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A night at the movies

“The only intellectual satisfaction I took from the Dark Knight Rises was when I fell asleep and had a dream about socking Sigmund Freud in the mouth. Analyse that.”

Tim Stanley, in the course of writing a fairly scornful view of the new Bond film, which he hasn’t seen and doesn’t want to see.

I must say that I kind of get his point. Whenever I see a film described as “dark”, “gritty” or, even worse, a potential Oscar-winner, my BS detector comes on. But I generally like what Daniel Craig has done with the 007 role, despite the fact that he goes too far in looking like an army squaddie in a tux. He’s not Ian Fleming’s Bond, but solidly entertaining nonetheless. I am off to the movies on Saturday.

Anyway, this from Stanley is a corker, however unfair:

Craig is an excellent actor, but Bond is a part better played by a knitting catalogue model or a 60-year-old Lothario who charmed the producer’s wife. Craig gives the character emotional depth that it doesn’t deserve, while his physique turns Bond from a dandy super agent in a common-or-garden thug. Wit is impossible; charm has been replaced by threat. His body looks like it’s been put into one of those crushers at a car graveyard then forced into a pair of swimming trunks. And while Sean Connery and Roger Moore had laser pens and magnetic watches, Craig’s secret weapon is probably a snooker ball in a sock. Can you imagine this ape winning at Baccarat? Knowing the recipe for the perfect White Russian? He looks like his idea of class is not dropping your fish and chips in the middle of a fist fight.

All in all, I’m predicting Skyfall will have the charm and good humour of a night spent manning the phones at the Samaritans. Its miserabilism reflects a culture that thinks suffering automatically creates credibility – a world where X Factor contestants weep for our votes because last week their gran sustained a paper cut while opening a gas bill.

45 comments to A night at the movies

  • Laird

    I haven’t seen the new Bond movie but probably will (my son wants to go). However, I agree with Stanley’s assessment of Craig as Bond. I’ve felt from his first venture into the series that he was badly mis-cast: he has no humor, no wit, no class. He’s The Terminator in a tux, nothing more. How much of that is Craig’s fault and how much the director’s (or the writers’) is unclear. But whatever the reason, Craig is far and away my least favorite Bond.

    I’ve also heard the new movie theme song. The most charitable thing I can say is that it’s mediocre. First-rate orchestration, competent singing, but the song itself is just bad. They’ve tried to make a silk purse out of it, but despite all the embroidery and sequins it’s still a sow’s ear.

  • Sigivald

    Can you imagine this ape winning at Baccarat?

    As much as I can Connery’s Bond, yes.

    Because even French Baccarat has a significant house advantage, and is a sucker’s game, in terms of gambling choices, regardless of the glamour factor.

    If one wishes to use gambling to show a character’s mental acuity, one is better off choosing poker, as it is more a game of skill than of chance.

  • George


    Where are the henchmen in uniforms, the secret lairs inside volcanoes, the ships that kidnap nuclear submarines, the hijacking of space shuttles from a 747 or the cars that turn into helicopters?

  • Stonyground

    I can remember being really surprised to learn that Ian Flemming also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My first thought was that CCBB could not be more different from Bond. Then I thought about the gadgets, the special car, the pantomime villain in his hideout and thought, ah, not that different then.

    I have also read the Aquarium by Victor Suvarov, which is about real spies, in which he points out that if you are having shoot outs and car chases it means that you have seriously screwed up.

  • Alisa

    If I looked like Tim Stanley, I’d have felt that way too.

    Craig gives the character emotional depth that it doesn’t deserve

    Is he referring to ‘that ape’ that can’t possibly win at Baccarat? As to Craig’s supposedly excessive physique, Mr. Stanley must have forgotten that Sean Connery used to be a bodybuilder and took part in the Mr. Universe contest.

    The first two Craig’s Bond movies were excellent, and I can’t wait to see Skyfall.

  • Laird

    Alisa, I think you’re too busy drooling over Craig to see that actual movies!

  • Alisa

    As to Bond songs, they were all crap anyway, except for Live and Let Die. Can’t beat McCartney.

  • Alisa

    Laird, first of all: of course. Second, I was never drooling over Connery (not until he got older, that is). What’s the point of an action movie if you can’t drool over the main characters? If you just want to explosions, you can knock yourself out replaying footage of the Lebanon civil war.

  • Sam Duncan

    Actually, I could never imagine the Edinburgh milkman Connery winning at Baccarat or even knowing that a White Russian wasn’t a bloke from the Caucuses. Friend of my mother’s knew him when they were both lifeguards at the Portobello pool. Says he was as thick as two short planks.

    Bond went to Eton, before being kicked out for (as far as I recall) attacking another boy. I can believe Craig more than any of them. Remember, too, that Casino Royale was a “reboot” with Bond only gaining his 00 licence at the very end. The current Bond is a work-in-progress, not the final product.

    As to the henchmen, secret underground lairs, etc., I think this, from a review of the latest videogame tie-in is worth quoting:

    All the stories are now set in the modern day, even though many of the ‘60s and ‘70s production designs remain the same and you still have characters running around called Dr Goodhead. Oh and they’ve swapped the Aston Martin in Goldfinger for a newer model. No, really.

