Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bond reborn

The genre was supposed to be as dead as the cold war. Battling for world domination against a communist regime but having to do that in the dark provided a great setting for Bond and other agent heroes. After 1990, it was the former Soviet generals gone AWOL, rogue media moguls and assorted terrorists, but none really had the same potential for developing saving-the-world -stories than the combined threat of Soviets and SPECTRE used to.

While covert action seems to be taking the spotlight again, the new Bond film has taken the story back to its beginnings.

Let's face it, Bond was tired. Lack of ideas led to forgetting the character and just focusing on the brand: Bond cars, Bond girls, Bond theme tunes, Bond gadgets, the Bond storyline with the evil genius and his plot to take over the world, his underground lair that gets blown to bits in the end. The main character just needed to deliver the witty and chauvinistic lines, introduce himself in a trademark way and go through the moves looking suitably blazé.

While Bond was going through a midlife crisis or perhaps was sitting at a desk at Vauxhall Cross filing inter-departmental performance reports for meeting government guidelines on transparency and accountability, another hero was revived: Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne was brought to big screen. The focus was in the man himself, a trained superagent with special skills but a hazy purpose. As he was fished out of the sea, there were no gadgets or cars to begin with. He couldn't introduce himself in a trademark way because he didn't remember his name. But there was a story, turns in the plot, and you didn't know how it would end and there was at least some ambiguity as to who the real bad guys were.

In Casino Royale, Bond returns to the head of the main table in agents dining hall and dwarfs every other secret agent out there.

If you haven't seen the film yet, go now. Go see it on big screen, it's worth it. If you don't think Daniel "The Blonde" Craig makes a good Bond, go see the film before judging him, you're going to like him. If you saw the trailer and didn't like it, don't worry, go see the film anyway - it's much more than the trailer suggests. If you usually don't like Bond films, go see this one, it's a proper film with a proper plot and all those kinds of fancy things. They even hired a director who directed the actors and made them act, not just some bloke to coordinate the explosions and car chases.

Most importantly, Bond is not just a shell, they've made him a real character. As the story is based on Ian Fleming's first Bond-novel, and it follows him through the first missions as double-0 agent (you know, they are the ones with licences to kill), there's more scope to make him vulnerable, fallible and human. This doesn't mean he's not every bit as charming, self-assured, efficient and strong. It's not the Bond for the emo-types, au contraire. It just makes the whole thing more believable, more unpredictable and more exciting. If anything, Bond is more hard and tough, but only partly because of the job, and partly because he doesn't want to show his weaknesses. That's at least two dimensions of a character, and it's one more than we've used to seeing in agent thrillers.

Best Bond ever.

(Pic: ©

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