Saturday, November 25, 2006

James Bond review

Ok, what to goodness...
I was at the JB-premiere last night, finally getting to see the new and much anticipated Casino Royale... It was very exciting and very exhausting. And here follows my conclusion after 2 hours and 20 minutes of Daniel Craig as James Bond...

REVIEW: CASINO ROYALE (Dir. Martin Campbell)

First of all; yes, I am one of those anti-Daniel Craig folks who had almost given up this entire project in mid-production. I found the thought of a blonde, brute-looking and not very likeable chap to play one of my all time-favourite movie-characters rather disturbing. BUT honestly, I did go the theatre with an open mind, eager to actually be proved wrong and let Mr. Craig convince me that he was capable of taking on the difficult task of following (my personal) Bond-favourite Pierce Brosnan. I sooo wanted to say, "Wow, was I mistaken, and WOW was he great." I sooo wanted to adore this first look on a NEW Bond-era and a brand NEW, less-effects-more-acting chapter in the M16-agent saga.

Unfortunately, that won't be the case. I must say, though, that I was NOT as heavily disappointed as I had feared; in fact, my smile stayed on during half of the movie, in all, and Daniel isn't THAT bad. He is definately in need of serious improvement and his version of Bond hardly lives up to the performances of, say, Connery and Dalton. And especially not Pierce Brosnan, whose brilliance the fans had got pleasantly used to. Living up to that isn't easy, of course, and Craig had a hard time delivering his part as the NEW Bond. This is indeed far from the old outings of 007, this is truly innovative; for better or worse. At times, and this is perhaps my most pressing aspect of critique, I really felt like I was watching another "Mission Impossible" or Jason Bourne-movie. It just wasn't very Bond-like. Some people like that, some people don't. As an old-times Bond-fan, I think I belong with the latter. And I am sorry to say so.

First and foremost because this is no bad movie. Certainly not! Director Martin Campbell does a fantastic job and it all LOOKS very nice. Colourful, fancy cinematography. The actors do their best (I hope!), or at least it seems to, and there are these absolutely wonderful sequences when I was completely happy, and judging from the faces around me; it was a shared feeling. I'll start with the praise, since it - in the end - is most important and since CR on the whole turned out an OK experience. There are the pretty girls and the luxurious locations and the eeeevil villains. Marvellous. Lots and lots of action-sequences, a fantastic one with parkour-moves and free-running, and the romance between James and Vesper Lynd (Eva Greeen), who's slowly warming up to our hero, is well-executed. Jeffrey Wright makes a welcome appearance as the long-gone and heavily missed Felix Leiter. Bond shows off a more believable side, and that works to some extent. The casino-shots last a bit too long, but they're not boring. No, I was never bored and I don't think the movie was too long. Indeed the problem does not apply to the movie itself, but to what they're trying to communicate, what the cast & crew are trying to show us. In a way, they ridicule the old films. And in a way they pay tribute to them. In a way they're trying to stick to the old plot, in a way they're trying to deviate from it as much as they can.

And well, I have never had such trouble deciding on whether I like a movie or not!

For then again, some scenes are almost unbearable. Bond is such a rough killer with little charm, especially at first, and M swears more in this Bond-movie than I've heard her do throughout the entire rest of the anthology. Prior to the premiere, I stated that I was afraid the film would lack STYLE. And it did. I usually leave the theatre with a very particular notion after watching Bond-movies. This time, I didn't feel much at all.

Cos...there are all these moments of pure - yes, there's no other possible description - disappointment! And I miss Q and Moneypenny. I miss the Bond-tune, the Bond lifestyle. When James Bond orders a martini and is asked whether he wants it shaken or stirred, he is not supposed to say "Do I look like I give a damn?". I miss the tuxedo and the fast, überclassy cars. James Bond dressed in a hood and a dirty T-shirt, driving a FORD? What the hell? Bond in a hospital, alright, but then recovering from the wounds in a night-gown?! Bond is killing innocent people, Bond doesn't think twice before he does, well, anything! - and Bond is just....not himself. Bad hair-day, also. Bad day in general, I believe. This just ISN'T Bond!! Sorry, Craig and everyone else working on this movie, but if you tried to make Bond 21, you failed...

However, there's nothing seriously wrong with the plot or the actors or these NEW things; yes, it could probably have worked really fine, if they had added some of the well-known elements to show what kind of movie they were trying to make. But this is just too modern, or whatever they want to call it, it's just too different - in my opinion. The production company has argued that they tried to make Bond more human and trustworthy. The problem is; he never was so...down-to-earth, in a negative sense. Not the Bond we've got used to. He is not a total brute and he is not a bully. He is a gentleman, and if there's one thing Daniel Craig IS NOT, it's gentle. Except for some scenes concerning the realtionship with Vesper, but eventually - and without spoiling anything - he is forced to forget about that too.

Furthermore, I miss the twinkle in the eye, I miss the dry humour, the gags, I miss the supernatural and over-the-top. The elegance. I miss the aura of British upper-class, the eccentricity and I miss the archetypal invulnerability. I miss the very particular features that made James Bond unique and recognizable! This is a great actionflick, and if this WAS a "M:I" or Jason Bourne-movie, I'd conclude by saying "more than good enough" and "highly entertaining". But Bond, James Bond should stand out as something else. Not this. Not just another one of those, etc. I look forward to the contination of the series, which is inexorably on its way, but please bring the more traditional and BOND-ish back into the dossier! PLEASE!

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