The Bond Walks Again

48 Comments

Last time, in “Die Another Day” [2002] we saw the Bond franchise speeding towards certain demise, descending from its characteristic “over-the-topness” into the murky swamps of undiluted camp with lesbian sword-fighters, castles made of ice, invisible cars, a satellite emitting death rays, a villain with diamonds embedded in his cheek and dialogues so full of double entrendes, you would think that Dada Kondke was ghosting the script from the great beyond. There was talk of spinning a Modesty Blaise-type “female Bond’ series based on the Hale Berry character from “Die Another Day” because the men in suits with the cheques had figured it out: the Bond mystique was gone and the cold-war warrior had outlived his times (just like CPM’s Harkishen Surjeet). There were unconfirmed rumours that the Bond franchise would shift to Ooty and Gunmaster G9 (the secret agent who fights mad locust armies, calculator-wielding bionic men and who can hit any G-spot within 9 attempts–hence the G9) would take over the mantle of the man with the license to chill.

And then “Casino Royale” [2006] happens. Martin Campbell takes over the reigns after being shunted out after “GoldenEye”. And Pierce Brosnan gets replaced by Daniel Craig. The result is indisputably one of the best instalments of the 21 movie series—in fact I would go even further and call it one of the most satisfying action movies in recent memory.

I went in with serious misgivings however. Despite not being terrible enamoured of the Bond movies in which he acted, I had nonetheless been a great fan of Pierce Brosnan as he was the picture-perfect embodiment of the Bond ideal—-cynical, ultra-meterosexual British dandy, the kind of man who actually means it when he says: ‘drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above 38F is like listening to the Beatles without earmuffs’, a man who can stop an entire Soviet Army division without creasing his impeccably tailored suit. I was sceptical as to whether the more plebeian-looking Daniel Craig would be able to fit into Brosnan’s polished shoes and bring the suaveness and style that had been epitomized by his predecessor.

He does not even try to. And that what makes ‘Casino Royale’ so refreshing. Throwing away the done-to-death, formulaic trappings of the quintessential Bond movie, Martin Campbell re-invents James Bond—-not so radically different that you would feel cheated but distinctive enough for you to realize that a deliberate detach has been made. Here James Bond bleeds, he is vulnerable, he avoids all kinds of juvenile double-entrendes and unthinkably has his choice of dinner jacket corrected by a female agent. And what’s even more jaw-dropping is that in a particular tense point of the movie when a bartender asks Mr. Bond whether he wants his martini shaken or stirred, Bond says: “Does it look like I give a damn?” What next? Bond sipping Haywards 5000?

It is this conscious attempt to stay off the beaten path that makes ‘Casino Royale’ so enjoyable. If you are going in expecting to see a typically lavish, long-drawn-out action set-piece just before the credits roll, you will be pleasantly disappointed by the brevity and brutality of the opening sequence. If you are expecting silhouettes of sexy ladies dancing seductively in the opening credits…forget it. If you think there will be people hanging from the Eiffel Tower or a kidnapping in the Vatican or an assault on a nuclear silo, then you are mistaken. Of course that does not mean there are no spectacular action sequences—-my favourite being a chase through a construction site in Madagascar—it is just that their spectacularness is less defined by their location but more by their picturization. And unlike most modern action movies, ‘Casino Royale’ realizes that real drama is not realized through grand explosions, fast chases and high body counts. The most dramatic and exciting moments take place in relative stasis—around a poker table where the protagonists face off against each other, with millions of dollars and their very own reputations at stake , where the power of a piercing glance or the action of the gambling chip being placed on the table packs as much punch as that of a bullet from a silenced Beretta.

The credit for making most of ‘Casino Royale’ work has to go to the new Bond, Daniel Craig. Exuding barely-suppressed violence and physical strength (unlike Pierce Brosnan), he cannonballs through the action scenes but is savvy enough to pull himself back and rely on the glance, the smirk and the well-delivered line during the non-action ones. Bond’s nemesis (who sheds tears of blood–perhaps from watching too many Shahrukh movies) is also a vast improvement over last time’s villain Toby Stephens whose evil facial contortions were exactly identical to the “Oh God spare me” expressions he sported when he made love to Amisha Patel in “Mangal Pandey–the Rising.” The production quality is top-notch and special mention must be made of the credits sequence, which is exteremely original and visually stunning.

