I saw this last night (seeing a movie the week it opens, or even the month it opens is a rare treat) and thought it was both good and bad.
I've had mixed feelings about Bond through my life. When i was an idealistic kid I saw the Sean Connery movies I hated them. it wasn't that they weren't exciting, but the heroes I loved made a point of not killing, and they were a lot nicer to the women in their lives too. (Well... couples like Superman and Lois Lane have their own version of a messed up relationships, but at least Superman didn't treat women like they were interchangable or disposable.)
The first Bond I really liked was Roger Moore, who seemed funnier and more charming than Connery (looking back, I wonder what I was thinking). Timothy Dalton did a decent job, though the movies were terrible. The Pierce Brosman films were fluff, but high quality fluff. The Daniel Craig Bonds are something else.
At some point in my college days I decided to read the original novels by Ian Fleming. I was surprised how much I disliked the character I found. Fleming's bond is not a nice man, not really even a good man. He is an efficient agent, a ruthless killer, a man who will use anyone or anything to accomplish his mission. He's not the sadistic monster that his ememies are, but Fleming had to create some real monsters to make 007 look good by comparison.
This dangerous aspect of Bond is something that Daniel Craig captures better than anyone else ever has. He is, as the last movie, CASINO ROYALE says, "a blunt instrument". He kills without hesitation or regret, and out of a grim sense of necessity. He womanizes in the same sort of way, effeciently seducing when it suits his purposes, or to seek solace from his inner demons (being a ruthless killer is hard on a person). This isn't a jaded hedonist, like Moore's Bond or even Connery's, there is a human killing machine with a vulnerable human core buried deep inside.
I like Craig's portrayal, and the cast in general. Bond's relationship with M (Judy Dench) is very nicely handled here and in the last movie. The plot is over-the-top in some wyas, but still grittier and more believable than any other Bond since the days of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.
My biggest complanit were the action sequences. In what seems an attempt to keep them feeling gritty and real, the film uses a lot of quick cuts, unusual angles, and extreme close-up shots. Occasionally this works but usually it just creates a sense of condusion about who is doing what to whom.
There was a brilliant fight/chase scene in CASINO ROYALE which manages to combine over-the-top stunts with the strong sense that this could all be real. It was done with excellent stunt work rather than special effects and editing sleight of hand. By comparison the opening car chase, and the fight/chase with a rogue agent when the prisoner is freed are muddled and confusing. Gimmick has been allowed to overwhelm storytelling.
Still, thse are lapses in what is otherwise a well-written, well-acted movie. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.
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