July 11, 2008

Casino Royale (2006)

I won’t lie: I haven’t seen a James Bond film since Pierce Brosnan took over the role in 1995’s Goldeneye. But with the next Bond film (Quantum of Solace) due out November 7th, I figured I should see what kind of 007 we’ve got in Daniel Craig, the new James Bond who debuted with 2006’s Casino Royale.

We’re introduced to Craig’s Bond in a big way: After the film intro where he coldly kills another spy, we’re taken on an amazing chase as Bond pursues a suspect on foot through a construction site -- including the entire framework of the building and the sky-high cranes being used to construct it.

The core plot of Casino Royale is Bond’s attempt to prevent a global terrorism network from getting over $100 million to do their dirty work. Assigned to help Bond is Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a British treasury officer. The quest for the money sets up the centerpiece of the film: a high-stakes poker tournament where, if Bond loses the money provided to him by the UK Treasury, then England “will have directly financed terrorism,” according to Lynd.

At first glance of the blond-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig, I didn’t think, “James Bond.” But that quickly changed once Craig’s Bond jumped into action. And he is largely a man of action and few words until the one-hour mark (enter Vesper Lynd).

Craig plays 007 less suave and much edgier than past Bonds (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan). He gives him an almost sociopathic personality, which is unnerving at times but probably more accurate given that he's a trained spy and assassin.

While Craig's 007 has been described as “not your father’s James Bond,” there are still several elements in Casino Royale from the classic Bond checklist:
  • Exotic locales (Venice, the Bahamas, Prague)
  • Amazing action sequences, all done with real stuntmen (no CGI human blobs here)
  • A sufficiently creepy villain in Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who has a bleeding tear duct for added ickiness
  • Quippy one-liners and comebacks, though not as many as in past Bond films
  • An updated yet unmistakeably Bond soundtrack by David Arnold

While I doubt I’ll revisit Casino Royale for repeated viewings, I did enjoy it. The action sequences are intense, and they did make part of me feel like a kid again when I watched Roger Moore in action. And even though Casino Royale looks and feels a bit different from earlier Bond films, it’s exactly the reboot the series needed.

  • Director Martin Campbell is no stranger to action films. His other works include The Mask of Zorro, Vertical Limit, and, ironically, Goldeneye (see my first paragraph).
  • The theme song for Casino Royale is “You Know My Name,” a largely forgettable tune by Chris Cornell. I can’t remember the last time a Bond theme song hit the top 20. I’m guessing Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” in 1985? Please comment if you know the answer.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to watch it?
I don't know how many pre-teen kids care about James Bond, let alone have a desire to see one of his films. Which works out fine, because Casino Royale is rated PG-13 for good reason: There are many shootings, close-ups of brutal strangulations, and at one point Bond makes creative (yet nasty) use of a nail gun. And since it is a Bond flick, he does get his game on with a couple of women (though it's mostly shown as heavy make-out sessions).

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
In the same vein as pre-teens, I can't really say I've ever met a true female Bond fan. (Of course, I don't get out much.) But I will say that Bond does develop true feelings for one of his lady friends, which takes the film in a romantic angle I've never seen in a Bond film -- so your FilmMother may find that to be enjoyable to watch. And she probably won't have any problem watching Daniel Craig -- with his buffed, glistening physique -- emerge from the ocean. Twice.

Casino Royale
* Director: Martin Campbell
* Screenwriters: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
* Stars: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini
* MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violent action, a scene of torture, adult language, sexual content and partial male nudity)

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>


Zerbinator said...

The best athletic openner of any film I've seen. I could do that.

Raymond said...

I'm not a huge Bond fan but this one has to be the best one over the past 10 years or longer.


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