With Pearce Brosnan out of the picture, producers went for a back to basics Bond and chose Daniel Craig to play Ian Fleming’s master spy. And let me start by saying that Craig’s performance holds a great deal of promise for the franchise. His Bond is by far tougher and grittier than any that have come before. Yes, that even includes Connery, for all of you Bond aficionados out there.
The story begins with your basic execution, Bond style. The pre-credit sequence is what we all go to Bond films for, and this one begins in black and white with Bond’s quarry disappointed that they didn’t send a “Double 0” to silence him. He would learn the hard way that this Bond didn’t need a license to kill. And with that success under his belt, Bond is promoted to 007 status, marking the beginning of his career as Britain’s top spy.
But there would be no rest for Bond in this picture as he is quickly sent to Madagascar, to capture an informant who, as the saying goes, “is worthless to them dead.” And so begins one of the better chase scenes I’ve seen in a Bond movie to date. Gone are the tongue and cheek chases that Roger Moore was known for, Craig’s Bond gets down to business and never takes a breather for a quick quip.
But Bond does make a few mistakes along the way, which spymaster M (played again by Judi Dench) takes the heat for. She has her biggest role to date in this film, molding James Bond into the Double O we all know and love. So she’s taking a big chance on Bond, betting that he can bring down terrorist banker La Chifre at the poker table. Why they chose poker is anyone’s guess? As all us Bond purists know his game is Baccarat. But I digress, just needed to prove to you that I know all things Bond.
But our favorite spy makes another mistake by loosing the bankroll provided by treasury agent Vesper Lynd (played by Eva Green) who we will find plays a prominent roll in turning the brash agent into the suave and cunning James Bond. The film foreshadows a lot of what you see in many of the Bond films, but stops short of giving you any real history of the character.
That is all vague, just as it is in the original Fleming novels. The film is somewhat faithful to the book, a lot more so than I can say for many of the other films in the series. The main story is the same, the goal being to exploit Le Chifre’s penchant for gambling with other people’s money. The other people in this case, are a somewhat shady terrorist cartel that won’t appreciate Le Chifre loosing their money.
So why doesn’t it all add up? For starters, any great Bond film is the sum of its parts. The problem here is not in Daniel Craig’s performance, but rather in the poor crafting of the villainous Le Chifre. Whose only dimension in the film is his lack of tear ducts which causes him to cry blood. Not much to fear there. The writers also didn’t raise the stakes high enough. We’re use to Bond saving the world and they do give him plenty to do in this film, but I think they could have pushed the envelope a little further.
Director Martin Campbell, who helmed Brosnan’s first outing in “Golden Eye,” did give the film a lot of energy, and like he did with Brosnan before, he did sculpt a new Bond for a new generation. In fact, I found little to fault in Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond. Rumor has it that he’s signed on to do two more films. And it will be interesting to see how they build onto the next film, which is already slated for a November ’08 release. Maybe then we will get to see the real Bond in action, gadgets and all. With a tighter script, and a better villain, Bond really will be back.