Reinforcing the ‘Bond’ between us

New James Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ makes a good case for the next British invasion.

Adri Mehra

Finally. After a quarter-century of thoroughly spotty and increasingly cringe-inducing chapters of the James Bond spy-movie franchise, Agent 007 is back in “Casino Royale” with a cocktail that shakes and stirs, leaving out the drab olives this time.

The “olives” in question were the escapist overindulgences that torpedoed the Bond films of the 1990s and early 2000s – the three ‘G’s: gags, girls, and gadgets.

Certainly, this trifecta also represents the major fun-factored draw of a Bondian epic. Who could imagine the British secret agent without the sly double entendres, the naughty buxom beauties and the wristwatch-powered explosives?

But even the Romans eventually realized that there can be too much of a good thing and Bond’s creative caretakers did the smart thing by stripping the bloated spook of his savoir faire and rebooting the character as a grumpy, impetuous dickhead.

If recent ex-Bond actor Pierce Brosnan was nearing an Austin Powers level of parody as a stupidly slick über-casual ham, then the newly minted Daniel Craig would be more akin to John Cusack in “High Fidelity” – the not-so-tough tough guy you love to hate, or vice versa.

Visually, the film is bleached, grainy, and full of existential dreariness – much like its content. Gone is the Hollywood studio gloss of the post-1960s Bond films, replaced with a filthy splash of grit pulled from recent digital-video docudrama narratives like Steven Soderburgh’s “Traffic” and Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.”

Of course, Bond is still a well-oiled globetrotter, hopping from Madagascar to Montenegro to Venice with perfectly pressed shirts in tow, but it all seems more like a business-class commute than it does a rock-star carousel.

And, although she is a stunning Euro-sparkly brunette, French-born starlet Eva Green, too, is injected with a dash of the weary realism with which the rest of the film is imbued.

For instance, Green has a reasonably-sized chest and even some visible body freckles, which wouldn’t have been tolerated in earlier Hefner-esque installments of Bond’s playboy aesthetic.

And, like Bond, she’s tired, vulnerable, and so over this whole “Mission: Impossible” charade of a life spent working for MI6 and British intelligence.

In short, it’s the limited reliance on the sexy accoutrements that has made this Bond all the more sexy.

Even the action sequences have been toned down. It’s refreshing to be reminded that punches actually hurt a lot and falling in love with the wrong person for 45 minutes of an epic film could cause a bit of pain as well.

The filmmakers also tease us for the first chunk of the film while we watch Bond buzz around in such exotic chick magnets as Ford sedans and Range Rovers, only to mildly reward our patience with a modest Aston Martin DB5, which is not fitted with rocket launchers – only a defibrillator in the glove compartment.

Where am I going with all of this, you ask? Well, straight back to the multiplex, with a barrel of munchies.

Just as our world is no longer entrenched in a Cold War policy-of-containment with an empirical boogeyman, James Bond is no longer a plastic-smelling, womanizing action hero, and I appreciate the reality check.

The ‘Bond’ has never been stronger.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]