Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

"Casino Royale" makes me happy

As I hope leonardpart6 and happyspector are not surprised to learn, I really really really enjoyed Casino Royale. And I'm not surprised they liked it, as well: it's solid, earthy, brutal, and non-cliched. I was seriously grinning by film's end. And the film's very opening (low-key, two-fisted, and in black-and-white (!), a first for a Bond film) is very smartly designed; it's saying "This won't be like the others." It's a confident, full-blooded piece of huge-screen entertainment.

No spoilers here, just geeking:

Before this film, I had no feelings one way or another about Daniel Craig as James Bond -- not rooting for him, not hating him, just wanting to see what he could do. But he was a highly good choice. (When even my Bond purist former girlfriend calls Craig "decent," that's saying something. She's read the original novels, where Bond is nothing like, say, Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan, and she hadn't liked a Bond actor since Connery.) Craig is perfect at portraying what M early on calls "a blunt instrument": he's not elegant in how he moves at first (watch him in the Africa construction site chase, where the man he's trying to catch is practically a gymnast, while Craig bashes his way along and barrels through his obstacles...sometimes literally), but grows more elegant as the film goes on and as he learns. He gets hurt; he makes mistakes; at least once, he only barely saves the day, and it's a strain for him to do that, too.

Casino Royale isn't trying too hard to be clever, either. Quipping about everything (as Moore could do) can have a distancing effect, leaving the character above it all; but this movie limits the quips, and that accentuates the danger Bond's facing; he's not so polished that he has a bon mot for each attempt on his life. In fact, you really feel how the characters are learning about each other as they talk (I'm thinking of when Craig meets Eva Green on the train); often, the dialogue is functional, and is still fun to hear, and has verisimilitude. People probably could talk like this in these situations. It's more than just the film having no lines that are cringe-inducing (like the final line in The World Is Not Enough); Casino Royale has dialogue that has "weight" to it, where you know why people are saying what they're saying, because you've seen what they've been through. This is a well-written movie.

I also like how smoothly the film evokes the post-9/11 world in its plot, something no Bond film's ever had to do. Terrorism certainly seems a fitting target for a modern-day James Bond. (I was going to say "MacGuffin," but that's far too flippant a way to refer to that event. "Target" makes more sense.)

And oy, how much fun is Judi Dench? Casting her as M is still one of the best decisions the Bond producers have made in the past 12 years. I love that she first appears delivering a rant, and that throughout the story she has legitimate reasons to be pissed at 007. Dench's and Craig's sparring is a legitimate pleasure, and it has a point: they're testing each other. I feel like it took a while for Dench and Brosnan to build a similarly interesting dynamic (feel free to disagree, leonardpart6), but it's already present in this first Daniel Craig film.

And I'm definitely hoping for more of Jeffrey Wright as the CIA's Felix Leiter, come later films. The chance to have some continuity in these movies is a welcome one, and could help the whole enterprise stay fresh. I've been a longtime watcher of these movies, even liking the often bombastic Die Another Day (about as huge-scale as a Bond film probably could be); I'm rooting for this team to keep up this re-imagining of Bond.

(By the way, I like happyspector's ideas for what he'd like to see in the future Daniel Craig Bond films.)

Oh, and one last thing: that's got to be the ugliest jumbo jet in history. ;-)
Tags: creme de la chris, film reviews
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