April 7, 2007
I rented Casino Royale and watched it last night. I am not so much a fan of James Bond as I am a fan of Daniel Craig. I've seen him in two films, Layer Cake and Enduring Love -- actually, checking Google, I realize I also saw him in Sylvia with Gwyneth Paltrow, a movie so forgettable I cannot remember who he played. I hope it wasn't Ted Hughes.
Craig is an extraordinary English actor. His bio tells me he is from Chester, and I've been to Chester but I can't seem to imagine him there. I was there in 1972, on my first trip to England, and I'm not sure he was even born yet. Chester is one of those storybook English towns, with lots of beautiful Tudor architecture and a sense of history. Maybe, like Fairhope, Chester has become something different now, producing such a contemporary young man that he could be Steve McQueen with a slight English accent. He has an athlete's physique that does not look like the body of an Englishman. I watched Casino Royale wondering why this Bond really doesn't have an English accent until the very last line of the film, and wondering how Daniel Craig got that bod. I admit it; I am smitten. For my fantasies he's right up there with Hugh Laurie and Campbell Scott.
Back to the movie. I loved the opening credits and the suspense sound track. The film is great stuff, starting with some 21st Century swashbuckling on a par with the days of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. or his father, jumping from cranes on a construction site. Then we get a bit of Bond in bed with a beautiful woman, clearly on the make for information from her, and, this being something of a prequel, we do not have a running repartee with Miss Moneypenny or a penchant for serial bed-hopping; all that is to come later as a result of this early experience in learning to achieve double-ought status. Judi Dench is delightful as his no-nonsense superior "M." Giancarlo Giannini has learned English at last and appears as a not-trustworthy ally. His sinister opponent, Mads Mikkelson, bleeds from his eyes when under stress. His female partner Eva Green is cool and only marginally gorgeous.
Not being a Bond afficianado I missed the Timothy Dalton series; ditto Pierce Brosnan and even Roger Moore. I only saw one Sean Connery, Goldfinger, in the 1960's, which as a blossoming Feminist -- bless my heart -- I despised. I take that back, I guess I did see another Bond, probably Roger Moore I saw, in the one where the villain had iron teeth.
I have a tendency to avert my head when movies get bloody; had I known that the crane-leaping sequences were actually done at heights of 100 ft. in the air I might have been under the coffee table rather than marvelling in my armchair about what we can do with special effects today. (There were stunt doubles, sure, but Craig was right up there in the fight scenes on the swinging cranes, and chasing at top speed the London street-runner Sebastian Foucan. Both are thrilling to watch in the chase sequences.)
If you rent this picture, you'll get a second disk with information about the filming of the movie. This is fascinating. Craig is interviewed, there is a special feature about the stunts and special effects, and we see the context of this new, harder, more serious Bond, who fights terrorists instead of evil masterminds. And we come away wanting to see him again.