Summing up, I announce with great joy that, thanks to clever direction and a re-imaging of the Bond persona, 007’s license to thrill has been given a fresh lease of life.

Mr. Bond is back, oh gaon-walon.

And this time, he is taking no prisoners.

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48 thoughts on “The Bond Walks Again

  1. Nice Movie and a nicer review.
    I take pride in saying that I am a ‘Bond’ aficionado, not missing a single bond movie ever to come on a silver screen, ergo i consider myself a ‘Bond’ critique too. The movie was better accepted by people since everyone dont seem to digest the fact that how on earth can a person crash through a gigantic wall in Russia with a tank and not have a single hair style malfunction dare think of getting hurt.
    Some things that still go missing from the movie were:

    1). Bond has the capability of single handedly eliminating a hundred bad guys without even his tux getting undone and thats what makes him a lot different that Jason Bourne or XxX or for that matter any other special agent.

    2). The music: Its like the spanky part of the movie, with all types of variants of the same music in the backdrop even when scenes are not so thrilling. Theme is an aphrodisiac for many.

    3) And not to mention a little more prolonged climax would hav done no loss. We have seen previous Bond’s fighting in jets, fllying in space and what not. A collapsing building in Venice was not very upto the mark.

    Neverthless, a Bond movie, it was nice to see how Craig wore shoes a bit too tight for him(as sceptics predicted) and it fit like a woolen glove. I am anxious to see Craif full fledged in action from the nest movie.

  2. I’m no Bond expert, but I thought nobody could be a better bond than Pierce Brosnan. Until I saw Sean Connery’s initial movies. Although Brosnan comes close, in my opinion, Connery made a better bond. I’m yet to see What Daniel Craig is like, but the fact that he’s blonde does seem a bit odd to me, and from the posters, I have a little difficulty accepting him as Bond. I hope his acting will make me forget his hair color.
    Your review has increased my interest, I’ll try to make it next weekend.

  3. GB,
    Thanks for the review.

    Last night (or was it day?, you don’t really know or care when you are skipping timezones in transatlantic flights..) i read positive noises from USA today on the same topic.

    Your review reinforced my decision on an AMC-visit.

  4. @VC: Brilliant!
    @Arnab, On behalf of all, Bong, not so Bong or never want to be confused with Bong, may I wholeheartedly agree with VC and say that this line is yours and you’ve earned it: “I’m Bong. Great Bong.” yes, absolutely. I’m going to see this film upon your reco now.

  5. I loved the movie – it was little drawn out towards the end, but very well thought of. And for once, a Bond movie was not a gadget expo, and relied on what Ian Fleming thought of Bond.

    Please, hot women. Thankfully. After Halle Berry, I thought Bond was doomed even in that dept :D.

    And Daniel Craig absolutely rocks. Whatever impressions I had about Clive Owen being a better bond were completely dismissed. I am more than looking forward to the next installment now.

    S

  6. Bong, Great Bong!
    Your code number is 0007!
    The extra zero gives you the licence to write a blog.
    Do you drink your Darjeeling tea shaken or stirred?

  7. When the man who has given me my name is mentioned, must I not comment?

    And I agree wholeheartedly – Craig is just different enough to be interesting, and yet not so different that you feel cheated. It is more a tale of “How James became Bond”. Did you also note that the Bond theme didn’t play at all, until the credit? Perhaps it was a sign that the Bond we all know has arrived.

    And I must mentioned the most ingenious torture scheme of all – no frills, just HIT HIM IN THE BALLS. Genius!!

  8. >>Bond’s nemesis (who sheds tears of blood–perhaps from watching too many Shahrukh movies)

    This is absolutely howlarious!!

    Love ur blog, GreatBong! Am a first-time commenter here!

