Wednesday, November 15, 2006

CASINO ROYALE - Whatever happened to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?!

CASINO ROYALE has four good points: Daniel Craig (the new 007) is a good actor; the opening black-and-white assassination sequence is stylish, funny and hard-as-nails; the movie features a heart-stoppingly gorgeous cameo of an Astin Martin DBS; and the humour is genuinely witty rather than tongue-in-cheek.

Everything else sucks. Much as I hate formulaic movies, the Bond franchise is built on a bloody cast iron formula - hot chicks, fast cars, stuffy Whitehall bureaucrats, witty one-liners, evil megalomaniacs, oddball henchman and a handsome gentleman killer in a dinner jacket. CASINO ROYALE pisses on this heritage from a great height. There are no heart-stopping chase scenes, no random rumpy-pumpy, no cool gadgets, no Moneypenny, no "Q" at all. Craig's Bond is written as a man at odds with his Oxford education - the sort of man who doesn't give a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred and would have the audacity to dine on caviar in a restaurent without his tie. What "luxury" there is is distinctly second-class. We first see Bond driving a bloody Ford; the Casino is not in France but Montenegro and instead of playing Baccarat he plays poker. It's all a little pathetic. Even the sums of money seem inconsequential. £150million hardly seems like a sum on which the future of international terrorist finance hangs. In fact, the movie is downhill from about the fifth minute when the opening titles begin. This must be the most anonymous pathetic excuse for a Bond song and the most low-rent graphics ever seen in a Bond film - and that's saying something.

I can see perfectly well what the director and producers were trying to do. They wanted to inject a little grit and realism in the movie. Fine. It's rather nice to see Bond bleed and sweat, look exhausted and be the victim of an infamous homo-erotic sado-maschostic torture sequence (the nearest, by the way, that we get to sexual excitement in the movie.) But frankly, giving Bond a genuine love interest and some bruising will not turn the franchise into the Bourne Supremacy any more than giving Tom Cruise a wife in MI3 made Ethan Hunt an empathetic character. Instead, we get a half-way house - neither as popcorn-tastic as the usual Bond circus; nor as thrilling as Bourne and certainly not as emotionally affecting as your early John le Carre novel. CASINO ROYALE is actually rather dull.

I don't want post-modern touchy feely Bond. It's just not as entertaining. And actually, I don't think it's any closer to the novels: I always found Bond to be a callow, materialistic, whiny little sado-masochist who got into scrapes and had to be bailed out continuously by Felix Leiter. I wish movie reviewers would stop talking about "getting back to the novel" as being some kind of holy grail. Bond was only ever trashy materialistic entertainment - at its best it still is. I still remember the opening sequence of GOLDENEYE where Bond freefalls off a cliff and into the cockpit of a plane. Class! The audience applauded - here was the Bond we had missed during the sterile Dalton years. And to think it's the same director behind this damp squib! I fear we are headed for the desert once more.....

CASINO ROYALE is on global release from Friday. For a complete set of specific release date, click here.

For a video review of this movie from, Nikolai, click here.


  1. I think you might've just convinced me to see it. Sounds better than the usual Bond rubbish ;-)

  2. Hey Bina... do the words 'couldn't be more wrong' mean anything to you?!
    Casino Royale is a royal romp of dark gritty Bond fun and the press screening I was at had them rapt, cheering and applauding!!
    Sorry but this is one film we'll have to agree to difer over...

  3. Bina,

    I swear I didn't read this review before giving mine. We both noticed the Ford. Wasn't it fucking sad?

    And shall I tell you what else was wrong wrong wrong - no birds in the opening sequence with the shitty graphics. Just him. I'm like, where are the fleeting shots of nipples, maybe just a hint of flange?

    And yes! Where were the cool stunts? So bond can run. So can I! So bond can jump, so can I (just not as high). So bond can use a PC. So can I! Where are the stupid rocket jetpacks, and cars with massive fucking guns on the front. Where is the suave motherfucker who kills 20 agents of darkness, get's into a massive car accident, blows up a 10 tonne semi, throws a hidden evil-base into chaos, kills the baddie, and all he has to do is wipe off his perfect Saville Row suit with some dust and he looks just perfect! Bring him back!

    Ahhh bina, who said we disagreed on movies huh?

  4. good point about 'getting back to the novels' - all the formulae that have made the series endure come from the first four or so movies and not the novels, this is 'classical' bond, this is what we should get back to if the series would continue to endure, because after another film of this sort people will very quickly get bored, seeing as all the reinvention here is just novel cultural gimickry that as a matter of course cannot endure. We get so much of the self-important preachy 'grittiness' that courts critical acclaim in irony free imbecilic and pretentious movies that patronise us by presuming to educate such as Traffic and Crash. Bond at its best is epicurian, escapist, ironically self-aware pop culture. This movie collapsed when it decided to take half an hour out in order to prove that the female lead wasn't a sex object. What's wrong with sex objects provided they're presented with a self-aware transparency regarding their fantasy? By far the best bond is that of the early 60's, and if any other subsequent type of bond had begun the series it wouldn't be on to its 21st film.

  5. What I'm waiting for is the final $$Numbers$$. They kicked Pierce to the curb to save money, yet his last outing was the most profitable ever.
    All the re-inventing stuff is a diversion, and pretty lame after the Mission Impossible, Bourne Movies and FIVE YEARS OF Alias! In the books he was much more like Moore (Fleming being a elitest snob would naturally prefer Moore to Connery, but Connery is still the best.

    We don't need to turn Bond into a lad.

  6. I'm afraid I'm siding with Matt A on this one. This is the first Bond film I've actually enjoyed since Goldeneye, and that's not a reflection on Pierce Brosnan who I always thought was rather good. I'm glad to see a Bond film that I can actually believe in. I know at the heart of it all they are fantasy films (male fantasies especially), but the last few films were just silly. I watched them on TV (and as an inflight movie once) and felt no urge to ever watch them again.

    This films spices it all up again. I agree with the praise for Daniel Craig; he's got a really great screen presence and has none of the smarm that some previous actors had. Eva Green was great in her role and again, it was refreshing to see a Bond girl that was believable and not some bimbo posing as a nuclear scientist, who effortlessly falls into Bond's arms. Some parts of the plot were a bit muddled and the poker scenes could have been more tense. But aside from that, I loved it. This is a film I really want to get on DVD so I can see it again. Plus I'm also looking forward to what's going to come next for Bond. Hopefully there will be some continuation that lets Daniel Craig grow into the character.

  7. For Bina007, whomever you are. Did you even watch the movie or did you just hear about it from your teenage girl-friends?