Friday, December 08, 2006

Revisiting Casino Royale

I went to see Casino Royale again last night. It's still perfect.

I bring it up only because I've been wanting to share Steven Barnes' review of it with you, and this is a good excuse.

Barnes gives labels to the two types of Bond fans that I've long known existed, but have never thought to name. "Serious" Bond fans -- like me -- usually have read the Fleming novels, prefer Doctor No and From Russia with Love to Goldfinger, and have a higher tolerance for Timothy Dalton than the other group. "Escapist" Bond fans, by far the majority of people I've met, dig Roger Moore (though usually not as much as Connery) and relish all the gadgets, one-liners, and over-the-top plots that the movies have come to be known for. Neither group is better than the other, but it's important to realize that both come to Bond movies looking for different things.

Escapist fans acknowledge that Bond may be a chauvanist or misogynist. Serious fans, as Barnes points out, know that he's really a borderline sociopathic misanthrope, "smoking and drinking himself into the grave, balancing on the edge of breakdown, capable of being wired together for one more assignment… maybe." Barnes also notes that Casino Royale is the first time we've ever seen that Bond, and that -- as justifiably revered as Sean Connery is -- he may have just been ousted from his throne as Greatest Bond of All Time:

"Connery wasn’t a great actor when he started the series. He never became a great actor, although he is a great star of fantastic virility and charisma. But Acting? Check him out in Diamonds Are Forever’s opening sequence, when he is pursuing the man who killed his dearest love. Does anyone believe the emotions displayed, even for a moment?"

Barnes calls Daniel Craig "the best actor ever to play the role" and I don't disagree. That takes nothing away from the joy of watching Connery's charisma and physicality in the part, it just means that we're on a whole, other level now.

Anyway, read all of Barnes' review. He's dead on.

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