About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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Writing a book is an adventure: it begins as an amusement, then it becomes a mistress, then a master, and finally a tyrant.

— Winston Churchill



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 1/15/2018

Totals
Posts - 2475
Comments - 2570
Hits - 2,015,535

Averages
Entries/day - 0.47
Comments/entry - 1.04
Hits/day - 379

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 5:23 AM Pacific


  02:09 AM

We went to see the latest Bond the other day, and as far as I'm concerned, the review is easy: best Bond ever. Gone (mostly), thank god, are the gadgetopias and smirking double entendres, the centerfold Bond girls, the faux sophistication of "shaken not stirred," the megalomaniac would-be world rulers.

I was introduced to Bond with "Dr. No" and "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball," and after absorbing these as movies, I discovered the books, which I read, all of them, multiple times. I was about 14 at the time. The early movies made an effort to follow Fleming's plots, with (cf "Dr. No") some modernization. As most people probably know, starting with about "You Only Live Twice," the movies diverged from the books until at about "Octopussy," the only trace left of the books (or in this case, short story) was the title. The movies devolved into forumlas that had to have gadgets (where Q always had to make an appearance) and where the audience waited for the requisite lines -- "Bond. James Bond." -- and improbable chase scenes.

But lost among all the camp was the heart of what the double-O-7 designation was supposed to represent: that Bond is a killer, an assassin, that he's licensed to do the sort of thing that governments never admit they sanction. (In the short story "The Living Daylights," Bond is nothing more than a sniper.) "Casino Royale" puts the 00 designation in our face as no other movie has, making it an integral part of the story. The opening sequence, where we find out how Bond first used his 00 designation, touches on the issue that is in the undercurrent throughout the movie. Some of the first lines in the movie already hint at the issue, when someone wants to say "the second time it's easier," although there is a, um, interruption in the speech. Bond gets a chance to redeem himself, to draw back from losing his soul to this inhuman, immoral work, but as is always required in the Bond universe, things don't work out the way they do in other movie genres.

Not that there isn't a satisfying amount of the scenes that keep Bond fans happy. Early on Bond gets into a spectacular chase scene that features a virtuoso parkour performance by a character who, alas, does not get an opportunity to show his talents again in the movie. There are gadgets, although the ridiculousness is limited in this movie to a self-administered defibrillation. A beautiful Bond car makes an appearance -- another Aston Martin, with a knowing nod to the model that features so prominently in "Goldfinger" -- and although there is a car chase, it's a curiously short and undramatic one.

The villain in this case does not desire to rule the world or hold it hostage for some unimaginable sum of money. True to the plot of the book, Le Chiffre is simply a financier of bad guys (modernized here to terrorists) and who has got himself into trouble. He's a desperate man whose overconfident playing of the odds (and attempt to nudge the stock market in his favor) has not lived up to the promises he made to his clients. Bond's role in this case is not to kill the bad guy; it's more subtle, namely just to prevent Le Chiffre from getting himself out of a hole, and thereby to loose the dogs that are already howling for Le Chiffre's blood. Of course, this takes steely nerves and the trademark sophistication that only Bond can deliver. (As usual, Bond is allied with the CIA, but their skills are never quite up to his.)

Not only does the film explore, albeit not in depth, the inner Bond and the effect of his career choices on the man, but it reins back on the excesses that had turned the series into a kind of cartoon. At one point it thumbs its nose at the conventions of the old films by turning on its head -- twice -- the cliche of Bond's supposedly favorite cocktail.

Anyway. You can read Anthony Lane's review here. Better yet, go see it, and go with the idea that you've never seen a Bond film before. With any luck, this will be the first chapter in a series of real Bond films.

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