Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. Only three of the thirty movies featured so far have been given the maximum ’10/10′ by the viewer, so both men will be hoping to add one or two more as the weeks go by
This week, we arrive at the first of Fred and Yasser’s ten favourite films. Yasser, as always, chooses first and he’s gone for a modern take on an icon of world cinema.
You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: We are in the ‘Top 10s’ now, Yasser, and you number 10 is Daniel Craig‘s first outing as 007, ‘Casino Royale‘
Yasser: Indeed it is
YA: It’s well written, classy. It captures the best and worst of Bond as a character, and let’s go of all the gimmicks
FS: It does. No Q, no invisible cars, no naked ladies in the titles. ‘Casino Royale’ does have loads of in-jokes, though. Doesn’t that undermine the supposed ‘reboot’?
YA: I don’t thinks so. Little things that were put in ‘Casino Royale’ that tipped their hat to the previous films in the series were there to help the new effort have continuity
FS: I guess they had to throw Bond fans a bone, and most of them were pretty well done
FS: Were you a fan of the 1962-2002 movies?
YA: Yes, very much so. I loved the early Brosnan films. Timothy Dalton, I feel, was very underrated
FS: I agree. ‘License to Kill‘ is one of my favourites
YA: I think he did a very good job and had many of the attributes one would expect Bond to have. Connery is my favourite old Bond, though
FS: Isn’t he everyone’s? I guess I want to know where Craig ranks
YA: I think before Craig, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘ was probably the best character-focused Bond film as it delved more into who Bond is and his feelings
FS: If you like character study then you really need to read the books
FS: (shakes head)
YA: It’s probably too soon to judge if Craig is the best Bond. I liked his performance in ‘Quantum of Solace‘, but the film let him down
FS: Oh God! Awful. So boring.
YA: How did you find ‘Casino Royale’?
FS: I’m a big fan of James Bond and I was really looking forward to ‘Casino Royale’ as I’d seen Daniel Craig in a few things and I knew he was a very good actor
YA: The blond hair and piercing blue eyes didn’t put you off?
FS: Roger Moore was blond with blue eyes, so no. The only problem with Daniel Craig is that he’s so fucking miserable in interviews. He seemed like he wasn’t all that happy to be playing Bond, like he didn’t even like the movies. I thought that was odd
YA: I think he went into it with a serious frame of mind
FS: I can’t fault his performance in this, though. He was really very good indeed, even if he does run like a berk
YA: Okay. What did you like about his Bond in ‘Casino Royale’
FS: He’s reckless, he can kill a man without thinking twice about it, and he’s resourceful. Personality-wise, he is a bit serious, but I’m not sure Craig is good at comedy so I can see why they limited the wise cracks. He reminds me very much of Steve McQueen, who was also shit at comedy
YA: That’s a wonderful comparison. There is an element of humour in Craig’s performance, but it’s more dry and sarcastic than others before him
FS: I really liked the opening. It showed Bond’s utter brutality, but also that he was not an experienced killer. He really makes a meal of killing the guy in the bathroom
FS: After the titles, we have the set up of the villain, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), before a quite breathtaking free-running sequence in Madagascar. Aside from some quite obvious stunt-doubling for Craig, that sequence blew me away when I saw it in the cinema. I’d have stood and applauded if such things weren’t frowned upon
YA: (laughs) We then cut to Bond and M (Judi Dench) and she is not impressed
FS: And, again, it’s a fantastic little exchange. Two very talented actors together. By the time he’s at the Ocean Club in the Bahamas I’m wondering to myself if this could be the best Bond movie I’ve ever seen
YA: Good, good….
FS: There is then a set-piece set in Miami airport and it’s one of the most exciting action scenes I can remember
YA: The runway chase?
FS: Yes. To cut a long story short, an hour has gone by and I haven’t taken my eyes from the screen. Craig is brilliant, the stunt work is superb and I’m really enjoying how they have expanded the story from the book. If the standard of the first hour had been replicated in the second hour, this would have got 10/10 very easily
YA: … However?
FS: What happens after an hour?
