Sunday, November 26, 2006
Daniel Craig is the new James Bond, and the fact that the Broccoli family launches the new star in a remake of the very first 007 movie, might mean that they plan to remake every last one of the series.
Craig will never win the "sexiest man alive" title (Connery being the definitive Bond), but he does show an endearing human side to a role that has been played too cold (Timothy Dalton), too self conscious (Roger Moore), too simple (George Lazenby), too pretty (Pierce Brosnan), and too mean (Connery). His ears stick out, his haircut looks like something I'd give him in the dark with Kindergarten scissors, and his profile is downright thuggish. That said, I concede that he has an amazing pair of shoulders, a nicely muscular butt, and piercing iceberg eyes.
What really sets apart this Bond is his depth as a person. He's not just a character in a film. He's a complex dude with a past and an inner life, pegged beautifully by breathtakingly intelligent and refreshingly minimally chested Bond girl Vesper Lind (Eva Green). Their conversations go far beyond screenplays that had Moore spouting cheesy double entendres and Connery mutely rearranging shoulder straps like a horny high school kid.
Good supporting characters round out the new movie. Even Chester Gould could not have invented the creepy villain Le Chiffre, with asthma and scarred eye that weeps blood. He steals every scene in a way that Blofeld and Goldfinger cannot. Gamblers at the Casino Royale table are utterly intriguing, Judi Dench is an amazing M, and the actor who played the Swiss banker puts in a performance as memorable as Alan Cumming's in Eyes Wide Shut.
Really, though, this was a Baby Boomer's perfect Bond. We all grew up with 007. Men wanted to BE him, women wanted to meet him. We Boomers may be greying, but we're at the peak of our careers and many of us can afford leisure activities once reserved for the jetset. Thanks to the early Bond movies, we pursued recreational sex, got SCUBA certified, learned how to ski, and drove a cool sports car at some point in life. We are no longer impressed by movie scenes of these activities, because we know how to do all that shit. But the French art of free jumping? I'd love to meet a baby boomer who can do THAT. Now free jumping is impressive! And this Bond film begins with a dynamite sequence of matching that nimble art with braun, guns, and third world grit. So the effects and stunts guys really are hip to what's left in the realm of slick, sophisticated, and dangerous.
Um, wait! Did I say 'sophisticated?' That's the one place where they got it wrong. The product placement, branding, and many sets were under par for 2006. Bond asks for a Beefeater martini, but don't we REALLY think he'd specify Bombay Sapphire Gin if not Grey Goose Vodka? He says he wears an 'O-mee-ga' wristwatch, not a more classic Rolex. He convalesces at Lake Como (full of German boors nowadays) and vacations in horrifically tourist-crowded Venice. Production designers recoup points for the sailboat Bond takes past the Grand Canal, which would have been too slow and wimpy for Roger Moore vehicles.
And, speaking of vehicles, Bond pulls up to a Bahamian resort hotel in a light blue Ford. No, sorry, James Bond would never be caught dead in a Ford. That was just the worst product placement EVER, nearly offsetting the trademark Bond affliction of stocking the film with more luxury brands than any random chapter of American Psycho.
That's a category where this Bond severs with tradition. The guy has no class. Driving sexy chick Catarina Murino around in circles in the cool Astin Martin he just won off her husband is a perfect example of one kind of class (the casino, the car) mitigated by cheap behavior (seeking to impress a girl by driving like a maniac). It's every bit as bad as Lazenby's 007 making off with a Playboy centerfold (the clipping, not the model). Lazenby was just about everyone's least favorite Bond.
But back to the blond secret agent. Cute ass, well-fitting dinner jacket, and an awesome pair of cufflinks do not actually show class. Working out at the gym, a trip to Chinatown, and a sale at Macy's will put a fellow in touch with those items. Class doesn't come into play there. The film's sailboat bit and penchant for married women MAY put him in a higher class than the likes of me, as well as his I'm-not-asking-permission pursuit of Armenian bad guy Simon Abkarian and Bond's deferential posture to boss lady M after she catches him in her apartment. That's class. But there's just not a lot of it.
Ah, and the fact that this Bond is new to killing, & clearly can't do it without a few pangs of emotion, makes me nominate this screenplay for the best of the lot. Really, it's an up-to-date Bond, someone we boomers can still admire.
In all, sure, I recommend this Bond film as the one with the best treatment of women, the most realistic dialogue, and hippest stunts. Go see it.
Photos copyright imdb.com (with thanks)