The mannerisms of James Bond have gotten on everyone’s nerves. I suppose there was a time when “shaken, not stirred” was first a symbol, then a trademark. But some time around the late Roger Moore movies, when he was old enough that his sex with the “Bond girls” already seemed implausible, Bond seemed as expired as Moore.
Enters Timothy Dalton, enters Pierce Brosnan. No life enters the franchise. 007 movies had become a non-event in the past years: who wants to see a spy movie when there is no Cold War? Can 007 re-invent himself in a world of economic espionage?
Well, of course then came 9/11, and there was a new enemy to be found: terrorism. The partnership between the U.S. and the UK in matters of Cold War continued in the area of terrorism abatement, and there is a new role for a global 007.
Casino Royale works as a thriller. The tortuous plot is seemingly endless, a roller coster ride that forces you to give in to an astonishing series of betrayals, twists, jarring breaks. And at the center of it, the possibly most convincing Bond ever: Daniel Craig. For once, a hard shell with a soft heart reaches for the spy role; entirely unlike the eternal smirk of Sean Connery, the manners of Roger Moore, the aloofness of Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig convinces us because he is not convincing. He is not convincing as the hard-ass he bills himself as (and he’ll promptly fall in love), but he’s not convincing in the abandon of love (and he’ll quickly move on when his love will fail).
Some of the scenes in the movie are extremely memorable. The initial sequence, in black and white, harkens back to the old days of “The Third Man”; the next, Bond’s first mission as double-oh, is an incredibly fast-paced running chase that couldn’t have been more entertaining if played by Tom and Jerry of cartoon fame.
Next, we are invited to the Casino Royale, an actual casino in Montenegro. Here, we are introduced to the age of the franchise, as this central tenet of the movie (and the first novel) seems entirely absurd compared to the rest of the plot. A bunch of terrorists are playing poker for a total sum of $150M, to be paid out to the last man standing. The money is wired to a Swiss bank. The game is to last until there is only one player left, so it takes several days.
Here’s where the plot jumps like a bronco at a rodeo. We won’t see a lot of beautiful Bond girls (one only, really), but a lot of beautiful cars are being crashed. We’ll witness shooting deaths, poisoning, stabbing deaths, machetes, torture, and what you have.
Most people at the theater commented on how much “not Bond” this Bond movie was. As mentioned, there were no Bond girls, there were no gadgets at all (the most sophisticated one was a defibrillator!), and best of all, when Bond asks whether he wants his martini shaken or stirred, he hastily replies: “I don’t give a damn!”