Wandered along to the new James Bond movie on Friday night, anticipating a very good time on the basis that the reviews were saying Bond had gone psycho while trying to avenge the murder of Vesper in Casino Royale (actually, that bit I didn’t really get, because if memory serves Vesper ratted out Bond near the end of Casino Royale – so why should he give a rat’s fundament? Or wasn’t I paying attention?). Anyway, if you liked Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, you’ll probably like this one too. It’s a tad darker in tone, although it’s nowhere as bleakly nihilistic as some folk were reporting, and Craig is probably the most effective Bond yet, Connery included. There’s a beautiful little moment early on in the flick, where, having dispensed with yet another bad guy, Bond pauses to take the guy’s pulse and ensure he’s dead before moving on to search his room. You can believe that quality of sadistic professionalism of Craig’s Bond, his impassive features and ice-blue eyes perfect for the part of Fleming’s (barely) human weapon – watching Craig in the early part of the movie, actually, I was reminded of Hammett’s description of Sam Spade as ‘a blond Satan’. Unfortunately, that little interlude is about the only original or fresh idea in the entire movie. It’s all put together with some style, and the various chase scenes are quite polished – although the editing in the early sections appear to have been done by a team of monkeys deprived of their Ritalin – but the overall sense of the thing is that they’re still chasing the Bourne market with a more downbeat, ruthless Bond, while still hung up on the idea of Bond being a noble character who only wants what’s best for queen and country. It’s all jolly good fun, mind, and it’s a hell of a lot better than most Bond flicks – but you just wish, with Craig in the role, they were prepared to let 007 off the leash, just for once.
Praise for Declan Burke: “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – The Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “A hardboiled delight.” – The Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review). “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre, was ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL.” – Sunday Times. “The writing is a joy.” – Ken Bruen. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.