Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Casino Royale

Great empires need revolutions every few centuries or they fall into obscurity. Perhaps that is why the Bond franchise has survived so long, periodically jolted out of its torpor by a new lead actor. If the basic formula remains, it is still Bond, isn’t it?

But can the franchise survive this most recent incarnation? Along with the introduction of a new lead actor, Daniel Craig, the tried and tested formula has been swept away. Where is the super-villain? Where is the world domination plot? Where is the corrupted scientist fashioning a diabolical super-weapon? I searched in vain for nude women in the title sequence, for a super-lair in a dormant volcano or for escapes through ventilation ducts. In short, and most shocking of all, the plot came close to believability.

True, there are nods to the old days, but each time we are reminded that this is going to be different. When asked if he would like his cocktail shaken or stirred, Bond replies: “Do I look as if I give a damn?”

Some of the old cosiness has gone and we are left with a brutality that reflects the original Fleming novels. Bond makes mistakes. He feels emotional as well as physical pain. It isn’t always easy watching and I was dismayed to see young children in the audience. How did this get a 12A certificate?

If I have one gripe it is with the punctuated storyline. It almost felt like four episodes of a drama that had been run together. But that is a small complaint about an otherwise excellent film. Perhaps there is life in the old franchise yet. Bond is dead, long live Bond.

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