YA: Eva Green (laughs). Knew it
FS: I don’t know what it was but she dragged the whole film down. Craig lost it, and it all started in that train sequence
YA: What the fuck, man? That is one of my favourite scenes in my list
FS: Daniel Craig looked so uncomfortable delivering that sort of dialogue. It was very strained, very unnatural and it was embarrassing to watch. I was wincing
YA: Fred!!! It was a good exchange of underhand quips
FS: It’s not. It’s awful. They have zero chemistry for a start, and the lines are terrible. Not funny or sexy
YA: Ah mate! You are killing me here
FS: I’m not having a go at Craig, but he’s just not cut out for comedy. He has no timing. And Eva Green is no better. I can’t believe this is one of your favourite scenes. Considering the rest of the film, I’m astonished
YA: I’ve seen it dozens of times. Never once have I not smiled of enjoyed it. I’m flabbergasted at your disgust
FS: What’s funny is I’ve just told you that the first hour was incredible, yet we’ve spent most of out time talking about five minutes I thought were shit
FS: And now we get to the bit you were scared of… THE BOOK!
YA: This is ‘Film Club’, not ‘Book Club’
FS: (laughs) The card game makes up the vast majority of the book
YA: And a large chunk of the film too
FS: There are three problems with the card game sequences as they appear in the film. Firstly, watching people play cards is quite boring. Second – they had to jazz up this part of the film with action scenes, and they were very good, but they used ‘Bond has a crisis, but returns to the table looking absolutely fine’ too much. How many tuxes did he have? Eight?
YA: Were these major gripes?
FS: No, but the third one was. Because film makers treat audiences with utter contempt, they felt the need to have Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) explain the rules of Poker every five seconds. Very stilted
FS: Shall we talk about some good stuff before you start doing the ‘Hans Zimmer rock‘ in your chair?
YA: (laughs) Twat! What were your thoughts on the famous torture scene?
FS: It’s really well done, and it’s brutal, but it’s lifted straight from the book. It’s a good scene, but I can’t credit the director more than that. Everyone’s done a good job, but the material was there for them
YA: This is why I asked you not to compare it to the book
FS: It’s a very good film based on a very good book. There is no problem
YA: What about the end section in Italy?
FS: Bond is quite naive, but that, again, is faithful to the flawed Bond of the novels. The last action sequence in Venice is good, just not as good as what went before it
YA: Was there anything you liked about Eva Green’s performance?
FS: Seriously, she was okay. I quite like her, but it’s unfortunate that the first time we meet Vesper (Green) is after an hour when the film take a slight downturn in quality. That first scene she’s in on the train, as discussed, doesn’t work so it takes her quite while to make any impact
YA: And what about the villain, Mads Mikkelsen?
FS: He was quite understated for a Bond villain, which I liked. He was wealthy but he didn’t have an underground lair or anything. His plans were more modest and realistic than world domination… I mean realistic in Bond terms
YA: I think that’s a welcome change. It was good for the new ‘double-0’ to have a more modest villain as he finds his feet
YA: I think Martin Campbell‘s direction was very well done
FS: There was a danger that having this ‘reboot’ directed by someone who had been involved in the old series could have negated all the changes they wanted to make but it turned out to be a masterstroke. The direction was first class. There are sequences where you’re sitting there, bolt upright, teeth clamped together and eyes wide open. For what the movie was, the direction is perfect
YA: Finally, Dave Arnold’s score. If you watch it again, you might notice that any time Craig does something we know James Bond for – putting on a tux for the first time for instance – the music bubbles slightly with a little touch of the James Bond theme, but he saves the whole theme for the end of the film when Craig uses his catchphrase for the first time
FS: It’s like the last piece of the jigsaw. He’s officially 007 now, so play the music
YA: Exactly. Well I guess I’d like to hear your final thoughts
FS: I really, really enjoyed this choice. The first hour is absolutely thrilling and has you on the edge of your seat more than once. Daniel Craig is someone I like as an actor and he hits the ground running as the new breed of Bond, one that is faithful to Ian Fleming’s novels but that also brings 007 into the 21st Century where Jason Bourne is king. Unfortunately, the first hour is so good that the second half struggled to live up to it. The majority of the second hour is spent around a card table, which is fine, but it’s shown up compared to the beginning. Eva Green is fine. She’s not a great actress, but she grew into the role. The lack of chemistry between her and Craig is the film’s biggest drawback, though. Mikkelsen makes a good, if atypically quiet and error prone villain. I liked this understated style. If the standard of the first hour had been kept up all the way through, this would have been a ’10’, but because of the problems around Green and Craig, and the uneven pace of the film which sees the best scene appear in the first ten minutes – a problem that seriously undermines the comparatively dull climax – it gets 8/10
YA: Oooh! Thank you, Mr Bond
YA: So, what is your favourite Bond movie?
FS: ‘The Spy Who Loved Me‘… which is also Alan Partridge’s
Later this week: Pray silence for the legendary Charlie Chaplin