Forget the DVD crap out today. Like you really need the unwatchable Star Wars: The Clone Wars. What you really need is Casino Royale from 2006, the first James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig. And you need it on Blu-ray with all the extras. Here’s why. Casino Royale is a great Bond movie, up there with the best of them. Quantum of Solace, the followup which opens this weekend, is not great. In fact, it’s a major letdown. But you are all going to see it. You know you will. For a few days you will pretend to love it. You will do this because you actually were jazzed by Casino Royale with Craig reinventing James Bond for the new century. But Craig’s followup as 007 in Quantum of Silly Titles just doesn’t cut it. Craig is still a primo hardass and the best Bond since Sean Connery. But the sizzle is gone from the movie. All you have to do is make some camparisons to Casino Royale and you’ll see my point. So let us begin:
Too Much Action: Bond seems to have come down with a serious case of Jason Bourne penis envy, leaping across rooftops from Bolivia to Haiti like a jug-eared Matt Damon. Put the blame on Marc Forster, a sensitive filmmaker (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) who has no experience as an action director and appears to be seriously overcompensating. In Casino Royale, Martin Campbell — a real action man — stopped to savor the distractions in the script co-written by Crash Oscar winner Paul Haggis. And the opening action scene – strikingly shot in black-and-white – set up Bond as an MI6 agent who may be too much of a hothead to earn double-0 status and a license to kill.
Too Little Heat: Pouty Ukrainian model Olga Kuryalenko is arguably the dullest Bond girl ever. Her character, Camille, treats 007 like he has an STD, and is so wrapped up in her own revenge plot we never get to know her. Compare her to luscious Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Vesper is a British treasury operative sent to stake Bond at the poker tables, and Green lifts her role to class-act status. Screenwriter Haggis contributes sly dialogue to a script that goes beyond kiss-kiss/bang-bang. A scene in which Bond and Vesper attempt to guess each other’s past histories trumps its comic zing with romantic gravity. For instance:
Bond: Miss Lynd, your beauty’s a problem. You worry you won’t be taken seriously.
Lynd: Which one can say of any attractive woman with half a brain.
Bond: True. But this one overcompensates by wearing slightly masculine clothing. Being more aggressive than her female colleagues. Which gives her a somewhat prickly demeanor, and ironically enough, makes it less likely for her to be accepted and promoted by her male superiors, who mistake her insecurities for arrogance.
Lynd: By the cut of your suit, you went to Oxford or wherever. Naturally you think human beings dress like that. But you wear it with such disdain, my guess is you didn’t come from money, and your school friends never let you forget it. Which means that you were at that school by the grace of someone else’s charity: hence that chip on your shoulder.
Wussy Villain: Dominic Greene, played by the vivid French actor Mathieu Amalric, starts well as the bug-eyed bad guy intent on control of the world’s natural resources, but his evil duties are split with Bolivian general Medrano (JoaquÃn Cosio), whose perversities run to cliche. In the earlier film, there’s Le Chiffre, played by the vivid Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, a banker who launders money for terrorists and cries tears of blood when Bond takes him down over a card table at Montenegro’s Casino Royale, where a test of character, not strength, will determine the eventual winner.
Crappy Theme Song: I’m not saying that Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” was much better than average in Casino Royale. But the new ditty, “Another Way to Die,” sung by Jack White and Alicia Keys, was a quantum of suckatude.
What happened? See Quantum this weekend, grab hold of a Casino DVD, and get back to me. This is an argument worth having.