Saturday, April 07, 2007

At the Casino Royale

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.


Mary Lois said...

I just Googled Sylvia, the film I forgot Daniel Craig was in, and discovered that he did indeed play Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath's poet husband. The movie didn't do justice to anyone, I thought, least of all Ms. Plath, but certainly not Hughes, who was to become England's poet laureate. In attempting to sympathize with Plath it seemed to minimize her schizophrenia and make her little more than a common scold with a straying husband.

Thank goodness Daniel Craig has lasted long enough to make a lasting impression in a number of better movies. Long Live This James Bond!

sinjap said...

haven't seen the new casino royale yet but i've gotta put my vote in for sean there's a geezer hunk! and of course, a close second place, pierce brosnan...he's had me since my teenage slumber parties, staying up late watching remington steele!

jon said...

As cool as stunts and special effect look on a movie, I really do not want to know how an effect was done BEFORE seeing the flick itself. It is like finding the great Oz behind the curtain. It takes away the suspension of disbelief that enables me to enjoy.
Part of the entertainment of the early Bond series was to chat out the "how did they's" and the fantastic but sorta believeable stunts. Current offerings, which may have roots in StarWars, do effects to the level of cartoons where anything is possible. Character heroes seem to have the
same effect on me. They are not real either.

Mary Lois said...

I'm sorry if I ruined the flick for you by telling you about the special effects, jon, but I do recommend you rent it at some point anyway. The thing is that it looked like special effects when the guys were engaging on hand-to-hand combat on a crane 200 ft. in the air, but they were up there, and even Daniel Craig was for some of the time.

Whenever they show bloody bodies I have to remind myself it's ketchup,and I've seen a lot of stage blood in my life.

jon said...

When you take the mystery out of anything , it becomes less exciting. Magic tricks are no longer magic once you know the secret. Point if view changes....after knowing a stunt secret, I would not enjoy the tale, the characters, etc. but would critically watch the stunt presentation. For the creator of magic, no matter how simple, joy and purpose are found in pulling it off. From our show Dancing at Lughnasa, a viewer asked me where we found the old enameled kitchen stove...........well I made it from paper, foam, glue paint,etc.
I was taken aback with great satisfaction, yet to trick to that extent was not expected. When I had her touch the prop and explained its origin, I could see her mien change to a sort of letdown. I think the explanation made her lose some of her curious appreciation of the experience.