Love Bond. Like movie.

[The post below solely reflects the author’s personal views and opinions and is not meant to hurt or insult die-hard fans of any actor who has played Bond in the past. And yeah there are also some spoilers.]

I just got home from watching Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is the best Bond, ever. Bar none, in case you didn’t get that the first time around. He makes Pierce Brosnan look like a souffl� with a whipped cream topping. Heck, he makes Ursula Andress look too soft and lumpy in all the wrong places.

The movie, on the other hand, is merely good. Not great. Perhaps it might have worked better had it come before one had been glutted with the current obsession with wanting to get to the “root” of things – before one was told why Peter Parker became Spiderman, or Bruce Wayne became Batman or Jason Bourne became, well, Jason Bourne.

The best thing about Craig’s Bond is that he is a man who gets the job done. It is when he attempts to do more, such as be charming, that he isn’t very convincing. In every mushy scene (and am afraid there was as much mush as I’d feared there might be), I was impatient for him to stop and turn back into the cold killing machine he is so clearly born to be.

That this movie isn’t the sort of Bond movie we’ve become used to in the last few years is evident right from the opening credits. Psychedelic patterns of suites of cards float around, as Bond kills man after man. There isn’t a single naked woman in sight. In keeping with the opening theme, this movie is all about Bond, really. If there’s

killing to be done, Bond does it. If there’s running to be done, Bond does it. If there’s stripping to be done, Bond does it.

With Brosnan, there was a consistent attempt (in rare cases successful) to turn Bond girls into Bond partners. This movie smoothly reverses the trend. And when one female character is given importance, it’s not in a Michelle Yeoh or Rosamund Pike manner. And I found myself wishing how much better it would’ve been if they hadn’t bothered with making even this minor concession.

If you’re the sort of fan who enjoys Bond movies for their formula, you’re in for a mixed bag. Some golden, even holy Bond traditions have been dispensed with* in this movie, but most of the stock phrases make an appearance. And they do so at such unexpectedly delightful moments, that you fall in love with them all over again.

Action fans take note – Casino Royale may well be the most physically challenging Bond movie ever made, and boy, does Craig pull it off. I can’t imagine any other Bond doing any of the key stunts in this movie**. Just as one’s no longer impressed with Matrix-style stunts, one was also tiring of the blow up party that’d become part of the Bond formula in the Brosnan movies. Casino Royale has hopefully begun a new phase of stunts on a low-TNT, high-adrenaline diet.

So why do I insist that this is only a good movie? Here’s the thing – when I was walking out of the theater, in those 2-3 minutes before I had a chance to ask the mandatory “So?” to my companions, I kept willing myself to love the movie because I so loved Craig. And that’s precisely the point – you don’t need to talk yourself into liking Craig. You just do. Not so with the movie, and in my book, that’s not the sign of a great movie.

I sure as hell hope that Craig will make many more Bond movies – perhaps some script will finally let him be the cold-blooded spy he is.

*I for one didn’t even notice their absence till I started writing this post. And when I think about it now, am quite relieved and happy they didn’t try to force them in. Craig doesn’t do breezy charm very well, and having those scenes would have only embarrassed him and the audience.

** And hats off to the extremely nimble and sure-footed Sebastien Foucan for an incredible chase in the first third of the movie

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