It's definitely quite a change in direction. I liked how the chase straight after the opening sequence was on foot - it signalled the 'back to basics' approach, but also still made me gasp with awe at the clever use of gymnastics and props. And I like the way some of the old paradigms were inverted - like seeing Daniel Craig emerge dripping from the sea in his bathing trunks, in place of the classic old-school image of Ursula Andress in Dr. No.
I can't say I followed the plot terribly well, despite having read the novel as a teenager, mainly because I actually watched this film in two halves with several months in between them (all to do with a cock-up in setting the recorder for it in the first place). But it didn't really matter - I don't ask for Bond films to be anything much more than a series of impossibly-exotic characters floating through a succession of spectacular set-pieces anyway. And the set-pieces certainly delivered - particular the destruction of the Venetian palazzo at the end of the film, which was absolutely breath-taking.
I did find the portrayal of Le Chiffre's asthma slightly annoying - it's often mis-portrayed in film and TV, and I do wish actors and producers would bother investing five minutes in learning how inhalers are actually meant to be used before trying to portray it on screen. Still, then again, I don't suppose many people really go around bleeding continually from their left eye or re-joining poker games minutes after experiencing cardiac arrest either, so maybe I shouldn't be too picky.
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