» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

December 12, 2006
Is it or is it not true that modern-era James Bond movies are, as a rule, laughably bad? I thought that this was understood - certainly Pierce Brosnan got the picture. You only (and without exception) go to a Bond movie because your boyfriend makes you, and you get to gloat afterwards when they admit that, yes, there has never been a worse movie. That's the way things go. I'm not saying I was happy about it, but it was something steadfast and unchanging in these times of ours. Something you could depend on and something that seemed as if it would be around forever. Like Dave Barry. Or ER.

Well, that's all shot to hell. Martin Campbell (who also directed the last acceptable 007 film, Goldeneye) turned out Casino Royale, which is not only ridiculously entertaining but actually beautiful as well. And layers, people, layers! Who knew James Bond to be such a complex character? Sexy and disarming, sure, but interesting to boot? It's almost too much to process. The raves over Daniel Craig are accurate; he gives the character a much-needed update and strikes an admirable balance between the requisite suave British guy in a tux and a young hothead secret agent who is not above making the occasional mistake. Even without these merits, however, I think it would be safe to say that people would still be raving, only when they said "brings a freshness to the role," they would actually mean "indisputable champ of teeny swimsuits."

But Craig isn't solely responsible for bringing the Bond franchise out of its recent rut. The writing and cinematography were carried off with a sophistication that simply has not been present in these films in years. This is not to say that Casino Royale in any way resembles its predecessors from the Sean Connery age. In fact, most of the film's surprising appeal lies in its departure from many expected Bond tropes. It lacks "Q" and all the gadgets he normally bestows upon James, thereby foreshadowing the types of crises that will occur later in the film. Most of the preposterous situations (ice hotels, elaborate jetski chases, Madonna) are gone, though there is a villain who cries blood, but he doesn't dip people in gold paint. He just wants to beat them at poker. Also blessedly absent are bimbos, painfully stupid innuendo banter, and womanizing in general. The female characters are likeable and intricate, and Eva Green's well-acted Vesper Lynd commands respect and sympathy. A stunning shot of a traumatized and soaked Vesper sitting in a shower in her evening finery and a tuxedoed James getting in beside her without hesitation just to give her a shoulder to lean on would never have existed in a previous Bond film. It's too smart, for one, but also too concerned with the psychological development of a female character that has heretofore been so one-dimensional that it's even received its own stereotype label - "the Bond girl."

Even the landscapes in which Bond moves are realistic while still exotic - Madagascar, Montenegro, Venice. They're not the circles we peasants move in, but they're not secret islands occupied by evil geniuses either. There are no maniacal, convoluted plans to destroy the world, there's just a guy who works for terrorists and is therefore a liability. Don't despair, all the good things about Bond are still around - exciting chases, Aston Martins, and martinis, but Casino Royale can't be bothered with the stale stuff. As the new Bond impatiently spits out when asked if he'd like his vodka-martini shaken or stirred, "Do I look like I give a damn?"

SEE ALSO: www.jamesbond.com
SEE ALSO: www.007.info

Susan Howson
A staff writer attending graduate school in Richmond, VA, Susan Howson cannot be persuaded to stop talking about movies.

See other articles by Susan Howson.



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