decided Gangland was a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving? Spike. C'mon). How this became an annual "thing" I'm not sure, I really don't know what British spies have to do with the most American tradition to date. Nonetheless, I find that every year my attempt to kick back and enjoy an epic 007 marathon is thwarted by the people who want to sit across from me and eat a giant turkey. Well. In attempt to get my Bond fix in DESPITE this alleged holiday called Thanksgiving, I decided to do a movie review of Casino Royale. Why Casino Royale? You might ask. It's recent, it's controversial, and it happens to be one of my favorite Bond movies. Groan. How unloyal of me to enjoy a Bond film that didn't have the God of all Bond, Sean Connery, in it, right? Well, I will not disagree with you there. Sean Connery is THE James Bond. However, I think the last two Bond movies have something very interesting going on in them that really switches up the entire franchise as we know it.
We've seen it happening to other movies. Batman Begins (2005) is a great example. Do we remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger was Mr. Freeze, and not in the cool Terminator way, but in the Campy McCampster way? Or Adam West, the most hilarious and most schizophrenic Batman yet? Christopher Nolan took a sudden and extremely dark and serious turn with Patrick Bateman's heavy growl and angsty forehead. Tis the season for dark and angsty, and 007 picked it up right away. Despite the range of opinions on Daniel Craig's portrayal of James Bond, one thing is for certain: he definitely changed the face of 007 from here on out, and it's not because of the blonde hair. Casino Royale is dark, grimy, and deadly. Gone are the cartoonish (though classic) villains like Jaws and the near superhero Bond who drove invisible ice cars (good fucking riddance). Instead, we have a Bond who's actually human. The opening ten minutes literally demolish every Bond that's come before. Bond is sloppy, Bond has origins, Bond is devilishly clever instead of all out muscle. And it's like falling back in love after 20 years of marriage.
|Daniel Craig: the only 007 to steal the bathing suit shot from the Bond Girls.|
Granted, I'm extraordinarily biased. I could see Daniel Craig as Bond the second he was cast, thanks to Layer Cake. I know there are a lot of people who have multiple problems with him, some of which I can't disagree with. Yes, I did miss the constant witty quips of the previous Bond movies, though they did make a real effort to toss them in there now and then. And yes, maybe Craig has a hard time smiling and therefore smirking arrogantly, which no Bond can be without. Nonetheless, I stand by him and hope to see him in many more Bond films to come. Also, Craig has voted for a gay Bond scene. I would literally die happy. Possibly in my theater seat.
|Pure Bond Girl glory.|
Craig aside, the movie had a lot of great perks. Case in point, Vesper Lynd, played by the extraordinarily gorgeous Eva Green. She was a classic Bond Girl--sexy, sexy, and sexy. She also happened to be extremely clever and a nice counterpoint to Bond--both with her humanity and her willingness to constantly challenge him. Speaking of "origin" stories, it was nice to see a sort of...pre-Bond Bond. A Bond who developed trust issues with women thanks to a certain Vesper Lynd. Sure, he has a heavy petting session with Caterina Murino, but who wouldn't? Bond has a heart, to the point where he almost gets married. And not in the awkward On Her Majesty's Secret Service way. In a way that we go "Ahhh...now we understand where the womanizer comes from."
For some noteworthy moments, we got Jeffery Wright as Felix Leiter, which was a great choice. He's gruff, but has a great brotherly chemistry with 007. And Judi Dench, of course, returned as M. I hope that woman never leaves--there is really no other M. for me. Who doesn't love Bond bleeding some Mommy issues? Lastly, Le Chiffre. Overall, he's not so intimidating. He's clearly just a man who got himself in a bad spot and is currently paying hell for it. However, he does cry blood, and that's fucking great. It's a little nod to the comic book style Bond of simpler times.
Lastly, some great moments. The card game was riveting, which is extraordinarily hard to do when it's...you know. A long card game in the middle of an action film. Also, the torture scene was great. Again. Never before has Bond had his masculinity so...well. Beaten. But he took it like a sport. I had the joy of seeing this scene with my grandmother. I'm pretty sure I traumatized her for the rest of her days.
I could go on. Bond has a very special place in my heart and there's little I love more than ranting about it. However, I will just leave with a bit of advice for the next movies: Please, God, PLEASE give me Miss Moneypenny and Q back!!! You can reinvent Bond all you want, but they're classics. And Judi Dench, never die. That is all.