11.20.2006

James Bond rises again on well-muscled legs
When discussing the best Bond actors, the conversation begins and ends with Sean Connery. Of the now six actors to don the 007 mantle the Scotsman is most responsible for elevating the Bond franchise into a major box office draw, mostly accomplished through his combination of charisma, physicality, intelligence, and fluffy chest hair. With the release of Casino Royale, Sean Connery remains the final word in the best Bond debate, but Daniel Craig has at least earned a say in the discussion.

Daniel Craig is a new kind of Bond. His startlingly blue eyes, not to mention his Bowflex physique, expose a vitality and physical presence that surpasses even Sean Connery (though it’s slightly hampered by the frequent Derek Zoolander impersonation). Still, Craig’s vitality shines through a rough exterior that is sometimes lacking in the debonair luster of previous Bonds.

One early scene perfectly captures the new Bond’s effective yet unpolished manner. In the scene, Bond pursues a demolitions expert into a construction site. The man becomes cornered in a small room but adroitly flips through a small, elevated window. Bond ignores the window and instead runs straight through the newly constructed wall, splintering wood and plaster everywhere.

Pecs. Check. Biceps. Check. Six pack. Check. Fluffy Chest Hair...

Daniel Craig’s roughshod manner is actually quite appropriate for Casino Royale though many people won’t realize it.

Despite a few early references, the film largely glosses over the fact that Casino Royale marks the very first appearance of James Bond. Creator Ian Fleming wrote a number of stories about the British spy with Casino Royale as the first. Consequently, Bond has just been promoted as a “double-O” operative and it shows. His skills are already world class, but his judgment isn’t always perfect and a new emotional vulnerability peeks out from time to time. These flaws add a brand new dimension to the Bond franchise.

Perhaps for the first time, James Bond is a real character with meaningful weaknesses and imperfections. Even with Sean Connery, James Bond was never more than a dashing black tux; a tux that could kill men and seduce women with ease, but one incapable of indecision and reflection. In one scene from Casino Royale, Daniel Craig pauses to study his mirrored image after killing an assailant. The hinted vulnerability reveals the price for his constant composure. This serious side of James Bond hasn’t gotten much attention before and its appearance is just one of many changes in the 007 franchise.

The excessive camp and groan inducing puns of the Brosnan films have been thankfully discarded, but don’t worry too much because director Martin Campbell has infused Casino Royale with a much more intelligent and sharper sense of humor. Also new is an honest to goodness relationship between Daniel Craig and the latest “Bond girl,” Vesper Lynd (played by a reasonably deft Eva Green). Watching their relationship develop is one of the surprising joys of the film but their chemistry does occasionally falter. The action sequences also come off well, thanks in large part to Daniel Craig’s obvious athleticism.

Casino Royale isn’t without flaws. As charismatic as Daniel Craig is, he doesn’t quite have the confidence and assurance of a Pierce Brosnan (not to mention Sean Connery). In more than one scene James Bond does not look as composed as he should and not all of these momentary weaknesses seem part of the script. Playing along with the theme of a James Bond coming into his own, the music often teases at playing the famous Bond theme before finally giving in. But besides the catchy theme, most of the music is generic and forgettable. Action scenes in particular receive poor musical accompaniment. And despite the film’s emphasis on character development, the bad guys are both banal and bland.

Ironically, Casino Royale’s plot is completely insignificant despite being penned by creator Ian Fleming. The key to the film and the franchise has always been James Bond and everything else, plot included, has always been secondary.

Daniel Craig is mostly successful as the newest incarnation of the Suited One. His physical demeanor is tastefully offset by a dry wit and a lighter arrogance than previous Bonds. Casino Royale is smart and stylish enough that fans will still hang around for this grittier and more realistic (in a way) 007. And now when discussing the best Bond actors, Daniel Craig deserves a word in the conversation, even if he is short on fluffy chest hair.

With my new rating system, Casino Royale gets a "Paul." Better than a George and Ringo but not quite good enough for a John.

11 comments:

Orhan Kahn said...

The reference to Derek Zoolander accompanied with picture was perfect.

Emma said...

"With my new rating system, Casino Royale gets a "Paul." Better than a George and Ringo but not quite good enough for a John."

Ha! I know what to expect now. :P

Matt said...

Orhan - If you like seeing Daniel Craig's pouting lips then you should definitely see Casino Royale.

emma - You know it. Now I have to make a fancy graphic so it's all pretty and photoshop Ringo so he's a little better looking.

Morgen said...

Great review.
I've yet to see Casino Royale, but I'll know NOT to expect fluffy chest hair now!
Love your ratings system.
~Morgen

Barb said...

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Orhan Kahn said...

Not a James Bond fan, but Casino Royale looks very different, as if it were made by J.J Abrams.

Morgen said...

Hey there again, Matt!
Just so you know, I've added you to my Hot Blogs links at
It’s A Blog Eat Blog World

Thanks for your recent comments!
Cheers ~ mo

Matt said...

Morgen - Thanks! Daniel Craig is a new take on Bond, sans the chest hair.

barb - I did! I hope you did too! And everyone else! I can't stop using exclamation points! Ahhhh!

Orhan - I agree, the look is different. But since I like J.J. Abrams, I think that's a good thing.

Morgen - Yay!

Juanita's Journal said...

"Of the now six actors to don the 007 mantle the Scotsman is most responsible for elevating the Bond franchise into a major box office draw, mostly accomplished through his combination of charisma, physicality, intelligence, and fluffy chest hair."


And yet . . . the Bond franchise managed to survive without him for nearly four decades. Gee, I wonder how?

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Casino Royale Movie said...

Casino Royale is very nice movie. I listened many thing about it..I just downloaded it and will certainly watch it tonight :-). Hopefully, I will enjoy the film and will not be disappointed .