It has been four years since the supposed debacle of Die Another Day which was universally disliked by both fans and critics (although I liked it). This should be enough time for Broccoli and those behind the franchise to get their act together for a new and fresher film for its fans. Paramount to achieving this goal was to hire another man to play the British spy. Step forward Daniel Craig a 38 year old jobbing actor who had impressed in films such as Tomb Raider, Road to Perdition, Layer Cake, Enduring Love, and Munich. But shock horror! He is blond with blue eyes! Yes the intention here is clear, it is reboot time, and this Bond is going to be way different from what we have previously experienced.
Though I did get to like the glib playfulness of Brosnan’s Bond the franchise did need an urgent change to shake up the stale series. After all this was two years after the last Bourne film which was shaking up the way we saw action espionage. So Royale was made within this mould. It had to be modern, it had to take itself more seriously but retain all the action suspense and stunts that it has always been good at. Fortunately they were able to tick all these boxes.
The pre title prologue, shot in black and white shows little action sequences normally expected from the franchise. Instead it sets about showing us the beginnings of James Bond as a oo agent, sent to assassinate a British traitor. This gives us an insight to the inner workings and indeed the mind and soul of a man who we only acknowledge as cool, calm and collected from the other Bond films. Though his protagonist underestimated him; he still is a rookie in a dangerous profession and the license to kill is a privilege rather than a right. And so this is what the film is about; Bond on his first big mission, his mistakes, what is to be learnt, a subtle vulnerability and anything else that comes with being a British spy.
After the amazing title sequences which is a wonder in graphic design courtesy of Daniel Kleinman, we have the first brilliant action set piece, set in an exotic Madagascar building construction site. Craig chases the suspected terrorist Mollaka (a minor part by one of the founders of free running Sébastien Foucan). Whilst Mollaka utilises, or some might say show off his free running skills, jumping like Bugs Bunny from through cars and whatever have you, Craig manages to maintain his cool in the chase, even secretly hitchhiking on the back of car to get his man.
Step forward Daniel Craig:
He is actually the third best actor to play James Bond which Is the biggest compliment I can give him. Many have said that he takes the character in the same direction that Connery did but this is pure poppycock. What Craig does in this film is actually what Dalton was doing seventeen years ago but of course lacks the credit for it. What Craig portrays is a physically brooding and figuratively dark Bond. He is the messiah that singlehandedly saved the series from extinction although his constant pouting does verge upon the blue steel end of mockery or Keira Knightly irritation.
TOP 6 BEST BOND ACTORS
- Timothy Dalton
- Sean Connery
- Daniel Craig
- Pierce Brosnan
- Roger Moore
It has been said that the film is very faithful to Fleming’s novel, perhaps more so I should think for the completely bonkers unofficial swing sixties film with David Niven and Peter Sellers. This is derivative of the plot involving a high stakes game with one eyed clichéd Bond villain Le Chiffre. But his motives within the narrative are not clichéd; no hopes for world domination but he channels money to the terrorists who are ranked above him.
This Bond may also serve as some sort of new wave feminist critique. Long has the series been criticised [especially by me], for getting away with its blatant sexism. Well I can point to two scenes where Bond’s alpha male dominance is subverted. The first comes early on in the film in the Bahamas. Think Ursalla Undress in a bikini on a Jamaican beach, or HalleBerry in a bikini in Cuba. Now erase those images and we have a toned up Daniel Craig in nothing but tight Speedos coming out of the water. Thus the female gaze has been erased and replaced with the male gaze.
The second scene is of course the much talked about torture scene, where Le Chiffre abuses perhaps Bond’s most important weapon, but think of all those women he has preventing from getting STD’s. Bond has been threatened with castration many times before [Goldfinger is the obvious example]. Again you could say this form of castration for once carried out (not technically but penis damage did not sound as literate) serve as a metaphor for Bond’s changing attitudes towards women.
So yes this a bloody good Bond movie, something we can hold up to the best Hollywood action fare. Craig’s Bond is leaner, more reticent and less of an embodiment of the male wish fulfilled nymphomaniac of the predictable Bond nature. Mads Mikkelsen is effective as Le Chiffre and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd posses a beauty and talent to launch a thousand ships. Director Martin Campbell also deserves a lot of credit. Having previously directed Goldeneye his decision to look at what he did before then do the exact opposite really paid off. His expertise is shown in the best scene in the film; the long awaited extended poker game; squeezing every amount of suspense necessary for the audience not to know what the outcome will be. Who knew the outcome of hiring a blond, blue eyed 38 year old unknown would prove to be a stroke of genius.