    The pained expression in the eyes of the Eurocom developers that explained this to us spoke to the fact that this was not their idea (as did the words ‘it was Eon’s idea’ – Eon Productions being the company behind the 007 films).

    I’m firmly of the opinion that after 50 years of making Bond movies, Eon still doesn’t have the faintest idea how. You know there’s a formula, I know there’s a formula, but they seem to be completely in the dark. Any of them that have turned out remotely watchable – and there have been more than a few – must have happened entirely by chance.

    Having said that, I thought Casino Royale, good though it was, was a missed opportunity. They should have started again, remaking all the books in order, straight, and in-period. It would have been risky, perhaps alienating fans of the older movies, but then they’re doing that anyway with the “grittiness”. Straight adaptations of the books would at least have some artistic merit.

  • Johnnydub

    Great Post… but two objections:

    “The first two Craig’s Bond movies were excellent” –

    No… A Question of Sport (as it was christened during Mark Kermode’s film review podcast) is incoherent shite…

    “As to Bond songs, they were all crap anyway, except for Live and Let Die. Can’t beat McCartney. ”

    Yes we can! “We have all the time in the World” by Louis Armstrong at the end of OHMSS – the best bond film by far and a great counterpoint to the death of Bond’s wife…

  • “We Have All the Time in the World” may be the best Bond song (outside of John Barry’s original theme, of course), but the best movie is From Russia With Love, which is a taut thriller that proves a good story is just as important as gadgets and effects. And with a great villainess in Rosa Klebb.

    (Of course, I should add I don’t get into all those comic-book blockbusters.)

  • JohnB

    Bond was born in a different era when things could be okay. Or at least I thought they could.

    The music and titles made Dr No, and the light touch of the movie was a show case.
    But it was in the inspired music.

    Tim Stanley’s review of the latest leech on the inspiration is great.

  • George

    The patchy quality of the second one is due to their being a writers strike while it was in production and some wierd rule that the only other people allowed to work on the script were Craig and The Director.

    I think the idea of remaking the books in order and in period would have been a fantastic direction to take the franchise and would of really made it stand out from The Bourne Identity and other modern “gritty” fare.

  • Just seen it. And, um, loved it. One or two gaping plot holes (it was a bit like the beginning of Return of the Jedi in one respect), but, let me put it this way, I am not going to tell you what I just started saying “but” about. I don’t want to spoil it for you, i.e. there is something there that one can fear being spoilt.

    And there’s an Aston Martin.

    One oddity, in at least two places in the film, Bond talks about “England” as his motivation for sticking with the jolly life of a guy who has spent approximately seventy years being shot at and nearly cut in half by lasers. Yet it is made clear that (as in the books, if I recall correctly) Bond is a Scot. I wonder, is this just an authorial slip up, or is it meant to be significant?

    I do think that Bond ought to be dark haired, but Mr Craig is easy on this female eye, and a little light dishevelment is becoming in a man.

  • Pretty much every criticism you make of Daniel Craig as bond I agree with, the difference being I see them as pluses, not minuses.

    Fleming described Bond as a thug, and that is what the Craig Bond is.

    This prissy Zoolander manque that Bond evolved into over the years drove me away, and only Craig lured me back.

    Brosnan and Simon Templar pretending to be Bond were not credible, and watching them was a wast of time that could be put to better use watching paint dry.

  • Aetius

    When ever I see Daniel Craig, I think, why is Vladimir Putin playing Bond? Isn’t he supposed to be the villain?

  • Incunabulum

    “. . .And while Sean Connery and Roger Moore had laser pens and magnetic watches, Craig’s secret weapon is probably a snooker ball in a sock. . . ”

    I’m thinking that this is a guy who grew up with the Moore/Brosnan Bond movies which, while I like both the actors, were very schlocky compared to the early Connery movies. Even the one (two?) that Dalton did in the middle were closer to Craig’s (and the early Bond) than Moore/Brosnan’s movies were.

  • Speaking of the gadgets, those in the early Bond films worked, while those in the later pretty boy movies didn’t even attempt to obey the laws of physics.

    Schlock, pure schlock.

  • Regional

    You don’t stand up in a gun fight.

  • When ever I see Daniel Craig, I think, why is Vladimir Putin playing Bond? Isn’t he supposed to be the villain?

    One day M will notice the resemblance and send Bond on a special infiltration assignment.

    I’m still predicting that in 15-20 years Bond will be played by Daniel Radcliffe.

  • What CountingCats said. Craig is a thug, because Bond is a thug. Anyone whose hung out with the gentlemen officer class of HM Armed Forces will know that they are merely intelligent thugs. Craig more closely resembles the high-flying senior officers I know than Moore or Brosnan (although Craig is a bit too well built).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hmph. Best Bond character: “Q.” Best music: Original jazzish theme music, best rendition in one of the early ones…Thunderball? Moonraker? Can never remember. Unfortunate that it was never treated as a full piece in its own right.

    Best villain: Blofeld’s Cat.


  • The Spy Who Loved Me has the best theme tune, IMO.

