Flickadaweek: Casino Royale

I have kids. I have a writing career that pulls me in seventy-three different directions. As a result, I generally don’t get to see many movies in the theater. So I’m pretty much seven months behind the rest of American society when it comes to the Movies You Must See. (Exception: I saw Spider-Man 3 the weekend it came out. When it’s a summer movie, you gotta love the energy of a crowded theater. Any other time, you’re tempted to test that limits-of-free-speech bit by lighting a fire in the sticky underseat goo.)

But anyway. I finally got around to seeing Casino Royale, the new Bond flick, and man, was it worth the wait. Hands down the best Bond flick ever, and probably one of the top five action movies ever. Bond-o-philes, that desperate crew of Dwight Schrutelike wannabe secret agents, wailed and moaned when relative unknown Daniel Craig was tapped to be the new Bond. Turned out to be a franchise-saving move. Pierce Brosnan brought a haunted, evil edge to Bond, far better than anybody since Connery, but Craig gives him the empty conscience of Tony Soprano, but with a stronger moral code.
The plot — well, this is kind of like “Bond Begins,” in that we see Bond before he’s ever earned his “Double-0” status. He’s tasked to bring down Le Chiffre, a French financier whose cataracted eye is the only nod to camp in this whole movie. In the course of the movie, you’ve got unbelievable chase scenes, both by car and on foot; the requisite (but still astonishing) hairsbreadth escapes, and an agonizing post-Abu Ghraib torture scene that will have you clutching your own double-0s.
Plus, the flick does what 24 has never seemed to figure out — heightens the tension by breaking it now and then. Early in the movie, Bond and a nameless villain are fighting atop a crane. The villain empties his gun, then in classic ’30s bad guy style, throws the gun. Bond catches the gun and fires it back, Roger Clemens-style, right at the bad guy’s skull, nearly knocking the guy off the crane. Great stuff…and not a single Bond-gadget scene with Q.
Anyway, you see this, and it gives you hope for intelligent action movies. Highly recommended.

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