Thursday, January 13, 2011
(November 2006, U.S.)
Well, we've finally arrived to the first Bond (James Bond) film in my collection. It seems almost fitting that it should be the very first Bond novel that author Ian Flemming ever wrote way back when. The film is a reboot, establishing a new timeline and narrative framework not meant to precede or succeed any previous Bond film, allowing it also to show a less experienced and more vulnerable James Bond that fans have not experienced before. This is also a film of "firsts" - the first time the characters of Moneypenny and "Q" are not in a Bond film, the first time the character of Felix Lighter returns since LICENCE TO KILL (1989), the first time we see the 1964 Aston Martin since THUNDERBALL (1965), the first time there's no gadgets or incredibly stupid verbal punning, the first time Bond admits genuine love for any woman since ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) and the first time any Bond film is directly based on one of Flemming's original novels since the 1960s. It's all a wonderfully welcomed change to the franchise's formula considering how fucking awful the previous Bond film, DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) was!
I can't say that I've ever actually read any of Flemming's original novels. When you've grown up with as many Bond films as I have, you have very little incentive to bother reading the books. So I can't honestly say what Flemming's original intent for James Bond was, but Daniel Craig's portrayal is about as close to that of a cold-hearted bastard as Bond will ever get...and it's fucking great! The action is a lot more raw and violent than it's ever been before, partly because none of it takes place as a typical car chase or some other sort of high-tech vehicle. This is a Bond who is on foot a lot, relentlessly determined to nail his enemy. When the action does finally slow down, it's replaced with the high-stakes poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro where millions of dollars and potentially people's lives are at stake. You see, if the Bond villian, Le Chiffre, wins the tournament, the money will be used to ultimately finance global terrorism (we can't have that, can we?). The poker game itself is an intense and steady one of "cat and mouse" tactics and has just the right wit and dialogue where you'd want it. As mentioned before, the bad "Bond" verbal punning is gone, but that doesn't stop the character from always knowing the right thing to say to the right person at the right time. That's just Bond. It's also perfectly fitting that at the very end of CASINO ROYALE, after we've just spent two and a half hourse away from every classic and cliche element that has ever filled up a Bond film, we get a very brief reminder of what is destined to always be a trademark tradition in these films, when Daniel Craig finally says, boldy and coldly, "The name's Bond... James Bond."
Interesting little story to go with this. Despite the fact that I loved CASINO ROYALE when I saw it back in 2006, it was after leaving this film that it suddenly occurred to me how much time, money and potential brain cells I was seriously wasting on sequels, remakes, franchise films or any other sort of Hollywood recycled material. It was then and there that I vowed to finally stop paying good ticket money on these types of movies. Now with the exception of three incidents of weakness where I felt compelled to experience that latest adventures of Indiana Jones, The Dark Knight and James Bond's own quantum of solace, I have remained relatively sequel and franchise-free (in movie theaters, anyway!). I sound like a recovering alcoholic, don't I?
Favorite line or dialogue:
James Bond: " Vodka-martini."
Bartender: "Shaken or stirred?"
Bond: "Do I look like I give a damn?"