Thirty Thousand Streets

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Casino Royale

I went and saw the new Bond film on Friday at the Ritzy in Brixton, as everywhere in the centre of town was sold out. And despite my reservations about the franchise as a whole it was pretty entertaining.

I'm glad to say they've reigned in the cheesier excesses of the recent Bond output in favour of a grittier, pared down tone. So gone are invisible cars, Ice palaces, genetically enhanced villains, Bond doing a spot of impromptu tidal-wave windsurfing after an orbital satellite slices of a section of a glacier with a laser, and in is ushered a craggy faced Daniel Craig striding purposefully around Montenegro with an intensity worthy of the T1000.

One of the best things about it is the decision to eschew grandiose visual effects in favour of more traditional stunts, which gives it a tremendous sense of kinesis in parts. An early chase scene which sees Bond pursue a terrorist (played by champion freerunner Sebastian Foucan) across a buiding site in Madagascar, has a high impact choreography reminiscent of Jackie Chan.

Also dispensed with are the far fetched gadgets which wouldn't look out of place on Adam West's batbelt. This bond gets a gun and a car, and in one scene it's a Ford Mondeo at that. MI6 must also provide free gym membership as 007 looks impressively buff, emerging shimmering from the sea in an inverted reprisal of Ursual Andress's iconic cheesecake moment in Dr No.

Muscles aside, Craig's is the first convincingly hard Bond since Connery's, and you probably wouldn't spill his Martini if you met him down the pub. Moreover he manages to project the right air of moral ambiguity appropriate to a government sponsored killer, his piercing glinty death-camp eyes somehow just adding to the overall effect.

The main villain—La Chieffre—comes acoss as a proportionately psychotic foe, who, while in full posession of a trademark disfigurement (he weeps tears of blood) is less cat-holdingly camp than previous incarnations of the bond baddy (though he does whip James Bond's balls in one scene). The fact that his name sounds a bit like 'The Chief' is pretty top too.

Of course, before we all start reaching for our genitalia, it's still a Bond film and not the Godfather part II, so any accrued gravitas is somewhat undermined by the hackneyed trappings native to the franchise (the audience were pissing themselves laughing when the first Bond girl made her entrance jiggling down the beach on the back of a horse) yet overall the familiar institutional motifs (crashingly insipid one-liners for example) are underplayed, and mitigated by the Craig reinvigoration effect(tm).

So if you're going to 'catch a flick' with Brian Sewell and Germaine Greer, you might want to look elsewhere, but otherwise go see it. It's a fun way to waste a couple of hours, and has a very nice graphic title sequence (the main tune's a bit crap though).

Go on take a gamble (arf arf).

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