Monday, February 26th, 2007 http://adamkhan.net/rambles/so-you-noticed
asino Royale is very much in the vein of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. While Craig has a career and is a much more professional actor than George Lazenby was, everything from the action to the plotting is tighter in order to compensate—as in OHMSS—for the lowering of the star wattage after a Connery or a Brosnan. What was in retrospect bumbling screenwriting they’ve turned into drama: No longer are Desmond Llellwyn and Roger Moore standing around in Bernard Lee’s well-heeled office for a cheerful chat, conjuring up the future spirit of Austin Powers’ Basil Exposition; instead, Judi Dench threatens to kill our man. And the superjet action setpiece, usually the climax of an action blockbuster, is wisely brought forward, strengthening the climax by having it be not computer-animated but character-driven as we discover Vesper’s predicament and see all her scenes in a new light.
Richard Branson’s brief cameo in the metal detector took me out of things, though producer Michael Wilson wasn’t so bad: he’s a tradition and looked just right as the police commissioner. The very Virgin model airplanes taking off repeatedly were irritating, the Ford rent-a-car ghastly, and the Omega watch unforgivable in that it actually made its way into the screenplay. Are there industry rules to product placement, so that the zoom on the logo must be very obviously extraneous? Ford did themselves no favours by having exciting music play as their tinny little thing rode gamely up to the hotel. As soon as he could, 007 ditched it for an Aston. Much better to have Fords be the cars that get bashed up as innocent byparkers, suggesting their ubiquity and inevitability (Diamonds Are Forever comes to mind).
I like how Vesper’s betrayal is telegraphed: James tells her he loves her (a big big deal in itself), saying it’s because she has no tell, telling us that she is in fact playing a hand. I like the twist with the car: instead of bristling daftly with missiles it’s a survival kit. I like how earnestly Vesper tells James that even if there was only a little finger of him left he’d still be more of a man than any other she’d known. I like how we see his competence right from the get go in the Africa scene. I like how despite the radical reload, signature 007 locations are worked in: Nassau, the south of France, Venice. All we needed was a detour to southern Thailand.
But can Craig do the one-liners? They are necessary. Indiana Jones has them, Schwarzenegger has them. All learned from Bond that wit is fundamental to top-flight action adventure. Now Bond may be eschewing it slightly, which is fatal. “So you noticed,” is very nicely done indeed, in response to Vesper’s shocking compliment to his behind, and that entire scene on the train seems to work despite Eva Green’s weirdly non-English English accent. But when the lines aren’t inspired Craig can’t do much with them. When Roger Moore flaps his tie and lets his interlocutor plunge to his death, there’s not much wit to “What a helpful chap,” but it feels witty nonetheless.
Asking if the fellow can do the one-liners is a polite way of still asking the same question that has dogged Daniel Craig from the start: He’s pumped himself up nicely, and his acting during the torture scene was really top crotch (I write this the day after the Oscars and wonder if he was considered even for a moment for best actor) but is this thuggish-looking fellow really James Bond?