I have to agree with Aravosis’s take on the film. Also read Anthony Lane at the New Yorker. My wife, not a big fan of Bond films, humored me and then couldn’t stop talking about it.
Like any film chronicling the birth of an icon Casino Royale shows a familiar character in the raw, fundamentals present (the disarming complement that makes the girl blush) but net yet writ in stone (he breaks the mood with a wry comment about the complement, as if unsure whether he likes playing the cad better than an honest approach). James Bond’s first assignment ends in an embarrassment when he lets his impulses, and maybe an itch to flex his new license to kill, win out over professional judgment.
But what an embarrassment. A bit of poor spycraft (not by Bond but a presumably short-lived compatriot) kicks off a prolonged foot chase that sets the tone for the movie. The gadgets, earbud communicators that friends of mine used playing paintball in middle school, cause more problems than they solve (twice in fact, in case the audience didn’t get the message the first time). From then on it’s feet, fists and the occasional, mostly useless, gunshot. The star of this chase is the novel martial art of parkour, breathtaking for those who missed its debut in the French import film District B13.
Parkour borrows heavily from the antigravity aesthetic of Jackie Chan’s best chase scenes and expands it into a martial art of its own. From Wikipedia:
According to founder David Belle [also the star of District B13], the spirit of parkour is guided in part by the notions of “escape” and “reach”, that is, the idea of using physical agility and quick thinking to get out of difficult situations, and to be able to go anywhere that one desires. Free running, a closely related art emphasizing aesthetics, is most concerned with fluidity and beauty. For example, Sébastien Foucan, a free runner who trained with David Belle during the infancy of the art, speaks of being “fluid like water,” a frequently used simile for the smooth passage of barriers through the use of parkour.
This amateur video shows a couple of performers, “traceurs,” doing their thing.
The hate France crowd will be amused to know that Parkour
, maybe France’s first native martial art, involves the most photogenic running ever seen but no fighting. Playing Bond for the first time Daniel Craig plainly had some coaching in Parkour but his mark in the chase, a scarred bombmaker carrying vital intelligence, pulls off mind-blowing stunts in rapid succession. True to his art Bond’s mark beats gravity and common sense to a pulp (he jumped from what onto what?) but proves a pushover when finally caught.
Also watch for the origin of Bond’s signature drink (he invents the recipe as a psych-out during a high stakes poker game, and then discovers that it’s quite tasty), a brief Sean Connery impression by Daniel Craig (his mouth full of food of course) and an uncanny Audrey Hepburn by female lead Eva Green while tooling around Venice. Despite about thirty minutes of poker and another thirty minutes of obviously doomed romantic interlude that I could have done without, the film more than rewarded my $8.50.
As corrected in the comments parkour is at least the third French martial art, after savate and a cane-fighting modification called canne.
Definitely the best Bond yet, even better than the Connery films. How did the newspapers know that a “British Agent” killed the bomber, though? Does he just look the part? And if 00 is a license to kill, but it takes two kills to get a 00, what allows the first two? Learners permit?
Parkour? Would that be French for Parker, Peter Parker? Hmmm…
They could have ID’d Bond’s incompetent, probably dead partner.
Damn, pass the Centrum Silver I’m feeling a wee bit old.
Heh, but would you want to annoy a guy who can ping-pong his way into your house, bounce on your head few times and take off shouting “Now go away or I will mock you anozer time”?
Re: Casino Royale, I plan to see it for the same reasons I see any Bond flick: The gadgets, the cars and…uh. There’s something else Bond films are known for but I can’t think of what it is right now…
I went and saw it yesterday. Definitely the best Bond movie in a long time, possibly ever. It was a little too long, though, especially with 50oz. or so of Dr. Pepper in my system. They really should have cut out some of the poker, both because it took up a lot of time and because it was wildly unrealistic. I wish they had stuck with the Baccarat of the book, at least then I wouldn’t know how silly it was. But good stuff nonetheless. Two thumbs up for Daniel Craig as Bond.
Parkour is pretty neat, but it’s hardly the first French martial art – even leaving aside fencing, there’s Savate.
Memo to John Cole: Guest Posting entails, you know, actually posting stuff.
Juicers waiting to freep Carpetbagger comment threads
The thirty minutes of romance made the story that much more effective to me, actually. I knew that she had to die somehow, and, by that point, I was sufficiently involved in the characters (my God! A Bond film with characters? Naaah…) that I really didn’t want to know that I knew how the film had to turn out.
I also thought there was some magnificent ambiguity in the circumstances of her death, and in M’s little lecture on the phone — was she trying to comfort Bond, or motivate him? And I thought the final scene, showing the fully fleshed out sociopath that is 007, was magnificent.
Oh, and Tim? It’s “compliment”, not “complement”. Bond and the girl complement each other perfectly, but his compliments don’t help.
That would be third behind Savate and Cane.
How did the newspapers know that a “British Agent” killed the bomber, though?
They could have ID’d Bond’s incompetent, probably dead partner.
But how’s that identify him as a British agent? For that matter, how would they connect Bond & phone guy?
