Casino Royale 2006 ★★★★

Nearly finished now! In steps Daniel Craig for his go at Bond and thinking back to a lot of the nonsense that was spoken and written about him when he first took the role, I just wonder how foolish many of the naysayers felt once they had watched Casino Royale.

Hopefully very foolish. Writing Craig off beforehand was ridiculous as it was - his Bond credentials were extremely obvious to me and he also possessed easily the best CV of any of the Bond actors before they took the role on. But it was even more foolhardy knowing that in a post Jason Bourne spy film landscape that this was not going to be more of the same drivel that Pierce Brosnan was mostly lumbered with.

It was clearly going to play up to Craig's brooding strengths. It was also clearly going to come about circle in more ways than one - we not only see Bond become a -00 agent for the first time but in terms of tone it was pretty much assured that we could easily be back in 1962 with Sean Connery. To be honest, though, I can see why people got so jumpy about a new Bond.

After all, it is James Bond and all of his fans are rather protective of it as a franchise, I think. It turns out very nicely, though, with Craig given some outstanding support to work with on his debut. I couldn't say that I was all that convinced by Mads Mikkelsen's twitchy performance as Le Chiffre, a Bond villain that was already on paper not the strongest in the first place, and I think I would have been happier seeing Isaach De Bankole given that role instead. He is fantastic in the all-too-brief time he's in the film, as is Giancarlo Giannini when he is adding some utter class to the proceedings.

Eva Green, however, is in a class all of her own and is, I would go as far to say, easily the best thing in this film. Effortlessly beautiful and incredibly charming, she is quite possibly the best Bond girl of all time and some of her scenes with Craig (maybe not so much the more amorous ones) are incredibly good. She is a truly wonderful actress who is now almost in that rare category of screen performer that seems incapable of delivering anything other than a great performance. Craig, meanwhile, is every bit as good as I expected him to be - but he isn't really asked to come out of his comfort zone that much.

The opening chase scene is absolutely stunning, but I actually thought it was slightly short of action scenes considering its lengthy running time although I did not feel the film dragged except for the closing scenes with Green and Craig. These are the weakest in the whole film for me in terms of the story - the twist is painfully obvious for quite some time (although the ultimate explanation for it is quite good) but I can't help but point out that this is three Bond films in a row that have done this storyline now.

Otherwise this was very enjoyable indeed. Slightly po-faced and with very little humour, but still very good. The problem, of course, with reviewing any film in a lengthy franchise is that you have to judge them in two ways - are they good examples of that series and are they good films in their own right? For me, Casino Royale isn't a very good Bond film. But is it a very good film? Oh, absolutely.

25 Comments

  • Care to explain some more?

  • I haven't seen the movie in a while, but here's what I wrote about it after seeing it:

    After the villain's defeat, he was supposed to be grabbed by CIA, but apparently the boys from Langley are more incompetent than the guerrilla soldiers from Uganda because they didn't even get near the bad guy and let him abduct members of the British Secret Service and flee the country. So much for the great CIA.

    Now the movie flounders around in its own quicksand and allows Bond to just pass out after the villain is killed by unknown bad guys, thus switching the story into something new and undefined. It was a very awkward third act transitions.

    And what was up with that tracking device they put in his arm? Talk about a setup with no payoff. What a waste of time that was.

    From here on in, we get a lot of contrived and pointless melodrama as the film refuses to stop and continues to slog through Bond's tragic romance with a woman who is so in love with her boyfriend that she decides to steal ten million dollars from the government, and she also bangs the hell out of Bond for good measure - because she is so in love with her abducted boyfriend.

    To top off the insanity, we get a crazy chase through Venice to hunt down some one-eyed villain we have never seen before that has nothing to do with anything, as far as we know. Then just when things couldn't get more ridiculous, the love interest decides to kill herself by locking herself in the elevator of a sinking house. Why did she do that? I guess because it was supposed to be tragic and sad - it was just stupid.

  • Great. Now you've ruined one of my go-to action pictures by being all reasonable and critical. Hopefully I will forget all about what you said by the time I'm ready for another night of mind-numbing action movies ;-)

  • Will gladly point out explanations.

    After the villain's defeat, he was supposed to be grabbed by CIA, but apparently the boys from Langley are more incompetent than the guerrilla soldiers from Uganda because they didn't even get near the bad guy and let him abduct members of the British Secret Service and flee the country. So much for the great CIA.

    Le Chiffre managed to leave before Leiter and Co. could get to him. Could they have handled this situation better? Absolutely. But the fact that Le Chiffre kidnaps Bond and Vesper all on the same night shows an act of desperation on Le Chiffre's part, and it's easy to see that he could have been hiding out waiting for the perfect moment. (It should also be noted that Vesper is working for them anyways, so she could easily have helped them out). It's a bit of a jump, but not one that's completely out of the question.

    And what was up with that tracking device they put in his arm? Talk about a setup with no payoff. What a waste of time that was.

    It actually easily explains how they were able to find Bond in Le Chiffre's hideout. Also, it was monitoring Bond during the game, which allowed him to get into contact with MI6 who realized he was poisoned. It is also a good use of characterization on M's part showing that she does not trust Bond enough yet to be on his own.

    From here on in, we get a lot of contrived and pointless melodrama as the film refuses to stop and continues to slog through Bond's tragic romance with a woman who is so in love with her boyfriend that she decides to steal ten million dollars from the government, and she also bangs the hell out of Bond for good measure - because she is so in love with her abducted boyfriend.

    This romance is actually key in developing Bond's character. Remember that this film is about how Bond becomes, well, Bond. It's not pointless because it's ultimately necessary in Bond's development. Casino Royale is about Bond going from the rogue, to the agent, to the cold government killer he's supposed to be.

    Meanwhile, Vesper's motives is still to distract Bond until she can deliver the money to the terrorist organization, so what better way to distract the womanizer than with sex? Although,…

  • I understand the intention, but it's the execution I have issue with. It's just sloppy. Could have been handled much better.

  • When I watch a Bond film, I just shut down a good portion of my brain and enjoy the action and locations. :)
    I enjoyed this film ever more when I rewatched it.
    Good reply to Ryan though; Cinebro.

    I

  • I meant to say "even more".

  • For my part, this IS the sort of Bond movie I want. There was a time and a place for the jokey, campy Bond movies, and that was over a long time ago. True Lies is probably the closest you can get to that in the modern age, and that's really a full-on comedy.

    Casino Royale is much closer to the first few films, and the original Bond novels, than anything since probably You Only Live Twice, which was where the series really just gave up and went silly.

    I love a bit of Roger Moore-era Bond, but if they tried to make a Bond film like that now you'd end up with something utterly shit. I'll take Bourne Identity style action over shit any day.

  • While I'm in total agreement that the old school campy Bond era is dead (for now at least), I totally disagree that Bond should "go Bourne" with regards to its action. The 2nd and 3rd Bourne films (and Condom Of Sausage) have awful shakey-cam fight scenes. That's where Casino Royale gets it right. Fast, frenetic, deliciously violent fight sequences but none of those fit-inducing punch-ups where yoiu can't see what the fudge is going on

  • Perhaps you need new glasses Mr Bear? I quite enjoyed the 2nd two Bournes, wobbly cam and all. But you're right, Casino Royale found a good compromise level.

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