Movie Review – Casino Royale
– Summary –
Director : Martin Campbell
Cast :Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Gianinni, Simon Abkarian, Caterina Murino, Jesper Christensen, Tobias Menzies.
Year of Release: 2006
Length : 144 Minutes
Synopsis: Superspy James Bond is reinvented in this franchise “reboot” for the modern age: no gadgets, no spurious sexual innuendo unless absolutely required, and action on a scale never before seen in a Bond flick. When a weapons dealer tries to increase his wealth at a large poker tournament in the Casino Royale, James Bond is sent in undercover to steal it all. Guns, fights, and killing ensues.
Review : Dynamite entry into the Bond series, completely reinvents the franchise and gives it a much needed injection of energy. Craig proved critics wrong as a terrific Bond, and Goldeneye helmer Campbell enthralls us with high-octane action and brutal violence. Dazzling, and a great way to start the series again.
Spectacular, revisionist film taking everyone’s favourite spy back to where he started: before he was given his Double 0 status. Yes, James Bond before he was technically licensed to kill. Interesting premise, and a welcome return to the character’s roots given the malaise that had settled over previous Bond, Pierce Brosnan.
In what would prove a fortuitous move, producers of the Bond movies decided to cast Craig in the role against type, a “blond Bond” so to speak, which angered purists who were against the idea. While many weren’t prepared to give Craig a shot as Bond, the producers were confident and pushed ahead, ignoring a petition by some fans to replace the actor with somebody else.
Good thing the angry fans didn’t succeed, because Casino Royale delivered one of the best Bond films ever made. Angry, sullen, physical and battered, this is perhaps the most human Bond of all, even more-so than Connery’s portrayal, which is regarded highly as one of the most consistent with what creator Ian Fleming intended. Craig delivered a frighteningly good Bond, suave and sophisticated, as well as macho and brooding, a kind of action-hero Bond mixed with the aura of an old-time leading man style.
The Bond films, up until Casino Royale, had slowly been moving into the realm of CGI-enhanced, one-liner riddled clichés, with Brosnan struggling to paddle in an increasingly larger sea of stupid plotlines, inadequate characters and ludicrously insipid stunts. Goldeneye managed to achieve something most Bond’s previously hadn’t been able to do: it made Bond modern, brought the character out of the sexual revolution and into the 90’s, the modern era where women were the equal of men, and the Gentleman’s Gentleman character was outdated. With this refreshing change of pace from past Bond outings, though, came the modern audience’s expectations of a modern Bond who could handle the challenges of the modern age. Digital Bond, so to speak. The last Brosnan Bond, Die Another Day, is representative of how ordinary the franchise had become, the digital tomfoolery and insipid one-liners (I mean, seriously, it was as bad as Arnold in Batman & Robin!) reducing the character to a cliché of his former self. Bond had forgotten to be serious.
So, with Goldeneye director Martin Campbell (who also helmed both recent Zorro movies!) at the wheel, Bond gets a total face-lift, another take on the modern Bond that is probably closer to what Fleming intended than any before. This Bond is cold, calculating, fearless and at times, ruthless. This ruthlessness is what endeared him to audiences the first time: he takes no prisoners, especially if you double-cross him. Yet, at his heart, he’s a caring kinda bloke. After all, when Vesper Lynd gets the ice cold treatment of death, he is sorrowful, almost contrite at her predicament. This, then, leads him to vengeance, which is to be explored in Quantum Of Solace.
Campbell strips away the anachronisms of the Bond legend, the cars, the gadgets, and returns the character to a more realistic version, less reliance on tricks and a winning smile, and more reliant on brawn and brains. The opening sequence with Bond, chasing a runaway target through, over, under and around various stationary objects (like buildings, cranes and other things) is stunning. Fast and furious, it delivers a new kind of Bond adventure, and prepares the audience to the fact that this ain’t your CG enhanced, double entendre-delivering glint-in-the-eye Bond we’ve all come to know: it’s real.
The interesting thing about Casino Royale, not for the matter that it’s been filmed before, using Sean Connery, is that it’s essentially a film about a card game. A game of chance, which essentially represents just about everything the spy game goes in for. Bond has always been lucky, he’s always had his nine lives, and then some. In Casino, however, he has to rely on his guts and sheer machismo to get the job done: no laser-firing wristwatch will zap that pesky rope this time about. But back to the card game.
How do you film something that’s just a bunch of people sitting around a table dealing cards? How do you generate excitement from that? Richard Donner achieved it with Maverick, one of the best examples of card-dealing-filmwork ever captured in modern times. Here, with the new, flashy, faster Bond, how do you take a story from the bam-bang opening sequence into a less action-oriented setting inside a casino? Even if the stakes are really high, aren’t these boys simply sitting about betting on cards?
Well, Campbell delivers the goods, getting Bond away from the table numerous times to insert an action scene, as the Bad Guys attempt to out-muscle our hero as he attempts to gamble the Governments money and get the cash off the Crying Blood Guy. Yep, this time, the villain cries tears of blood. Creepy, and if I can say this as one negative of the film, criminally underused. The actual card game, the reason for the film’s title, is protracted but interspersed with subterfuge and drama. It keeps things interesting, and you start to wonder if all poker games end up like this…..
Still, this Bond dazzles, with plenty of dramatic turns and a twist on the Brosnan/M relationship.. somehow, M (Judi Dench) is a lot more frosty this time out. No favours for Bond. No love lost, although you get the sense that M has a little glimmer of admiration for the up-and-coming spy.
Casino Royale is a breath of fresh air in the franchise, which was getting old and stale again quite quickly, mainly due to some shoddy production choices (who thought that idea of Bond jumping into a helicopter and falling out of a plane that had been destroyed by some kind of super-satellite was a good idea? Hands up the three of you!) and questionable scripting (although, if I can mention that I think the final line in The World Is Not Enough is perhaps the greatest single double-entendre in the entire Bond series!) and some truly ordinary acting (no, not including Brosnan) and in vast need of a makeover.
The Brosnan era was effectively washed away by this film, revitalizing the series for more adventures, and we can only hope that the follow up is just as good. Quantam of Solace needs to maintain the feel and flavor established by Casino Royale, otherwise we may end up back to where we started with Die Another Day.
Casino Royale is one of the best Bonds we’ve seen. And I think the myth that Connery is the only man who played Bond properly is now, officially, retired.
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