Just a minor quibble. Was a great movie. And the poker scenes were broken up with action a couple times.
The picture on the front page of The Sun was taken from an Namatuban Embassy surveillance video. Presumably, the Embassy released the video in order to demonstrate the perfidity of British Government. They would know — or be able to know — who Bond was.
The Other Steve
That youtube video is Russian.
Anyway, Bond kicked major league ass. It had aspects of classic Bond, but it was influenced I think by Bourne Identity. Actually I’d say it was better than Bourne.
What is amazing to me is the people who claimed Craig couldn’t play Bond. I think he was actually quite superb. Daniel Craig is rugged, but he also has a look that makes him blend into a crowd. Much more what you’d expect from a “secret agent”.
The elimination of Q and all the goofball high tech gadgetry was quite good. There was still some high-tech stuff, but it was not unreasonable or unexected.
But the fight scenes, seemed real. Very well done. The chase scene in the beginning was amazing. Especially when you look at what that guy did, and then Bond trying to follow ends up nearly missing on several jumps. Still, he’s a phenomenal marksman and uses his gun to good advantage in the end.
Again, very well done.
They are Russians performing a skill invented by a French artist.
Language geek alert:
Parcours: distance covered, road, course, etc.
But I like your explanation better.
Pan Pan (anon)
Craig was fine, but the script by Purvis and Wade was still pretty bad (even for a Bond film). It’s a step up from Brosnan’s work, but still not better than Dalton in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.
Nice recommendation; I’ll definitely have to see the latest Bond. By the way, District B13 is one of those B movies that are better than they have any right to be. Highly recommended.
The Other Steve
Yet it looks better when performed in the original Russian.
The picture on the front page of The Sun was taken from an Namatuban Embassy surveillance video. Presumably, the Embassy released the video in order to demonstrate the perfidity of British Government. They would know—or be able to know—who Bond was.
Well how would they know who this newbie is? If they know who the 00’s are, doesn’t that sort of undermine their secret agent ability? All they have is a video photo of some dude in the courtyard. MI6 is not doing so well if Namatuba can so easily ID their newest agents.
I was always a big fan of Audrey Hepburn, but anyone who’s seen The Dreamers shouldn’t confuse Eva Green with her.
Bah! How could you forget Savate?
Batroc zee leepair vill not forgive zee insult!
No it doesn’t. Ladies and Gents, allow me to present Mr. David Belle.
John, I hate to have to tell you this but your wife keeps talking about the movie because the lead character is sooooooo damn sexy. I didn’t want to see the film. I wasn’t impressed when they announced the new actor last year, remember the boat thing? But when I saw the previews I was blown away by his animal magnetism. I can’t want to see it. He’s very, very hot.
So that’s why the wife can’t stop talking about it.
The Other Steve
Jackie Chan meets the Pink Panther?
But is the movie as good as Pudgy Penguins?
I for one would like to see the bloopers from this reel.
An ambitious film, but strangely leaden and tedious exactly when it should zip along (the card game, the “romance” scenes).
Well acted all around – with violence that we’re forced to take very seriously – but a soggy script. And the climactic scene simply did not live up to the earlier action sequences.
More “Constant Gardener” than “Moonraker” – that’s a good thing, I suppose.
It was fairly faithful to the book.
I agree completely, right down to the fluid crisis. Seriously, I nearly broke something important waiting for the credits.
And yes, District B13 should be at the top of everyone’s rental list. That opening fight in Casino Royale was terrific, but there’s stuff just as mind-blowing in the French flick. Acting, not so much.
Quite possibly the most faithful adaptation since – what? Goldfinger or Thunderball?
The opening sequence alone, leading into the credits, led me to lean over to the wife and say “Best ever.” She didn’t disagree.
The film itself was rather plodding and disjointed, but Daniel Craig is absolutely mesmerizing. Even better than in Layer Cake (a must see!). He brings such a strange and compelling combination of thuggishness, charm, and vulnerability to the role–I can’t wait to see what he does with it the next time out. Great body, too!
Oh, and District B13 is a hell of lotta fun.
Another small correction: Bond’s signature drink is, of course, the martini, “shaken, not stirred.” The recipe he recites at the poker table is for the vesper: gin, vodka, and Lillet.
A great in-joke for cocktail nerds.
Whoa: wikipedia says the vesper was invented by Ian Flemming:
The Vesper is a cocktail of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet. It was created by Ian Fleming, but he attributed James Bond as the creator in his first novel Casino Royale, and Bond named it for his love interest in the story, Vesper Lynd. In the 2006 movie adaptation, Vesper asked if he named it after her “because of the bitter aftertaste” but Bond told her that he named it for her, “because once you have tasted it, it’s all you will want to drink.” Kina Lillet contains quinine, which is bitter.
The recipe for the Vesper is:
3 oz Gordon’s Gin
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Kina Lillet
Shake until ice cold. Serve in a cocktail glass, garnished with a thin slice of lemon.
Note: Kina Lillet is no longer available and Lillet Blanc which has replaced it is manufactured to a different recipe with less quinine and hence less bitter.
You learn something every day.