Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Casino Royale

This is an aberration - I'm reviewing Hindi movies, not English ones. However, was moved enough, almost compelled to write what I think is going to be a very polarising review ! Here goes...

Casino Royale made me think of why I watch Bond movies…I’m sure the reasons are different for every individual, but mine came out something like this…

  • At a primal level, I love Bond movies for the beautiful women, the gorgeous clothes (or lack of them), the brilliant humour / one-liners / pick up lines and the action – which was always cutting edge…you saw things which made you marvel, were ahead of their times, wonder if that could actually be so?
  • At a slightly more cerebral level, I always found Mr Bond very aspirational…he could do with a touch of class, without getting flustered, things which would have normal people going ‘Mommy’ ! He was a guy’s guy…he made everything look easy – he could naturally, instinctively figure out how gadgets / machines operate, how to charm the socks and other garments off every woman he met and also…he always won !

Now we have Casino Royale, Daniel Craig (the 6th Bond’s) debut movie.

Firstly, the fact that I had the above thoughts during the movie is not a good sign. In Bond movies, you’re neither supposed to have the time nor the inclination to think, damn it!

Secondly, we can go through the above list

  • Gorgeous women: conspicuously absent…We had Eva Green (Eva who?). She probably won’t even figure in the top50 most beautiful women of Pune. What a comedown after Sophie Marceau, Halle Berry, Honor Blackman, Britt Ekland et all.
  • Gadgets : again, missing in action, like Q. Most current Bollywood movies have more in the name of hi-tech than this Bond film. Even cars – while he does get a DB7 very briefly towards the end - in one scene he’s even shown driving a Ford (Nooooo! Even my butler wouldn’t drive a Ford. This cannot be!)
  • Humour: some good lines, (example: “Vesper :Am I going to have a problem with you, Bond? Bond: No, don't worry. You're not my type. Vesper: Smart? Bond: Single”). But otherwise severely dialled down as well. No idea why? Compare with the following lines from Goldeneye and you’ll see what I mean: “Xenia Onatopp: You don't need the gun. James Bond: Well, that depends on your definition of safe sex.” Or even “James Bond: I must say, I've had a lovely evening. Xenia Onatopp: Well, once again the pleasure was all yours.”

Third, we can discuss Mr Craig.

I didn’t like him – didn’t think he fit the bill.

He’s different – he’s the fittest Bond, with rippling muscles and superb upper torso. However, for me, Bond’s appeal was that you could be great / cool without having spent half your life in a sweaty gym. He is the least sexiest…working class kind of face & behaviour, probably more at home drinking beer rather than Martini’s. There’s quite a telling exchange with a barman in the middle which illustrates what I’m saying – “Bartender: Shaken or stirred? James Bond: Do I look like I give a damn?”

He’s good in fist fights but doesn’t seem to inspire the same credibility around mechanised stuff (and at some point in time that’s going to be tested!). Also, if they keep showing him getting cut / bruised / bloodied in every fight, the man’s going to look like a wreck after just two movies. I mean, the beauty of Bond was that he could save the world, beat all the baddies, destroy 2-3 buildings and then just casually brush a few specks of dust from his tux before landing up at the casino. But apparently not anymore…

Finally, the plot. Mr Bond spends 30% of his time in the movie playing cards. He also spends 80% of the movie chasing Le Chiffre, who is a banker to the terrorists, playing the stock market with their money…I mean how ludicrous – I don’t mean from a logic point of view as that way all Bond plots are ludicrous – but what a come down from the days when the Bond villains wanted to rule the world or the moon or monopolise the world’s oil supply etc. An example of the ‘small thinking’ - Le Chiffre hires a terrorist (one terrorist who dresses as a cop) to ram a oil tanker rigged with an explosive (again, one explosive) into a new airplane prototype of a company – so that the company’s stock price will fall and he will make about $100mn or so…Guys, show some imagination…by this logic, even Harshad Mehta could be a Bond villain….And Pierce Brosnan / Sean Connery / Roger Moore would probably not even bother foiling the plot for $100mn or so…they would want to save billions…that’s more like it.

I came out from the movie not at all sure I had seen a Bond movie. Also, as an aside, I didn’t even particularly enjoy the one that I saw…No exhilaration, no thrills…just a pale imitation of James Bond, 007.


Rashmi Bansal said...

Mere mooh se shabd nikaal liye aapne. The 'playing cards' bit was the worst cut. Though I liked Daniel Craig... !

Prashant Misra said...

Saved me. I was planning to see this one tonight. I don't want to see a particular Mr. Bond playing cards. And no beautiful women? If I wanted to see Brokeback Mountain…

Sounds more like a movie I saw a long time back called Baltimore Bullets. The Cast: Omar Sharif, James Coburn… Sounds like an out and out 'Western' doesn't it? Well it was about nine ball pool :(

Rohit Deep said...

Totally disagree with you. This is supposed to be the first Bond movie where he becomes James Bond 007. He just got the 007 status and M is not confident whether he is capable. This is the reason why the rough edges of his are exposed. Loved the chase scene and lots of action without gadgetry (though missed the gadgetry too). I went and saw it twice already. I didn't like Daniel Craig before but I liked him a lot in this movie. He will be the smooth Bond (way better than Brosnan and almost as good as Sean Connery) in the next one. Mark my words, his 3 movies will gross way over what Brosnan's 4 movies (I like Brosnan too).

As far as good looking women are concerned, give me a break. They were out of the Bond movies, when M became a woman and Brosnan stepped in. Dude, Helly Berry was in the last movie (talk about beautiful woman).

So my $.02

1. This Bond is rough around the edges since this is first Bond (not Daniel Craigs but Bond as we know).

2. Loved the focus on physical action. The chase scene was unbelievable. (I found out later that it is a sport and started by the guy who was being chased in the scene). Its not like the newer ones where he goes through hair raising action scenes and his hair doesn't move.
3. Yes the cards bit was over done (but it emphasized his not being comfortable in his role yet).

4. Chasing the banker was ok since this movie is a prequel to the next. They did keep the story line pretty close to Ian Fleming's novel.

Apurv Nagpal said...

hi ! Rohit

i loved the parkour sequence as well - should've mentioned that in the review...

women - while i agree with Halle Berry not really being up there (looked nice in Swordfish), the other names are definitely a couple of notches above Ms Green

on other points - i can possibly use the example of Batman Begins - another prequel of sorts - where i felt they managed to combine the gadgets / physical action / introspection / thrills much better. I know they tried to stick to the book - but the owners of the franchise have not shown themselves averse to spicing things up / taking a couple of creative liberties in the past. Wish they had done the same this time as well.

Mr Craig - so far (and i'm willing to be corrected) - all women liked him, men didn't...hehehehe ! Maybe it was the scene from Dr No, where instead of Ursula, he emerged from the ocean that worked for you ?