By Brad Friedman on 11/19/2006, 11:24pm PT  

Wow. An unexpected thrill tonight. Knocked off unusually early to get out and enjoy dinner in the Valley since it was unusually warm here today (it was pushing 90 degrees in LA this afternoon, just to rub it in for everyone who's not here.) As we finished up, we noticed that Casino Royale was starting shortly at a theater near the cafe, and having forgone so many frivolous distractions for far too long, we surprised ourselves by deciding to play hookie and duck in.

Never mind that it's the first non-political film I've been able to enjoy in heaven knows how many months (years?), but it turns out it is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. Period. Certainly in the action/thriller commercial Hollywood-a-palooza blockbuster genre...

Aside from kicking off with one of the best chase scenes I recall seeing in any movie, imagine this: Actual suspense in a movie. Not that stuff that looks and sounds like it's supposed to be suspensful, but actual suspense. Remember that? Where you don't know what will happen next and stuff? And the fact that it was real honest-to-God suspense in a Bond movie of all things...Well, go figure!

On the way home I was trying to recall the last time I'd actually felt any such actual, ya know, heart-thumping suspense in a film. Where I was either shaken or stirred. I had to go back to Harrison Ford in Air Force One and then about 20 years before that for Al Pacino in And Justice for All.

As to blonde, James blonde...Daniel Craig is dead on-target. I suppose we all have an affinity for the Bond we grew up with. For me, that was Roger Moore. But after Moore's Bond jumped way over the shark into outerspace (Moonraker) --- and with Timothy Dalton only momentarily returning the character to the novels' orginal, darker roots (if not nearly enough) --- Pierce Brosnan re-jumped again, in his far-too-light-for-my-taste Bond loafers. Never mind how silly the films had become by then. Craig, on the other hand, knocks it out of the park.

Big props to director Martin Campbell for pulling it all off. With honesty. The old-fashioned way.

Do yourself a favor and see this one while it's still in the big theater with a full house (no pun intended), as it's great to actually cheer --- out loud --- with a crowd at the end of a Bond movie again!

UPDATE 11/21/06 5:05pm: Screenwriter, and occassional BRAD BLOG Guest Blogger, Jim Cirile, concurrently posted his own --- more detailed --- review which mirrors many of the thoughts expressed above.