It's all pop culture: Bond, James Bond
by Mike Baron
I grew up on James Bond. Walking into Dr. No at age fifteen in Mitchell, South Dakota, with no idea what the movie was about, I was gob-smacked, my eyes opened to heretofore unfathomable worlds of intrigue, danger, and sex. Every generation has its movie epiphany: Star Wars, The Matrix, Spider-Man.
The new Bond film, Casino Royale, reawakens those feelings. It blows away virtually all of its predecessors, consigning the awful Roger Moore period to oblivion. Daniel Craig is James Bond in a way no one has been able to duplicate since Connery. He more closely matches Ian Fleming's description of the buttoned-down sadist/mechanic in service to the Queen. We talked ourselves into believing Pierce Brosnan was doing the job. No more.
© 2006 Sony Pictures
Casino Royale is sleek, sexy, and dangerous. Gone are the smirks that have permeated every Bond since Thunderball ("I think he got the point!") Gone are Moneypenny and Q and all the ridiculous gadgets. What's left is the most exciting action film of the year with some brilliantly staged set-pieces. Bond films have traditionally opened with a bang - an explosion or a chase. Casino Royale takes its time, introducing us to Bond on his first double 'O' mission which leads to a tense meeting with M, played by Judi Dench, the only holdover from previous films.
Bond goes to Africa on the trail of an international money dealer/terrorist. When his subject bolts Bond gives chase on foot in what may be the most exciting Bond chase of them all, incorporating the new French sport of parkour, the art of bouncing off buildings. Literally. The sequence will jazz you out of your seat. (When you recover I recommend District B 13, a film about parkour by the French auteur Luc Besson. Luc Besson is the modern Walter Hill. He's responsible for Unleashed and the Transporter movies.)
Daniel Craig brings smoky menace to the screen, similar to what Robert Shaw brought to his role as Red Grant, the hired killer in From Russia with Love. They've cut down on the ladies, too. Bond enjoys only two romances in this film, the second a serious one with Vesper (Eva Green,) the MI6 agent in charge of purse strings.
The action hinges on a game of Texas Hold 'Em at Casino Royale in Montenegro. The international money dealer/terrorist Le Chiffre can't get enough poker. Mads Mikkelson plays Le Chiffre with an understated chill - he looks a little like Christopher Walken only more menacing. He's the most memorable Bond villain since Goldfinger. The settings are more realistic and breathtaking because of it.
Martin Campbell, who also directed the unremarkable GoldenEye, has turned in a new benchmark for the longest running movie franchise of them all.
Bond is one of those characters who transfers easily to comics. There are comic books of Dr. No (DC,) For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy (Marvel,) and License to Kill (Eclipse.) Mike Grell is responsible for the later, and Permission to Die, an original. Dark Horse licensed the character and turned out several issues up to and including GoldenEye, the last film adaptation.
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