Monday, November 20, 2006

Casino Royale

When Pierce Brosnan was unceremoniously fired form the James Bond franchise I was heart-broken, and I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt that no one else could do justice to the flamboyant agent 007 on the silver screen. And then, precisely thirteen months back the name of the new Bond was announced. He is now played by Daniel Craig, as the world knows, and although I loved him in Layer Cake, like everyone else, I too waited with bated breath to see the result! And what a result that is!! Along with his bullet-shaped frame, jug-ears and unlikely azure eyes, Daniel Craig brings an emotional unpredictability to the role that is both clearly human and just plain more interesting than his recent predecessors. Notwithstanding my personal obsession with Mr Brosnan, I have to admit that Craig's easily the best Bond since Sean Connery.

In Casino Royale James Bond is back to his roots as Ian Fleming's driven, bare-knuckled, rough-around-the-edges sociopath killer in Her Majesty's Secret Service who’s only just graduated to coveted 00 status. He doesn’t know much about the difference between a shaken and stirred martini let alone care, and who doesn’t get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin until a third of the way through the picture. Until then, it’s (gasp) a Ford rental car for him!! This is meant to be a less elegant, more rough-and-tumble Bond than we’re accustomed to — Bond before he becomes “Bond, James Bond.”

It doesn't even feel like a Bond film as we have come to expect them, in their mind-numbing, increasingly gadget-dependent gigantism. There is no mastermind hell-bent on world domination, no invisible car, no laser guns and hundreds of extras don’t get mowed down in every other scene. It begins with a black-and-white sequence in which Bond brutally earn his 00 status with two textbook-perfect killings, followed by an exhilarating foot chase, as Bond pursues a terror suspect (French “free running” champion Sébastien Foucan) through a Madagascar construction site… that’s a ballet of gravity-defying acrobatics!.

Under the watchful eye of M (a wonderfully animated Judi Dench) and aided by a fellow operative Mathis (Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini last seen in Hannibal where gets his entrails eaten by Anthony Hopkins), Bond arrives in Montenegro with British Treasury functionary Vesper Lynd (French actress Eva Green) by his side. There, in the swank hotel and gaming establishment of the title, he squares off against Le Chiffre in a multimillion-dollar poker game. Instead of a megalomaniac out to rule the world, Le Chiffre (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen), "the Cipher," is a banker to international terrorists who is only in the game for the money. His quirks are a tear duct that drips blood and the need for an inhaler. He gives off a genuine creepy vibe, especially when he tortures Bond with a rather painful testicle squeeze and pauses to leer at his naked body. The marathon casino sequence is the front and center of the movie, although attempted assassinations and a poisoning make it a poker game with a difference. Also if my math is correct, Bond goes through three freshly ironed dress shirts in a single night, which suggests that he has off-loaded Q in favor of a silent Jeeves! I guess, he has to look good for Vesper Lynd.

The advance publicity for James Bond movies usually features an interview with an actress who insists that she's not playing the typical Bond girl. Yet invariably the movie comes out, there's some serious actress suddenly acting like an idiot. The pattern is finally broken with Eva Green. Vesper Lynd is probably the most complex creation in the “Bond girl” catalog — neither the submissive flirt or ball-busting vixen of older Bond adventures nor the extreme sportswoman (Michelle Yeoh, Halle Berry) of more recent past, but rather a smart, sexy, independent-minded femme (with smoky eyes, blood red lips and paper white skin) whose relationship with Bond is based on something deeper than the exchange of mutually seductive charms. Meeting on a train, they exchange some fabulously punchy dialogue that’s like the smart, double-entendre-laden lingo prospective lovers use in literate Hollywood romantic comedies. And when he comforts her in the shower following a frightening shootout in a hotel stairwell, it’s tender and touching in a way we don’t expect from a James Bond movie.

Having said that, I should also mention everything one expects from a James Bond film is here, but better and more human. Bond gets off wisecracks at the expense of his adversaries, but this time it’s almost apologetic. This Bond isn't invincible; he’s forever getting nicked and bruised and he half expects that next time his number will come up.

Craig reinvigorates a fagged-out franchise that's been relying on preposterous stunts and sillier gadgets to disguise the fact that it's run out of ideas. And he does it with an actor's skill, an athlete's grace and a dangerous glint that puts you on notice that Bond, James Bond, is back in business. This you do not want to miss.


Shreemoyee said...

Every one has such positive things to say about this film, makes me want to see all the more.

Bobby said...

1. Agree with you completely about the movie.
2. What an awesome review - I am sure even Martin Cambell could not have done a better job. U r absolute pro at this - pls look at it professionally. Bobby

Grey Shades said...

And a beautifully written review! So there are no gadgets and gizmos in the movie?

e said...

Wonderful case you DO consider a career in movie critiquing, please do continue to post here!

ichatteralot said...

I actually want to see it now - till date I was grieving the loss of Pierce Brosnan! Thanks for drying my tears :)

Ghetufool said...

hats off to you. i decided not to see the the movie, as Brosnan is not around. i should see it now.

bubun72 said...

My dear, please use ur skills at right places ... Ur review is not only beautifully written , it is awesomely beautifully written. Waiting for more ...

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