(out of 5)
After four excruciating years and a series of lawsuits that tied up the production rights to present our favourite martini-slinging, girl-banging, quip-throwing British spy, Agent James Bond 007 is back on the big screen with a new face and retro style, and together they’re a thing of beauty. The producers have taken a step back into vintage Bond-monde, setting the story at the beginning of the emotionally unavailable hero’s career and giving us explanations as to where many of his trademarks originated. M (Judi Dench, at her sexiest) assigns Bond (Daniel Craig) to look into the shady dealings of Le Chiffre (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen), who is planning to win millions at a poker game in Montenegro in order to fund a worldwide terrorist cell. Bond is paired up with the lovely Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in the hopes of preventing Le Chiffre’s win and getting to the very heart of the band of bombers who are causing so much trouble around the world. A long, drawn-out card game and a romantic interlude chop up the pace here and there, but thanks to deeper characterizations than have been seen in a Bond movie for a very long time, these elements make the superb action scenes (which really do take your breath away) feel like they belong in the middle of an intelligent blockbuster. Craig is a magnificent Bond, physically adept at all the insane stunts he pulls and fully believable as the dapper, sophisticated smooth talker who can save the world and tear off a pair of panties with his teeth while wearing a smirk the whole time. He’s also a ripe bit of crumpet, an opinion that director Martin Campbell seems to agree with considering he barely glosses over the bikini-clad girls before giving Craig’s good looks a thorough working over time and time again; this is the first Bond movie made with the male rainbow contingent in mind (paging Dr. Holly Goodhead!) Speaking of Bond girls, we’re finally back to the international female seductresses that we’ve loved for decades: one’s a beauty pageant winner who can’t speak English (Bond girl trademark #1) and the other is a goddess barely out of her twenties who looks like a fully mature woman (trademark #2, see all the pre-Denise Richards Bond girls to understand what I mean). It’s armed and dangerous with a licence to kill, it’s got pussy galore and it will leave you shaken and stirred; it’s a goldeneyed night at the movies with thunderballs, I tell you.
Directed by Martin Campbell
Cinematography by Phil Meheux
Music by David Arnold
Production Design by Peter Lamont
Costume Design by Lindy Hemming
Film Editing by Stuart Baird