I fully expected Casino Royale to suck. All the Daniel Craig hype aside, the thought of seeing a franchise picture, slated for the holidays, with rampant product placement and all the sins of our millennial movie-going madness left me cold. Still, it was a rainy Saturday, so I did a â€œwhat the hellâ€ and went.
There were times during this movie when I wanted to stand up and cheer. They got it right. Very right.
Somehow the makers of this film managed to tap into the menace and genuine fear that has to fuel a thriller like Bond.If we don't believe the bad guys are really bad, more than cardboard cut-outs, all the quips and shaken not stirreds in the world aren't going to save it for us. To get things going, they start it with a scene that makes you think you are watching Traffic or a gritty whacking scene from The Sopranos or Trainspotting. It's as if the filmmakers realized that we, the audience, have been watching those things -- that the bar has been raised -- and they've answered back. True Grit.
But, Bond still shows his brains. And his guts. And then, the question becomes, how do the gimmes of the genre -- the babes, the martini, the DJ (dinner jacket/tux/monkey suit) -- even the Aston Martin -- how do these fit into the scheme without busting it? Well, I'm happy to report, they work these mandatories in with considerable aplomb. Bond is dismissive of some, cynical about others. It is wonderful to see the caretakers of the estate so fluent with its icons, and so cavalier with them.
This is not a light and happy Bond. The business of being a "00," an agent with a license to kill, that's a serious business. But don't for a minute think this picture is all about seriousness and gravitas. No, you still get your amazing 'round-the-world jaunts. Your neck will get sore the way you're being jetted around the globe, Third World, First World, Second World -- on and on. And that makes you grin. There are even Bond girls. That's what you pay for in a Bond picture too.
The story is overly complex, too long, and at the end, there are holes in it through which you could drive a Mack Truck -- so what! That's not the point. As my ten-year-old son said, "Dad, you just go with it and enjoy what's cool." So true.
It's a darker Bond, for a darker world. But he's also not without his heart -- he actually says the forbidden four-letter word in this picture -- not the 'F' word, the 'L' word. But he still knows his way around a long gun. And how.
Welcome back James. We missed you. - Ken Krimstein
Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.