Wednesday, November 29, 2006

[bond] a verdict from one who viewed it

Johnathan Pearce believes Mr Fleming would be very impressed. Here I reprint the bulk of his comprehensive verdict, for those who haven’t already read it:

Last night, I went along to see the latest
007 movie … there had been so much media noise and excitement leading up to the film, starring Daniel Craig as Bond, that I just had to go and see it.

I am very glad that I did so. I am one of those folk who actually prefers the original Ian Fleming books to the films, and I have a consequent dislike of the nonsense of the Roger Moore films, and the excesses of gadgetry and sheer silliness that the film-makers imposed on the stories after the first two or three of the Sean Connery movies, which are my favourites. So the fact that the new film deliberately sought to be more hard-edged, less dependent on gimmickry and cheesiness, was a good development.

Daniel Craig has been a controversial choice for Bond. The Bond of the novels is a slim, dark-haired old Etonian, of Swiss-French and Scottish ancestry - with a hard streak, a weakness for beautiful women in distress and a belief in living life to the full. Craig does well to convey the hard side of Bond, but he tries a bit too hard, sometimes.

He comes across as a sort of over-muscled army squaddie, who struts about the set rather than adopt the sort of feline grace of Fleming's character. But there is no doubting that Craig - who says he loves the Fleming novels - has taken up the challenge of portraying Bond as not just some suave dude who can kill and seduce the girls, but who can also take risks and get hurt in the service of his cause - his country.

And that is the unspoken message of this film, and very un-PC it is. Bond is a patriot (not much sign that he wants to work for the UN). He kills without the need to consult a post-traumatic stress disorder clinic, and is more likely to drink a large glass of bourbon instead. He gets cut, he gets beaten up, and he falls in love and learns the dangers of emotional involvement with ravishing brunettes (not that there is anything wrong with ravishing brunettes, ahem).

I thought the scene in the casino was the highlight, and even though the game was poker rather than baccarat - as in the story - the tension is built up nicely. The setting is nice, the actors who support Bond are pretty good, and the actress who plays Vesper is lovely - I can see why any red-blooded man can fall for her. The torture scene, taken from the original book, is pretty nasty, although the scene in the book is far nastier (it gave Raymond Chandler nightmares, apparently).

Some of the stunt/action scenes do not seem to add a great deal to the plot - such as the amazing scene at Miami airport - but they are incredibly well-done. For sheer excitement, the opening half-hour of the film cannot be beaten.

What is clear is that the film-makers, seeing how the Bond movies were mocked by the Austin Powers series of Mike Myers, have decided that our Jim is not going to put up with being a joke any more. Daniel Craig deserves a large, well-made vodka martini - made the right way, obviously - for playing 007 so well, and with such obvious conviction and relish.
Good review of the movie here. The original Fleming novel is definitely worth a read. Meanwhile, Jim Henley has thoughts. One final gripe: will the moviemakers ever get the casting right of Felix Leiter, Bonds' CIA buddy? In the books, he is a fair-headed Texan, ex-Marine Corps with a wonderfully sardonic sense of humour. Update: here is my review of Simon Winder's recent diverting if also irritating book about the James Bond phenomenon and post-war British history.

2 comments:

Gracchi said...

I came across a good review here. Interesting essay on the book by the way- have you read David Cannadine's essay on Bond in his volume on Churchill's shadow. Its a really good piece mainly about the books but its interesting and doesn't as I remember have the intemperate rhetoric that wound you up so much about Flinders.

james higham said...

No, haven't read it, sorry but will check out the link. Thanks.