As so often promised, James Bond has returned.
And it’s a good return, too. Casino Royale has a Bond that, at the beginning of the movie, isn’t even a Double-Oh agent yet. I spent a little bit of time in skepticality, but there was a single moment in the first action sequence, when he jumps over the wrought-iron fence and into the [spoiler elided]; in that moment, I could tell that this new guy was still James Bond. From there on, I was able to lean back, stop analyzing and enjoy the ride. Sure, he’s the new guy, but going back to the beginning made that work pretty well. You see him making rookie mistakes and bouncing back (or not), and you get a brand new impression that he’s a human. Lately, these movies have shied away from that kind of character, and it’s refreshing to be able to worry about him and not just his sidekicks.
Bond’s mission is to follow some terrorist money and prevent it getting to the terrorists. Only, he discovers that the guy doing the laundering has accidentally lost all of it himself and hopes to win it back in a $150 million game of, well, Texas Hold’Em. (Apparently, that is now the only version of poker that officially exists.) So, Bond is bought into the game by MI6 and pursues a high stakes game of cat and mouse with the evil money laundering guy, wherein his dual goals are to find enough proof to capture the guy for questioning and, if possible, to make sure someone else wins the money. It’s actually quite a bit more exciting than it sounds, for all that there’s a lack of perfectly plotted gadgets and insane, overpowered supervillains. (Or, more likely, because of that lack. Humanized, I said.) The ending gets a little convoluted, but apparently the fault lies with the original author. (Well, sure, and some to the screenwriter for not finding a way to fix it at least a little bit.) They do win my respect, despite all that, for providing me with what will probably be the coolest thing I’ll ever see happen in Venice.
Two things I wonder, though. Will they start remaking all of the old Bond movies, and cause them to more closely follow Fleming’s work? I think that might not be a bad idea, though I doubt it’s what will happen. And, why is there such a big brouhaha over ‘James Blond’? Seriously, after putting together a solid Bond to rival the best performance of any of the previous ones, we’re focused on his hair? Lame. This must be how Reese Witherspoon feels when she reads In Style the day after the Academy Awards.
Most importantly, though, I stuck around through the credits and received the eternal promise: James Bond will return.