Southern Man

Monday, November 20, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale (Bond XXI)

Southern Man is a James Bond fan from way, way back. He's seen all the movies, read all the books, and even has a bunch of the post-Fleming novels by John Gardner and Raymond Bensen and such. So he was purty darned excited to hear that Casino Royal would finally make it to the big screen as an "official" Bond movie - but only middlin' excited as the last batch have been so-so at best. Not that it was really any fault of Pierce Brosnan; I just don't care for the way the last several Bond movies were directed or edited. Or written, for that matter.

For those unaware of such things, this movie is a "reboot" that starts the series all over again - to wit, a young and impetuous British agent has just earned his double-O "license to kill" and is loosed upon a terrorist organization bent on profiting from air disasters and on their banker, who had the poor judgement to lose his client's funds on the stock market and turned to gambling to win it back.

Suffice it to say that Casino Royale is certainly the best Bond film since, say, 1989's License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, which garnered only lukewarm reviews but is my hands-down favorite of the later Bonds. My God, that means that there wasn't a decent Bond movie produced during Southern Man's entire marriage. New Bond Daniel Craig portrays the epic spy with much of the intensity and charisma of Sean Connery (and, in my opinion, Dalton) and little of the humor or charm of, say, a Roger Moore or George Lazenby. It's a change in tone that Southern Man believes will do the franchise a lot of good. And Craig is, by far, the most athetic Bond ever and provides some terrific action on the big screen.

If you enjoyed the original novel you'll be pleased to hear that although the game is Texas Hold-em rather than the more elegant baccarat the movie follows Fleming's plot with fair accuracy (including the appropriate betrayals) and includes the disturbing wicker-chair torture scene. There are plenty of bones tossed to die-hard fans like Southern Man, such as the origin of the "shaken-not-stirred" vodka martini and how Bond acquired his first tailored suit and Aston-Martin. Southern Man's only real complaint is that the movie ran longer than it needed to. However, he is looking forward to the next one and hoping that the producers will invent a new recurring enemy for our new Bond that is every bit as sinister and evil as Connery's nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his shadowy organization SPECTRE.


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