The plot is slightly less sophisticated and consistent than your average episode of Bill and Ben. I intend to reveal salient details in what follows, but the concept of a 'spoiler' doesn't apply to this film. Basically, some nebulous, ever-scowling African 'freedom fighters', procure the services of a French money-launderer and investor (whose name is 'Le Shifty' or something like that) who in turn secures the contracts of mercenaries to blow up an airplane. Quite why he makes his money this way is mysterious. Of course, Le Shifty is quite ugly (unlike Danny Craig, with the cornflower-blue eyes), and - get this - he weeps blood. Ooooh, ickeeeeee. He's horrible, Daddy, I don't like him! The freedom fighters have no cause, beyond that of blowing things up. They sneer. They scowl. They kill with a gruelling determination. And they are, of course, utterly styleless (unlike you-know-who). Their inscrutable leader asks the French guy if he believed in God (out of nowhere, as you do), and Le Shifty coldly says "no, I believe in a healthy rate of return!" (Odd how in films like this, the values of capitalism are made illicit, criminalised - none of your actual run of the mill capitalists are so crude as to make a profit, or run sweatshops, or sell expensive goods, or deal with unscrupulous people). So, Le Shifty has bet against the market in short-selling airline shares (this is drawn directly from what happened on 9/11, as it happens), because he fully expects the airplane to be blown up. Problem: Bond foils it through the usual array of yawn-inducing stunts. So, now Le Shifty has to get the money back for the freedom fighters or they're going to kill his ass. He goes to play a card game, and Bond is sent along to play against him using squillions of treasury bills.
"You do realise", Eva Green tells Danny flirtatiously (she's always flirtatious, since the role of every woman in the film is to be a potential fuckbuddy for Bond), "that if you lose, the British government will have funded terrorism?" Well, that would be a fucking novelty, wouldn't it? A look of horror passes over Danny's face. Anyway, it turns out we needn't worry because Danny has some miraculous poker skills (turns out there are these things called "tells"), and he is able to kick Le Shifty's ass at long length, despite the fact that the dastards poison Bond and force him to retreat to his sports car and pull a defibrillator (yes, a fucking defibrillator) out of the glove compartment, whereupon he administers surgery to himself. Anyway, he wins and falls in love with Eva, who is in love with him, but then at the end it turns out she isn't really, but then she is again and then she dies (this while drowning in a lift that's floating through the debris of a recently collapsed house in Venice). And then Bond gets all Hulkamania, and goes after the bad guy and, having shot him in the leg, stands over him in a perfectly tailored tux with a well-hard rifle saying "I'm Craig, Danny Craig". Fade to black, cue titles. At some point in the middle of all this, Bond has been tortured and cracked a few dark witticisms (tee hee, torture is cool), and also shot dead some inconsequential affiliate of the freedom fighters in the middle of the embassy of some country that they never deign to name, and he is unfairly maligned in the press as having killed an unarmed prisoner (that's our spies, for you - always being slandered by the liberal media class).
Danny Boy: "Does my cock look big in this?"
Judi Dench does her usual thing in these films as a flimsy, indulgent matriarch, full of biting witticisms about arse-covering parliamentary bureaucrats who would stop her brave boys from killing whoever they want to. She's the intelligence chief with the heart of gold, constantly outraged by Bond's indiscretions, but secretly adoring him. Mads Mikkelsen is gripping as Le Shifty, and I look forward to his next role as a Serbian communofascist. Jeffrey Wright, a brilliant actor, was utterly wasted as "the brother from Langley". A number of female actresses are introduced to swelling orchestrals as classical Bond Babes. Various unknown actors die competently. Aside from phallic pistols, lots of gadgets are ostentatiously wielded, but I have a sense that writers are getting sick of this: nothing they show us is particularly stunning. There is a curious sense of awe about the cunning use of text messaging and DVDs, despite the fact that Roger Moore and Sean Connery both had to deal with gargantuan laser beams and moon-walkers. SMS fetishism is a miserable excuse for the usual technophilic glee that these films exhibit.
And of course, the film consciously reaffirms the literary cliche that spies are sexually charismatic, unusually intelligent and sadistic, charming their way into the lives and beds of enemies, before wasting them with a one-liner as dry as a shaken Martini. Decisive, effectual, calculating and ultimately superior in every way to the anonymous henchmen they send to their graves every day, they are the modern equivalent of those awesome and thrilling heroes, the aristocrats of early modern Europe. From Percy Blakeney to James Bond, the fixtures of clandestine political subversion have been the same.
I have always been stunned by the popularity of Bond movies, and especially by people who think it's 'only' a bit of entertainment. Bond movies are the most political films you usually get to see from the Hollywood mainstream, and the message isn't exactly shrouded in subtlety. I am also stunned that the audience is so willing to be mind-fucked in public - have some dignity. If you're going to laugh at yet another dull witticism from a cold, unappealling sociopath, then take it home and watch the DVD, for fuck's sake. The only heartening moment was when I realised that someone behind me was listening to their walkman, a lonely and short-lived protest. If the producers are looking for audience feedback, may I suggest a cold shower and an anti-perspirant? Because you fucking stink.