Is he ready to be granted the double O rating that is a license to kill?

Casino Royale

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


    The 44-year old Bond cult had grown rusty trying to surpass itself. Our senses were dulled; we remembered fondly the early Sean Connery and the early Pierce Brosnan who could excite their audiences just by laying a simple smokescreen with a car. Remember the thrill of Odd Job’s lethal Frisbee? And then it all became shopworn. What to do? Just what they’ve done: a prequel that invites us to go back to the beginning.

    In one scene so Bondian it needs no lines, Daniel Craig walks of the bright Bahamian sea toward a beauty holding a fine white horse on the sand. This nod to Ursula Andress is the wink that announces the filmmakers have affection for the old Bonds but have jettisoned the old baggage.

    Daniel Craig. He’s a tower of muscle; his clothes refuse to hang elegantly from his frame; but his muscles are forgiven the moment his face crinkles into a smile, and his eyes are the brightest blue you will ever see. He is clever, witty, and tough, and he has enough flaws and rough edges to assure he will be polished into Bondian elegance in the sequels. He is terrific.
   
    The filmmakers have plunged back into a refreshingly low tech world where hands and guns are the weapons of choice, and the car – when it finally appears – is a vulnerable Aston Martin. And don’t forget the front end loader as a death machine.

    Unfortunately, one old-fashioned weapon, a knotted rope, is used in a prolonged testicular torture scene which was obviously created as a lead-in to a good Bond quip. Torture doesn’t belong in a movie seen by millions of kids, and it’s never a subject for a wink. It is a mockery to the PG-13 rating. But that’s it for the negatives.

    Bond is being tested by M (Judi Dench in the meatiest of her five Bond turns). Is he or isn’t he ready to be granted the double O rating that is the license to kill? In an early scene, he disobeys orders with grand arrogance to chase a terrorist. After the bad misstep, M sends Bond to The Casino Royale in Montenegro to take on Le Cheriffe (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker who finances the world’s terrorists. She also sends Vesper (Eva Green) with a ten million dollar poker stake for Bond and a cool eye for his missteps. Le Cheriffe is a grand villain (he must be grand). He weeps tears of blood from a damaged tear duct and draws repeatedly on an ever present inhaler.

    Uganda, the Bahamas, Miami, Venice, Madagascar provide the requisite gorgeous landscapes, and a sparkling script by Neal Purvis offers lines like “Christ, I miss the Cold War.” Count the fireballs, see a sword fight on the stairs, watch the principals play Texas Hold ‘Em in appropriately escalating tension. Watch Bond shoot out the flotation devices that hold up a Venetian mansion. Bond earns 007 status, and so does Daniel Craig.
 


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