Mark Asch’s review published on Letterboxd:
i'm embarrassed by everything i wrote at age 32 let alone age 22 but here's some stuff from my review of Casino Royale:
"[Craig’s] kind of coarse-grained superspy is exactly what’s called for here […] The first of many acknowledgment’s of Bond’s novice status comes in the customary pre-credits sequence: it’s black and white, and features Bond and an adversary cracking wise over the former’s recently acquired license to kill. Within the scene is an already much-discussed flashback of Bond and a goon slugging it out in a men’s bathroom, Bond racking up the first of the many bruises and lacerations he’ll earn over the course of the film. Some of them are even emotional [once] Bond is ready to let out the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen. It’s probably not a spoiler to reveal […] the movie ends by embracing the creed of everything that doesn’t kill you makes you suaver and more sadistic, and with Craig finally playing the part of a man who feels utterly comfortable in a tux. Casino Royale, then, is the birth of Bond, or maybe Bond Begins. It’s just that one questions whether a franchise about a British man in a tuxedo who flies to various exotic locales to sip martinis, blow things up, and bed beautiful women with silly names is really something that’s in particular need of an origin myth. [Y]ou can hardly fault the Bond producers for taking their product’s re-launch too seriously — it’s a family business, after all. But, now that we’re back at square one, here’s hoping future installments retain the sustained tone of reverence for the art of stuntcraft present in Casino Royale’s set pieces."
James Bond has always been stupid clown shit for dumb babies (John and Ted Kennedy both loved this stuff), but there's a certain charm for the way these invariably terrible movies aggregate trends for the well-appointed gentleman, bringing together a season's disposable zeitgeist in beautiful women, destination locales, men's accessories and leisure activities. Watching one is like reading a vintage Playboy for the articles. British roadsters and Swiss watches, ski and scuba. (God this franchise must have wanted to go to Cuba so bad for so long.)
15 years on from Casino Royale, i chastise my young self for being too impressed with its just-fine parkour sequence, but congratulate him for being basically entirely correct right off the bat about how the Craig Bonds would be symptoms of the modern tentpole blockbuster, and its then-novel metastasization into today's oxygen-sucking, discourse-totalizing, audience-cannibalizing behemoths strainedly representing themselves as the entire spectrum of cinematic expression, and accompanying media and audience conversation about aesthetics, politics etc, mostly by building themselves up, as this new one does, with an interminable mythology and banally narrow palette of Themes denoting seriousness.
Though I was too optimistic and had no idea how bad it would get. This new one stops dead for Léa Seydoux to cry more often than the new Bruno Dumont movie about her character's nervous breakdown.
I'm happy I suppose for Daniel Craig that he talked the Broccolis into an ending that no one but him could possibly have wanted and which sends everyone out on a downer—even while functioning as a backpatting backdoor pilot for female-forward extended-universe spinoffs with Lashana Lynch and hopefully not Ana De Armas. (Remember that Amazon just bought MGM for the Bond IP.)
As Craig is a fine actor and likeable public figure (and perfect Bond!) i'm reluctant to admit this but all these turgid self-important movies are his fault and reflect poorly on him and his ego. They're the product of a decade and a half of gnashing public psychodrama about his reluctance to play this role and his clear sense of superiority to the franchise game, spilling over into movie after movie with convoluted humorless backstory and grim banal shit about Trauma and Trust and Brokenness so he can feel like an actor instead of a movie star. When the onscreen texts of other perfectly distinctive action franchises are larded with this much bloviating worshipful worldbuilding about the heavy burden borne by their messianic star, we rightly point out that that's because Tom Cruise is a literal cult leader.
I liked the part where this was briefly Children of Men or maybe Call of Duty, culminating in the business with the watch and the eye and then Bond flipping all the levers while sweet Ben Whishaw whispers worriedly in his ear, but that was over even more quickly than the Ana The Arms stuff (great dress, sparkling personality!).
How much of this is Phoebe Waller-Bridge? It feels mostly like she's doodling around the edges. Any replacement-level Netflix writers room could polish this up with meta asides and throwaway one-liners to give to a craven Russian scientist but when people talk about these movies being "fun" they're talking about the more holistic attitude that gets you something like "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."
Rami Malek is abject, embarrassing, a perpetually miscast actor with weird vibes mashing the slo-mo button to try and appear sinister or campy as a bland character with no motivation. The most impressive thing about his performance is that he was able to remember such forgettable dialogue long enough to speak it.
35mm looks great even if Fukunaga's lighting is too fussy most of the time. Sunday-night TV shit: try-hard atmosphere and an active hostility to even the idea of pacing.