Ahem, sorry. Rather than go all grim ‘n gritty with the opening line of my 21st (Blackjack!) James Bond review I decided to go Hip Hop. Just imagine the above exclamation crooned after a particularly disjunctive record scratch. And never did a record need to be scratched more than this 007 inch (Puns!). For serious though, if I had to sit through one more cocky Pierce Brosnan leer I would head to Hollywood, purchase a Map to the Stars, skulk into his mansion and set the pile of money he no doubt sleeps on to flames. The ice palaces, space lasers (Spasers!) and tsunami surfing were just too much.
Enter the Daniel Craig.
An inspired casting choice. Craig is like Bond gone bulldog. Or maybe gone Wolverine. Short(ish) and stocky, with muscles on top of muscles and a hang-dog handsomeness of a professional boxer (with the slightly crushed looking bulb nose and perpetual scowl and everything) Craig-Bond would slap the nancy fine-stem glass out of Brosnan-Bond’s hand and hand him a pint of ass-kicking instead. Doing a little research for this I am kind of dumbfounded there was so much internet uproar (Netroar!) over Craig’s appointment. I haven’t enjoyed a Bond this much since Dalton.
You’d think that the movie version of a book that is basically a single explosion, car crash and an ‘epic’ game of cards (Casino Royale 1953) would be kind of dull. Oh, I guess I’m forgetting the junk-torture. Well all of these elements are faithfully included (Authenticity!) and sandwiched/sutured between some stellar action sequences in Madagascar and Venice respectively. Construction projects are parkoured and river palazzos and sunk. Craig’s physicality is put to good use. You kind of expect that this is the type of man who can be poisoned, nearly die, rally, win a 100 million at poker, gorge himself, get junk-tortured and come out stronger than ever.
The film is careful, maybe overly so, in playing against type. Gadgets are kept to a minimum as is libido. There is an early scene where the viewer expects 007 to sleep with a mistress turned informant and while there is some groping and writhing on the floor as soon as Bond gets the intel he needs he’s on a plane to the Bahamas. By contrast Brosnan would have stayed long enough to leave the viewer feeling like an uncomfortable and disappointed used wet-nap, Moore would have made the most impotent man feel virile in comparison, Dalton probably would have hurt the woman in a unique and unsettling way and Connery would still be there getting thirds or fourths. Lazenby? (We hardly knew yee).
Eva Green is probably the best actor to be given Bond Girl status in 2 or 3 decades. I’m not saying she’s Katharine Hepburn or anything, but at the very least she didn’t make me laugh at her supposed technical profession. Vesper Lynd is also the sexiest name I can possibly think of. Green here is some kind of secret agent treasurer, one bad ass accountant. I watched this movie over the Thanksgiving holiday, in part with my sister in-law and she described Green as Vesper as a kind of ‘goblin princess’ which I completely get and don’t think is meant to be as harsh as it sounds. Like Craig, Green has those ears that stick out and a beautiful if not slightly goofy smile. Combine these with elaborate up-doos and a metric tonne of eye-liner and you can see where the affectionate back-handed compliment of a nickname came from.
And look, I get it that nobody is ever going to confuse Green or Craig with even a mildly unattractive person. But you could probably make the case that they are Hollywood mildly unattractive when compared to the kinds of women who have been Bond girling in the series of late or even the main villain of the piece, “Le Chiffre,” played by the alarmingly good-looking if not reptilian lipped Mads Mikkelsen. If the stated goal of the Bond reboot was to turn ugly into beautiful, powerful and cool, or as I’ve just outlined, turn the Hollywood mildly unattractive into beautiful, powerful and cool, well, then mission accomplished.
The narrative is a bit hodge-podgy, a trend exacerbated by the fact that the movie kind of just ends eventually, setting up the first true sequel in Bond film history. The difference of course being one actually wants to keep following the story, at least more or less. As opposed to the previous Bond installments pretending to be a tv show with little or no continuity. It will be interesting to see what Bond and Craig do with the latter. And that is the first time I’ve been interested since the likes of Baron Samedi and Saruman and his golden gun.
Bond Grade: 006 (out of 007)