  9. Liked the movie…nothing you’d expect from a bond movie…good for a change from the usual stuff from the franchise…
    FOr the next movie however I would like to see a mixof the Tommorow never dies kind of bond movies and CASINO ROYALE…..the best of both worlds

  10. Watched this one over the weekend…..only word that comes to mind is refreshing….The action sequences are pretty nice too a la Jason Bourne in the Bourne identity series….but the last lines uttered by Bond in the movie let you know….Bond is back!!

  11. Your fantastic review makes me believe that the film was a more faithful adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel, which is as I believe it should be barring major anachronisms or requirements as may be dictated by the genuine needs of portrayal on the silver screen. In fact it it is the shallow modernness and heights of stupidity which made me resent the 90’s bond movies…not that I was ever a fan of Bond films made in any eras …and I’m the only person in this world who thinks Timothy Dalton was the best Bond.

    Your review still may be not strong to shell out 13 bucks at AMC..just have spend too many on theaters this year…but Ill surely check out the pirated versions online.

    I must say GB that the last few reviews were very very nice…and a marked change in style…not that I’m complaining….great reading…but “Bong, Great Bong” in the comments thread takes the cake. :))

    Keep the reviews coming!

  12. GB – I was among the very few who expected the things you said in para 5 and hence came out thinking the movie was very ordinary. CR better be the template for subsequent Bond movies, else this new, new Bond could well have been only for this one intro movie.

  13. GB,

    Watched casino yesterday.

    First Craig has none of the Brosnan’s polish.

    Second He has a screen presence, something on lines of Sean Connery (another bond with looks and manner of common class)

    Third His vibes is that of a ruthless killer, of course in the movie it was not explored, may be it can be an idea for further movies.

  14. I so agree with you. Loved the action scene where bond chases the bombmaker in a construction site in Madagascar – really hard hitting.And Craig has to be the most physically powerful bond ever. I was one of those people who were shocked at Craig’s selection predominantly coz of his ‘Truck driver’ looks – lacking the polish n all. For once I am quite happy to eat my words.But I hope in his next ventures, daniel craig brings in enough of the ‘polish’ and assert his brawn a little lesser – after all as “M” says, he is no “common thug”. As an aside, the movie shows how even James Bond is vulnerable to “Pyar ke side effects” – ishq me uski bhi vaat lag jati hai mamu 🙂

  15. I’m sure that Craig is a great screen presence, and he had amply shown his tough guy credentials in Archangel and Layer Cake before – so there was no doubt he could play James Bond. However, I am not so sure that converting the Bond films into a generic action thriller is the perfect solution to the “flagging” series.

    Let me explain why.

    The last two Bond films have been derided by many as being symptomatic of the turgidity of the series. People have said that they were too outlandish and far-fetched and cartoonish in nature. BUT, what we tend to forget that those two films were also the highest grossing Bond films of all time. So the demise of the franchise was greatly exaggerated. The real reasons for ousting Pierce Brosnan, perhaps the finest Bond (I loved Dalton as well – the only Bond with a greater acting pedigree than Craig) of all, were a combination of monetary disputes, and Brosnan’s own desire to do other roles (see “The Matador”, for a great example).

    The reason we still like the idea of a new approach is that while the Brosnan films were popular, perhaps we as a “refined” segment of the audience, were embarrassed by the unreality of the stories/plots in the films, even if they were huge hits. A bit like how we would deride the execrable Vivah, but are powerless to stop it from being a big moneyspinner for the Barjatiyas.

    So a new Bond with proper acting credentials, ripped muscles, and a more hyperrealistic directional style and camerawork actually satisfies both the base thriller-lover and the “refined critic” within ourselves. So it’s a perfect match, actually.

    So where’s the danger?

    The danger is that in order to span these two types of audiences (or these two parts of the same audience), we might force the Broccolis to turn Bond into just another action hero a la Ethan Hunt (MI Series) or, for that matter Jason Bourne* (eponymous series). I feel we need to recall all the reasons why we love Bond. We love the gadgets, we love the tuxedos, the smirk, the flirting, the unflappablity, the shaken martini, the babes, and the coolness, and yes, the total unreality of it all! Not as much his acting and ability to fight barefisted.

