Casino Royale (12A)
Requiem (12A)

The man with the golden grunt

Some fans of the 007 franchise are outraged by the casting of Daniel Craig: to think that Bond could be blond! That's not the half of it - he's also in black and white, partly at least. The film starts with a flashback to James Bond's first ever killing, a very brusque and thuggish execution in a toilet. By the time the blood trickles down that famous gun-barrel signature image, you realise this time that the makers aren't kidding: this is going to be the most sanguinary Bond film yet.

Casino Royale feels less like a film proper than like an extremely hard-headed rebranding exercise: 007 dusted down and muscled up for an age that expects a bit less middle-aged suavity, a bit more graphic bone-crunching. The order of the day is a back-to-basics muscularity; out with the increasingly glib hi-tech, in with Olympic-level athletic action, as in the genuinely head-spinning free-running routine that is the first big action sequence.

The familiar Bond character trademarks are systematically flouted, rather than smugly ironised. Craig's Bond makes several egregious gaffes, rashly loses his heart, and is so lacking in silver-tongued wit that his love interest (Eva Green) actually smirks at the clumsiness of his lines. But that's because he's not really James Bond yet: based on the first (and if I remember correctly, the dullest) of Ian Fleming's novels, this film is effectively a superhero "origin" story, starting with Bond winning his "double-0" status, and ending with him earning the right to use his time-honoured catchphrase.

Craig is certainly a more muscular and menacing Bond than we're used to - the first 007 who looks as if he'd headbutt you for spilling his Martini. After he's administered that beating and another cold-blooded assassination at the start, the credit sequence ends by isolating Craig's chilly blue stare and you think, Christ, they've actually gone ahead and made 007 a stone-cold psycho. He softens up in the course of the film, but where previous Bonds were lean and foxy, Craig is chunky and wolfish, a sullen and forbidding juggernaut. When he finally puts on a tux, you expect him to station himself at the casino door and tell punters, "Sorry pal, no trainers." It's significant that the only time he gets to deliver a really sharp one-liner is when his balls are being whipped with a knotted rope.

Uncharacteristically brutish for a Bond film, Casino Royale is being touted as a return to the original spirit of Fleming (that last torture scene is straight from the novel), but it feels just as much like a homage to Mickey Spillane. There's also an unreconstructed racism that comes as a shock - an early action sequence has Bond's indestructible white male cutting a swathe through armies of helpless African opponents. That's just before a shot in which a group of little black children grin in awe at a beautiful white lady on a beautiful white horse.

No-nonsense to a fault, Casino Royale mercilessly clears out all the excess gimmickry and facetiousness - it's a severe and ultimately joyless spring-clean of a film. The best things about it are the collapse of a Venetian palazzo at the end, and Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, with her cool, cerebral trans-Manche delivery and geometric Klimt features. But the dialogue is pure lead, and I suspect Crash writer Paul Haggis (credited with Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) is responsible for the creeping tone of psychobabble: Bond is forever being told off about his "ego", a word that's as alien to the 007 universe as if he went around shooting villains because he needed closure.

In the early Seventies, around the time Roger Moore was doing his own rebranding on Bond, a young German woman called Anneliese Michel was exorcised by her parents. The incident, and her resulting death, inspired last year's US hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a gruesome apologia for Christian fundamentalist anti-rationalism under cover of a supernatural thriller. Now young German director Hans-Christian Schmid offers a sane, detached and touching realist treatment of the theme in Requiem, with Sandra Hüller as a young student with epilepsy who attempts to escape her stifling Catholic home, only for superstitious panic to pull her back in. It's a small but bitterly intense story, told with keen sensitivity and sober tenderness, and it rightly won Hüller the Best Actress prize in Berlin this year. A somewhat Loachian exercise, shot and designed in deliberately drab early-1970s shades of brown and beige, Requiem is as far from sexily must-see as it's possible to get. The fact that it's competing in this week's marketplace against a Bond blockbuster arguably proves - contradicting the film's secular viewpoint - that there is a Devil, after all, at least when it comes to cinema distribution. Still, it's one of the year's best films.

j.romney@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
books
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

    Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

    Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities