Bond, James Bond


Ross Barlow

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We just saw *Casino Royale* (2006) today and I was absolutely delighted. I highly recommend it. I will discuss it briefly without giving spoilers here.

Daniel Craig is superb as the new James Bond. I never doubted that he would do justice to the role, as I have seen him in a variety of roles and know that he is a great actor. He has put his own stamp on the character, and I hope to see more of him. I very much liked and appreciated many of the previous actors who played Bond, and I do not want to play comparison games because most of them were very good. I will just say that Daniel Craig adds a fresh interpretation, and I really like his portrayal of Agent 007.

Judy Dench is tough as ever in the role of “M.” She is a great actress who brings class and an edge to her characters.

Without giving away the plot, I will just say that I saw this as a bit more realistic of a screen-story than is the norm for Bond flicks. The stunts were great without being so outrageous as to be hilarious, and the non-stop action was larger than life, yet I get the sense that this is in many ways closer to Ian Fleming’s Bond.

I definitely plan on seeing this again in the theater before its run ends. Go see it.

-Ross Barlow.

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I'm really glad to hear this from a reliable source. I've been looking forward to this for precisely the reasons you stated... I've always wanted them to reel it in a bit. I will always watch any Bond movie, but having read all the Fleming novels, I always long for the films to get a little more real/closer. And of course, the Sean Connery ones remain my favorites, but I always watch them. Once you're hooked you're hooked.

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Mr. Bidinotto, I have never known you to err when it comes to movie reviews (you ought to be a full-time Objectivist movie critic guru). I appreciate your review of 'Casino Royale' and I am definitley going to see it tonight! (I better sell some stock so I can afford the popcorn and soda)

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I think that if Scott Holleran's review is accurate, then I'm going to be rather disappointed in this movie.

I loved the early Bond movies. Goldfinger, Thunderball, all the way up to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". George Lazenby was the best Bond actor of them all, in my opinion. He had a good balance of Aussie masculinity balanced by just enough elegance to balance the talents Bond needed as a character role.

The Bond movies today are just not the same. It sounds like this latest one is a train wreck. And that title sounded so familiar, as if it were already out on film some 30 years ago. Must have been a book title.. it sounded 'deja vu' to me.

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Robert, I just read your review of *Casino Royale* (2006), linked above in post #5, and I agree completely with your assessment. Very, very well said.

Much of the *cinematic* Bond persona was developed by Sean Connery and director Terence Young when they were making that masterpiece, *Dr. No* (1962), including the witticisms that later became stock (and often over-used). Daniel Craig’s Bond is a fresh interpretation, yet there are still occasional faint echoes of the Bond(s) we have known before, as if in homage to the tradition of this great character.

It has been 24 hours since I saw it, but *Casino Royale* still has me buzzing.

-Ross Barlow.

P.S. -- My philosophy about movie criticism is this: if it is a negative review, I will consider the reviewer’s point, but not too seriously; if there are any other reasons that I was already interested in seeing the flick (e.g., a certain actor, aspects seen in trailers such as scenery, etc.) then I will usually try to see it, regardless of negative reviewer consensus. Good reviews are usually worth considering if there are good reasons given, even if I end up not agreeing totally in the end. Many of my favorite movies were ones I never considered seeing until a reviewer directed my interest to it.

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Casino Royale was the first novel Ian Fleming wrote to introduce the Bond character, and this film plays reasonably close to the book's story line -- certainly keeping with Fleming's characterization of 007. The earlier movie of this title was a comedy spoof of the novel, not really based on the Fleming story, except for its title. This film, by contrast, is a serious effort to adapt and update the plot of the novel.

One thing to remember about Bond: the character in the novels is a trained, superlatively competent assassin for Queen and country. He is not a GQ fashion plate. His elegant demeanor in public settings is mainly camouflage, a practiced cover to allow him to get close to his rich and powerful targets. But like Francisco d'Anconia, James Bond is no playboy: he is primarily and essentially a tough guy. A VERY tough guy.

The Armani mannequins who were successors to Sean Connery in the Bond film roles largely (and in Roger Moore's case, completely) lacked credibility as tough-guy assassins. No thanks to the screenwriters and directors, "suave elegance" became the essence of their characterization of Bond, rather than his icy, ruthless devotion to his grim missions. These pretty-boy actors soared above the mayhem largely unfazed and unruffled, never really getting blood on their hands. In short, they were simply unbelievable -- and so were most of the absurd stories, featuring a procession of Dr. Evils with maniacal laughs, hiding in multi-billion-dollar fortresses as they plotted to destroy the planet. In these films, the "Bond Girls" were cast from the ranks of vacuous runway models; Bond allegedly demonstrated keen "wit" with lame, unfunny puns at dire moments; and he rescued himself from artificial "perils" only with the aid of preposterous gadgets served up by an MI6 nerd named "Q." It short, the whole franchise quickly descended to tired, repetitious absurdity.

Daniel Craig has mercifully rescued Fleming's indomitable hero from this multi-decade campaign of campy cinematic vandalism, returning to his roots as a cold, dedicated, hard-as-nails killer. He does some incredible things; but you never doubt for a second his ability to pull them off. His James Bond is no longer Cole Porter with a pistol: he is Jack Bauer in a tux.

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I remember a news story that went around a while back about Colin Powell's analysis of James Bond movie plots when he was still US Secretary of State. The best I could find on a quick google search was at Blogcritics Magazine. An entry by Z.Z. Bachman dated December 09, 2004 repeated the story, Colin Powell Turns Film Critic?.

Colin Powell was speaking with some Bulgarian university students about early Bond gadgets that are now on the market.

"It's interesting, though, a lot of the gadgets that you saw in the older James Bond movies and some of the other gadgets which seemed so incredible all have happened," Powell said.

He had less enthusiasm for actual content of the movies.

"What did you discover about the plots of James Bond movies?" Powell asked the student.

"They all seem to have the same plot: 007 comes in, bad guy is out to do something very bad, a lot very beautiful women around, a lot of car chases and fancy gadgets, bad guy goes at the end and James Bond gets the girl."

I laughed out loud when I read that because is was so correct. I have the impression from the reviews of Casino Royale that the Bond plot has improved.

Michael

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Daniel Craig has mercifully rescued Fleming's indomitable hero from this multi-decade campaign of campy cinematic vandalism, returning to his roots as a cold, dedicated, hard-as-nails killer. He does some incredible things; but you never doubt for a second his ability to pull them off. His James Bond is no longer Cole Porter with a pistol: he is Jack Bauer in a tux.

You certainly make a good case for the quality of the story, as a spy story, but only if we don't look at it through the filter of "James Bond" expectations.

It was not the gadgets so much as Bond's problem solving ability that made his character in the earliest Bond movies. However, many will not remember those early films, and hence this new characterization of Bond will be confusing to many expecting more of the same as the last handful of Bond movies.

I think I'll rent it when it comes out on DVD.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've seen Craig in other movies. Definitely a good actor. However, criticisms re Moore et al I really think are misplaced: it's the screenplay writers who really counted (or didn't) re this series. They write the story and how the character acts/behaves in it; the director and actor deliver the gem (or zirconia) as the writer wrote it...barring scene-making ad-libbing.

Clearly the cinema stories with Moore were practically tailored to his casual and cavalier 'The Saint' persona where danger never really existed for him (seriously believable threats just weren't a TV fashion then). To beef up his movies, super-special 'stunts' were made (without which Moore's 1st JB would have been his last). I must admit that most of his movies' opening-stunts WERE spectacular to watch, but of course, the stories had NOTHING to do with the books. From Connery's 3rd movie on, the movies' stories didn't merely 'alter' the books: they overhauled them. Most especially when Moore took over the role. Strangely, I like Roger Moore...in the right roles (few done, but Ffolkes was good); Bond was not one of them.

Edited by John Dailey
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Point well taken, John. The Roger Moore 007 flicks did have their charm, and I never missed a one when they premiered in the theaters of the day. Like you say, a lot depends on the screenwriters. The Bond saga – as cinema – has evolved with the times.

My wife just purchased, in a cheap back-street Bangkok market, a set of the entire Bond cinema collection, and I will be watching the entire set anew in the near future. It will be good to see the series progress through the decades. We watched *Dr. No* last night, and the quality, including the subtitles, was excellent for a Chinese pirate version (which is about as good as it gets here in Indochina).

Most of the Bond actors were good in their own way. Connery in *Dr. No* is phenomenal of course and a great classic. (If anyone here has *not* seen this movie, see it now!) I liked Timothy Dalton a lot (especially in *License To Kill*), as I have long been a fan of his.

Daniel Craig is fresh and new. I saw *Casino Royale* twice in local theaters.

-Ross Barlow.

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Casino Royale was my kind of James Bond movie, absolutely. The thing about Bond in the books was that he was something of a monster, my image of him was of a dog-faced killer as much as a handsome assassin. He was not someone you'd want over to your house. He was simply a dangerous person. Connery captured that as best he could given the constraints of late sixties-early seventies cinematic taste. One of the things I appreciated about Connery in the role was that he was never a pretty man--charismatic as the day is long, but never pretty. Connery's Bond was definitely a creature of earth, while the later Bond's always seemed to float by on a cloud by comparison. Of course the stories became more and more preposterous as the series continued, there was nothing grounding them to reality.

Until now. Craig captures the same quality as Connery and adds a depth of character undreamt of in Connery's day. You never wondered about Bond's childhood or even his life before becoming a spy when Connery played him. He was simply Bond, always and forever: Bond Eternal. But Craig's performance oozes history, the sense of a man who has had to deal with tremenous consequences in his life. We see the costs of being Bond written on his face and though we may be in awe of his abilities we don't envy the man his life. It's not all dinner jackets and bikinis for this Bond.

The best spy stories for me always have a profound meloncholy to them. The spy exists in the no-man's land between absolute loyalty and absolute cinicism. If they have greatness, it is utterly private, and they must keep it hidden as if it were their profoundest shame. Since Casino Royale is Bond's first story as a "double O," Craig is afforded the opportunity to show us how Bond learns these bitter truths about his chosen life and how he deals with them. An extraordinary performance really. As a Classics student, I can see in Craig's Bond echoes of Homer's Achilles.

I hope Craig gets to continue in the role.

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Strange, what I've read in some threads (and hyped 'reviews') on this movie-series re Connery and Fleming. Some say that the latter didn't like the former upon seeing/meeting him. However, *I* remember reading (LIFE mag, would you believe? Ok, a 'while' ago) that when Fleming was interviewed about the 1st movie, when he saw Connery walking he was impressed with how Connery seemed to 'walk like a cat' (athletic grace, I gather) which Fleming had in mind as to how Bond naturally moved. Ie: Fleming found Connery's natural movement-style personifying Bond, hence...liked him in the role.

Edited by John Dailey
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Now, as to the one under-rated actor in the whole series, George Lazenby (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), I think he was quite adequate continuing the 'Bond Persona.' Indeed, the story itself was one of the best they'd made in the whole series. He actually falls in love (well, with Diana Rigg, who wouldn't?) and m-a-r-r-i-e-s her! Nm she's the daughter of an international gangster. The movie also had some of the best music-background done for the series (yeah, some copped from Connery's Thunderball...ntl...) --- Clearly, Brocolli, for whatever reason (b-o?) decided thenceforth to do 'Bond Lite' with Moore. Shame. The only prob with OHMSS was the fight scenes. I still remember Lazenby's first fight scene with 3-4 guys as being an overly-done MTV-style fast-edit where one couldn't tell who was doing what to whom and whose fist was landing where...then all of a sudden, there's Bond standing amidst the fallen. Impressive choreography...NOT. Apart from that, Lazenby could've filled the bill; but, the bill changed.

LLAP

J:D

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~ Anyhoo, finishing up my post-partitioned 'review' of "Blonde; James Blonde", Craig and the multi-decade cinema-series, I must admit a hyped-caused bias against Craig's movie version. Nothing against him as an actor, nor the yet-to-see movie. It's the 'hype.'

~ 1) Craig's dear mother (think Gingrich's and Connie Chung [remember her?]) made it clear (in an inadvertantly trusted quoting by a UK tabloid) that Craig, the person, is 'anti-gun.' O-kay-y-y; but, he's a good 'actor', right? Like, we gotta keep that in mind?

~ 2) Craig's been hyped as the 1st 'blonde' Bond. Wha? R-Moore was a 'red-head? Even considering him a 'brunette', he was at least a 'strawberry' one. Re Bond, 1st 'blonde', Craig N-O-T.

LLAP

J:D

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~ Then there's... -3) Craig's Bond now (as in 'finally', ergo, Bond's '1st') had a 'serious' relationship with a female. Uh-h-h, try again? Yes: Bond's cinema stories have been noted (rather, 'media-hyped') as continuing varied love-'em-and-leave-'em interchangeable sequentially-'used' "Bond Girls." Even cinematically, especially (not to be confused with 'only') such as OHMSS, the movies themselves contradict the hype...for those who really watched them. None of them were really properly considerable as, in effect, Hefner's handed-over bunnies. Bond's cinema-persona itself got a raw deal on this imagery. Yes, he had his 'Playboy' attributes; but, this is not where he was re any story-primary female, cinema or book, whether Connery, Moore, Dalton or Brosnan. Craig is the 6th in line for 'serious' relating by Blonde, James Blonde.

~ 'Sfaras I'm concerned, Brosnan was the best followup to Connery (especially that sword-fight!) for the Bond imagery. Clearly, the screenplay writers changed their mode to 'serious.'

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey
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~ On a last, final note re Craig's new B(l)ond, James B(l)ond: The movie is supposedly Bond's 'origin', from what I've gathered upon review-readings. I got one problem with that: Judi Dench is 'M' therein. --- This really ruins the overall 'series' (on top of R. Moore coasting in the middle of it.) She's 'M' when Bond starts? After it's already established that she L-A-T-E-R took over dealing with a Politically-inCorrect 'dinosaur' when the original 'M', Bernard Lee left (ok, actually died)? Like, Bernard Lee's 'M' never existed? Yuk!

~ Then there's 'Q' (or was; he knew how to make an 'exit', Ishtar bless'im.) Yes, in the books, he's not. But, I liked him. 'Character'-wise, he was a worthwhile addition; comedy-foil for Bond, if you wish. Too bad the screenwriters over-used his 'gadgetry' for Bond's character. I notice that he's missing in Craig's movie. Ah, well, life goes on (or, gets re-'visioned'.)

LLAP

J:D

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Many reviewers have, correctly, described this new 007 film as a "reboot" of the franchise. The writers, producers, director, and actor have boldly declared, in essence: "Forget the James Bond in every previous film. THIS is the real James Bond."

In fiction, you create imaginary worlds and people. The "James Bond" they've re-created here is a new character, sharply departing from previous visions, while more closely resembling the one that Ian Fleming originally conceived.

So, yes: forget about "Q" and "Moneypenny" and the history of "M" and all the other trappings of the film "series." It was never actually a "series" to begin with, given the many 007s and their vast differences. But this one has no connection to those other films.

This is a new film, and the beginning of a new series. It is sui generis, its own thing entirely. Don't try to connect it to the others; you have to evaluate it on its own terms. Rather than theorize endlessly about it, John, just go see it -- and with an open mind, judging it within its own fictional boundaries of character and plot.

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