    Just thought I’d interject a word of caution. I actually like Daniel Craig, and for some time now.

    *PS: Oh, and although the Bourne movies are good, I will never forgive Doug Liman for excising the Carlos sub-plot from the movie, effectively dumbing it down for retarded audiences. Any Robert Ludlum fans here will agree with me. But that’s another rant…

  16. I watched the movie yesterday night. It was one of the worst bond movies I’ve ever seen. The Daniel Craig is pretty good though he is not even remotely close to Pierce Brosnan

    Apart from the chase in the beginning, the movie was a very loosely woven narration. It was real boring and a sheer wastage of my money (130 bucks for ticket 3 Will Navy Cut cigarettes, a lighter, 2 dotted condoms and a pack of Protex Happydent gums that the cinema security didn’t allow inside after checking my purse. Oh yeah! I took out the ciggies and put them in the purse hoping to protect them which didn’t happen).

  17. I was not aware that Bond movies had something to do with the spread of AIDS.
    Must inform NACO and Buladi.
    Will wearing spectacles be enough or are contact lenses a must?
    What about banana flavoured condoms?

  18. Hi GB,
    Your review echos my thoughts about the movie and DC. It was good to see a vulnerable yet butt-kicking bond. I had my apprehensions about the oldish looking bond, but the apprehensions vanished soon after I started watchig the movie.
    Vinay

  19. I kinda like the gadgets in all the bond movies and heard there aren’t any in this movie.. yet to get a ticket.. but will definitely watch it asap!

  20. @Sumit: Thanks.

    @Aneesh: Personally I prefer the new Bond—that “tux never gets undone” had been done to death. A new age and a new Bond is what is needed.

    @Joy: Aaah I always preferred Brosnan.

    @Educatedunemployed: Thank you

    @Giri: Tell us how you liked it.

    @VC: 🙂

    @Sachin: Please do.

    @Ranjan: Glad to see you liked “Don”.

    @Suyog: I think Ms Berry is uber-hot—-you dont think so? Her role in “Die Another Day” was somewhat Arjun Rampal-ish of course.

    @Swati: Shaken. And my maacher jhol above 60F. Thank you.

    @Gamesmaster G9: Another noted deviation from classic Bonds where James Bond was always tortured in elaborate devices like a cutting laser that ominously approaches his manhood or dangerous sharks.

    @gm: Thanks

    @Arjun: Being an old Hindi movie hack, length is never a problem !

    @Kabaddi Kabaddi: No I would not. “Die Another Day” was almost an Austin Powers movie…

    @Gourav: I loved how that line is kept till the very very end.

    @Yourfan2: 13 bucks?? Holy cow. I watched it for $5.

    @Bombay Addict: I hope so too…that they manage to keep this impact in Bond-22.

    @Gaurav: I like the “bad boy” rogue look…

    @Bay Jay: 🙂

    @Sudipta: There was a time in the movie where I was thinking “Oh oh…is this becoming an SRK flick” but that last sequence restored my overall high evaluation of CR.

    @Shan: I think that stylistically Bond retains many unique characteristics that make him distinct from Bourne and Hunt. Incidentally Hunt is not a franchise—that’s just Tom Cruise playing tough guy…which is something that always make me slightly amused. And I love the mask—every time Hunt takes it off, I feel it’s Cruise coming ‘out of the closet’

    @Beau Peep: Fascinating.

    @Swati: Who or what is Buladi?

    @Vinay: Hmm

    @Ali: Yes not many gadgets and in-movie product placements. Thanks goodness for that…

  21. “Yes not many gadgets and in-movie product placements. Thanks goodness for that”

    Not actually. Sony is promoted everywhere. Everyone carries Sony Ericsson phones(secret agents to accountants to terrorists) and Bond sends his resignation email from a Vaio. Not to mention, Ford as usual.(Land Rover, Lincoln, Jaguar, Aston Martin all are part of Ford family).