  • Pretty much every criticism you make of Daniel Craig as bond I agree with, the difference being I see them as pluses, not minuses.


    And you are all wrong about Bond music… only women called Shirley can sing Bond music.

    Hence the very best is ‘The World is Not Enough’ by Shirley Manson with almost anything by Shirley Bassey coming a close second.

  • Alisa

    Shirley Bassey should be outlawed – freedom of expression be damned. There’s a limit, you know.

  • Alisa

    What Cats said. And yes, Dalton was the least worst of the rest. To be fair to the others though, the problem with their Bonds might have not been a casting one, but rather the writers’/directors’ take on the whole thing.

  • Alisa

    …come to think of it, it might have been the writing/directing rather than casting what made the Craig Bond so much better too…

    Sorry for thinking and posting single-shot…

  • “. . .And while Sean Connery and Roger Moore had laser pens and magnetic watches, Craig’s secret weapon is probably a snooker ball in a sock. . . “

    And there we sum up the difference between the pretty boy Bond and the thug – the snooker ball in the sock works….

    BTW, the ball+sock scenario suits Connery as well. He never went in for this physically impossible laser pen and magnetic watch drivel.

  • The new film is bloody good, I’d say.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    You don’t stand up in a gun fight.

    Posted by Regional at October 27, 2012 02:51 AM

    Indeed. And as I noted about one Rambo (or Rambo-ish) movie, you especially don’t stand up with your legs spread.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Heh…I meant the ongoing movie theme music, not any of the “songs.” There’s a stage performance conducted by John Barry, not great but not totally awful, at least until the ghastly orchestral addition at the end (sound quality poor though) at


  • Whenever I see a film described as “dark”, “gritty” or, even worse, a potential Oscar-winner, my BS detector comes on.

    Precisely, Johnathan.

  • Simon Jester

    “Bond was a thug.”

    Yes, but he was a suave, well-educated and witty thug. Fleming’s own first choice for Bond was David Niven, although I don’t know what he would have made of the 60s version of Casino Royale.

    Moore’s Bond wasn’t a thug. Craig’s Bond is a thug, but…

  • Andrew

    If you’ve read the books, then you would agree Craig is a more accurate representation of Bond than his predecessors (excluding Connery of course and for obvious reasons). Possibly a bit too well built but that’s it.

    As to the style of the movie, well it’s going to be of it’s time of course. I shall see it, it has to be better than the last effort, which was dire.

    Talking of ‘of it’s time’ I can’t help but think it’s very 2012 to write a negative review of a film you haven’t seen…

  • Alisa

    Talking of ‘of it’s time’ I can’t help but think it’s very 2012 to write a negative review of a film you haven’t seen…

    Rather obvious, but still needed to be said.

  • Stephen Willmer

    I saw it today, and was very, very disappointed. I’ve been a big fan of Craig’s rebooting, but this was Bond in Le Carre’s clothing. Or le Carre in Bond’s clothing. Either way, dreadful. Not the best Bond film but the worst, and the only one in 33 years of watching Bond at the cinema to make me wish it was over even before the halfway mark. The screenplay was both boring and more than usually absurd, but with no charm and only dull wit to leaven the absurdity. What critics have mistaken for depth and meaning is the sad sight of fine actors going Shakespearean on a pedestrian script. The picture’s only redeeming features were Bardem’s high campness when he’s first revealed, and the final revelation of Miss Moneypenny.

    I’ve read all but one of the stories and seen all ofthe other films countless times. It takes a true Bond fan to hate this film as much as I did. Grrrr.

  • MakajazMonkee

    It should be set in the fifties/sixties. X-men First class was a good example of how it could have been.

  • Fraggle Rock

    ” He never went in for this physically impossible laser pen and magnetic watch drivel.”

    Never say never…

  • Laird

    Well, the Vatican liked it (for what that’s worth).

  • Paul Marks

    Not one of the comments has told me anything about the plot of the film.

    And it is made by the same person who made “American Beauity” and “Revolution Road” – I think it is safe to assume it will not be a pro business anit “social justice” film.

    Ian Fleming would not be happy with who is making the Bond films.

    As for actors….

    Actors say words that are written by other people – and they say them in the way that they are told to say them.

  • Laird

    Paul, I think the actual plot is the least important element of a Bond film! I haven’t seen this one yet, but I’ll offer a synopsis: a bad guy is intent on doing evil things to a large population of innocent people; Bond sets off to thwart his nefarious scheme; along the way he meets (and beds) lovely women and fights with evil men, often using some high-tech gadgetry; he nearly meets his demise but manages to escape in the nick of time (battered but unbowed); he captures/kills the villain at the last possible instant, thus saving the world once again; he and his latest ladyfriend disappear under the sheets as the credits roll. Close enough?

  • Alisa

    I take it you haven’t seen Casino Royale, Laird?

  • Laird

    I think my synopsis works for that one, too, Alisa, except for the last clause. A minor detail.

  • Alisa

    Saw it yesterday. Enjoyable as just another action flick (some very impressive visuals), but disappointing as a Bond movie. They shouldn’t have given it to Mendes.