2 Quick Reviews: 300 & Casino Royale

300 brought a violent comic book to violent life, but with a stylization that actually undercut the violence. The severed limbs and the flying droplets of blood were done so crisply, with such precision that there was nothing real about any of the scenes. A sense of fabrication underlay all the violent scenes. And strangely, as a meditation on bravery, the film fell flat. I think because you never get the sense that any of the 300 felt the pain that they were enduring. Their muscles never quaked and shook from exhaustion, their bodies never seemed to feel the cuts and the bruises, the missing eye, the open gash. So, in they end, their sacrifice, their tenacity and determination never had the chance to mean anything. If you don’t feel the pain and the exhaustion, then pushing past the pain and exhaustion means little. Even for an action flick, 300 felt, ultimately, hollow. Additionally, the subplot of Leonides’ Queen and the machinations of a corrupt Spartan was tiresome and rife with cliches and the notion that they had to turn her into a “whore” was simply sad and displayed a lack of imagination.

It was, however, worth seeing and probably seeing twice simply for the artistry of the landscape and the background which were almost entirely CGI and which were used to excellent effect in creating a completely consistent and beautifully rendered world. The action scenes work well and are thrilling to watch, even if they don’t have any emotional impact. The acting is, umm . . . fine. No, really, I mean for what they had to work with it was just fine. Just don’t expect to really feel anything for any of the characters, at least not in any real and visceral way. But ultimately I don’t think that is the fault of the actors. The structure of the story and the direction don’t lend themselves to making connections between the viewer and the characters.

Overall, I would watch this if you are in the mood for an action movie that is visually fascinating, but with the knowledge that, even as action movies go, there’s not a whole lot more than some incredible CGI and fun fights.

Casino Royale was the first Bond film that I’ve actually wanted to see since The Living Daylights – and yes, I know that there are lots of Timothy Dalton haters out there, but I submit that he was a much better Bond than Roger Moore, and that the Dalton films had an edgy quality that was lost with the urbanity of Pierce Brosnan. Don’t get me wrong, I like Brosnan as an actor and fondly remember Remington Steele and would have loved to have seen a young Brosnan play a young Bond as he transferred from Naval Intelligence to his 007 status. But that film fell through and the past several Bond movies have strained credibilty in their stunts and have just been shoddily written. Now we have Daniel Craig playing a much more rough and tumble Bond and the film style is a bit grittier, the story structure not as completely caught up in the cliches of the previous 19 films, and the acting is decent, with Craig being given a rather juicy role in this version of Bond and getting to play a range that is a bit wider than a lot of Bond films.

I wanted to like this movie more than I did. I liked Craig a lot, and the scene where he comforts Vespa after she see him kill two men: the two of them sitting in the shower, fully dressed as the water runs down and she weeps, is probably one of the more affecting scenes in the entire Bond series. But the cutesy “this is how it all began” element (his choice in drinks, his choice in car, the quip “I’m the money” followed by “Every penny of it”) were too forced, too wink-wink-nudge-nudge for a film that was trying to eschew some of the typical Bond film habits. The ending was a bit too pat, the “Bond falls in love” sequence wasn’t really earned and felt tacked on. Like the story demanded it but hadn’t quite prepared the characters for the emotional arc and therefore, the death at the end didn’t feel as tragic as I think the filmmakers wanted it to feel. Overall, and especially if you ever liked James Bond (even if you haven’t seen any of the latest films), I do recommend checking this one out. I finished wanting more of Craig’s Bond, interested in seeing what they’ll do with the character next and so am glad he gets another crack at it.


and this is a really bit “but”

Quantum of Solace has got to be one of the absolute dumbest names for a movie in the history of movies and even more so that is it a Bond movie. It had better be an absurdly good James Bond movie to overcome a title like that, that’s all I’m saying.

On this day..