  22. Buladi is a sari wearing rag doll who/which is supposed to look like a sympathetic 30-ish up market social worker advising everyone –thuggish young man(venue park bench)/ man and wife(bedroom), woman and client(seedy surroundings)/ woman complaining of the other woman in her husbands life (nuetral background).
    These advertisements have been splashed all over the hoardings in Calcutta and have made quite an impact, especially on little children.
    Any respectable roly-poly ginni-banni type is now hailed as Buladi by the children.

  23. Nothing about the Bond girl??
    First one was really good!! But the other one would be I think the worst bond girl in my opinion.

  24. Hi. The movie has a fresh feel to it. The movie is the FIRST Fleming novel and hence the drink, the gaucheness of Bond is in keeping with the book. Most of the lines are from the book and the script is just updated to reflect modern times.
    I was amazed that I liked Craig – he definetly did not fit my version of Bond. But he has done a good job.

  25. GB: Great review! I loved the movie too.

    The first action/chase scene is absolutely great. I don’t think anyone has mentioned in the responses. If you are not aware, its a great new sport being developed in the suburbs of Paris, called “Free Running” or “Parkour” (parkour.net). The guy looked like one of the guys who went jumping around London. Yes, about a year or two ago, there was a documentary showing two-three kids jumping around on buildings in London. Since then I have been a big fan of watching perform this sport. Its a great mix of running gymnastics.

    Secondly, I wanted to point out why this guy is THE real bond. I mean, just look at what you have to do to just *scratch* his balls.

    Only thing I did not like is that scene in which he travelled in a ford sedan. That was just bad for a top 00 agent with tons of resources and ashton martins. I silenced my own opposition by thinking that it must have been a rental car he had to get as he had to fly out so soon.

    Thanks and keep writing.

  26. @Arnab: Hunt just became a franchise. Brad Pitt is due to star in the latest one after Summer Redstone uncenemoniusly booted the Scientiologist out.

    As for Bourne, there were three books i.e. at least three films. The last one, The Bourne Supremacy is due out soon. Of course they have little or no connection to the books any more. And since the series is successful, I can bet the studio will have a few more Bourne adventures. At least they finally film The Bourne Mediocrity with Luke Wilson in the lead. [Or would that be The Bland Mediocrity? I should stop it. I’m killing myself laughing here.] Heh Heh

    Buladi is a sex-ed teacher/social worker, a character created either by the West Bengal government or some NGOs. Quite successful, since everyone talks about her. She is present in radio spots as well. I saw a lot of Buladi hoardings when I visited Calcutta last. Opinion is divided as to whether many people want to have sex with Buladi or not, though. [Heh, there I go again]

  27. I agree with all who say that while Connery IS Bond, Brosnan’s closest after.

    it’s a shame he got such silly movies… Although I did like that Russian tank scene in ‘Goldfinger’.

    Mind you, it took me some time to get Remington Steele out of my head — kept expecting Laura to pop out and save his butt!

  28. Bit unrelated (bit related) but can’t help comment again 😉

    http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=77357&headline=Himesh~ropes~in~H'wood~bigwig

    “Himesh has roped in Gary Powell, the stunt director of the latest Bond flick, Casino Royale. Gary, who has directed stunts for films like The Legend of Zorro, The Mummy and Mission Impossible among many others, will now be directing Himesh.”

    GB, is it a coincidence that you have a blog on Himesh & Casino Royale one after the other 🙂

  29. “a man who can stop an entire Soviet Army division without creasing his impeccably tailored suit. ”

    You speak my mind GB, you speak my mind! 🙂

  30. @GB: Second movie this week on your reco, and spot on again. I loved the bit of banter between the brother from Langley and Bond of MI-6.”Do we really need the money?” and the ending just took the cake. The best “Bond. James Bond” in recent memory.
    Minuses: The homeliest (in the American use of the word) leading lady ever, who gets popped off rather arbitrarily, the uncool M (Dame Judi tried but…), the Fords all over (keep it in the family, eh…), and the VAIO endorsement(uncool).
    Pluses: Awesome action. Gary Powell, I await what you’ll do with Himessbhai. For once I found the Bond action scenes to be thrilling. Awesome Daniel Craig. After a half century, great bod on Bond. Yes, after Sean Connery (3rd runner up in Mr Universe 1950) this is a first. This guy works out! And not like John Abraham. He WORKS out. And dialogue delivery: Yes! “Shaken or stirred?” “I don’t give a damn!” and of course the last line of the film is historic. Delivered with modern Brit working class insouciance. Good job, Mr. Bond. Then the villian, tears of blood, cool. Torture the old fashioned way, cool. Car chases in Eastern Europe. Cool. Locales without sci-fi. Cool. Music: good adaptation from Monty Norman. Script: Excellent: Has the gritty booze, casino, mysetery Ian Fleming touch. And direction: Martin Campbell, you are a Dude! Take a bow!
    Arnab, I am in danger of becoming yourfan3. 2 out of 2. You are Bong. Great Bong. Indeed.

  31. This is, in my opinion, your best review since da Vinci code (which was an excellent review): well-analyzed, broad yet detailed (e.g. the credits), and intelligent; better than high-handed rubbishing (KANK) or patronizing back-pat (Don) meant for enlightening the plebian gaon-wale. Great job.

  32. Say what you will.
    In our town of Barrackpore-am-Eisenbahn, there are no takers for this Bond. Not even at the modest price of Rs 25 per posterior on a seat.
    My daughter (fountain of wisdom, aged 11) explained why. It seems that the censors have been at work and so the hormonally-high janata has found better use for their money.(‘Chines Jawani’ at Sandhya 10:30 am, ‘L.A. Girl’ at Mina 8:30 pm)

  33. no kidding.. this Bond edition stood apart in the fact that it actually had a good story!! None of the typical gizmos (the remote controlled BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies was a disappointment)…. although it still pained me to see another Aston Martin get completely destroyed.

    The last 20 minutes of the movie seemed like it was verging on being a chick-flick (with Bond’s romantic overture “…whatever is mine is yours”) but they saved it nonethless!!

    good movie and good review!!

  34. My sentiments exactly after watching First Day Last Show. Although, I have to admit, Bond girl with a swimsuit is a must for total paisa vasool. But overall a brilliant bond movie and a good adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first novel.

  35. I was scared to read what you have to say… I loved Casino Royale. I loved Daniel Craig. But mostly, I loved how for once Bond is made to look human.
    I noticed the lack of “silhouettes of sexy ladies dancing seductively in the opening credits”. Bond somehow, amidst all the action and gadgets and women, got away with not knowing how to act… Daniel Craig breaks out… does his job brilliantly, feels for the ladies, and makes hearts flutter… all in the same movie!
    Havent seen all Bond flicks, but the one starring Timothy Dalton is also very different.

  36. GB, like you I enjoyed this Bond too. By DAD, the whole Bond thing had become a parody of a parody, & Daniel Craig has successfully given it a jhatka. As Gaurav said, the parkour style opening fight in the beginning made it clear right on that thsi was not another of your shaken not stirred Bonds. In fact, it was Sebastian Foucan, one of the inventors of parkour, who plays the bomb maker in the opening scene. Another parkour founder, David Belle, acted in the Luc Besson-produced movie District B13, which came out in the US earlier this year.

    Another interesting side-note is that Martin Campbell, who directed CR, also made (imho) Brosnan’s best Bond outing, his Bondebut – Goldeneye. That one revived the franchise after the wilderness of the Dalton years.

  37. Pingback: 42 Quirks - » Bond, but not 007, yet: Casino Royale

  38. GB…I specifically said Tommorow never Dies and Not Die Another Day…I agree Die Another Day was just selling the Bond Name and making money but Tommorow Never Dies had it all…the action,the girls and a villain who was smart and evil and hence a “Bond Villain”…..If only Daniel could mix up the two perfectly and serve us the perfect bond movie(…..I could have said Goldfinger but ….)

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