Casino Royale: a novice spy, James Bond, seeks out the head of a global terrorist investment group, then tries to bankrupt him in a high-stakes game of poker in the world famous Casino Royale.
This installment bursts out the blocks with a B&W Noir film vibe of a 30s film, aspects of which continue to the end of the movie (jaunty camera angles, classic lighting, shadows etc). We join a rookie James Bond here, in the run-up to his second kill – a prerequisite for ’00’ status. There’s flashback to Bonds first kill in a toilet that shows us a sloppy agent, scrambling around in a rough fight, resorting to brutality killing his first target. No previous Bond would have done this, or even be capable of it. Make no mistake, this new Bond is a brute, a thug, firsts are his weapon, brains aren’t there.
As far as the casting of Craig is concerned, I think he was superb at showing us an unpolished, rough-and-tumble agent. Sure he’s strong, gets up after every punch and even seems to enjoy a bit of pain, but after one fight we see him genuinely hurt and confused, standing over a sink and scrubbing up like anyone else would (Although he does look like a million dollars in every next scene!). This new 007 isn’t really in to his post-dispatch quips, and the only funny moment comes in the middle of a torture scene where Bond goads the torturer by acting aroused – it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud, but totally bizarre. Still, we see Bonds wildly romantic streak when he and Vespa throw everything away. Top this all off with a chiseled body and as many gratuitious topless/skin-tight scenes as you can justify, and you’ve got yourself a new-age, emotional macho man that’s perfect for the 2000s.
The line “I hear 00’s have a short life expectancy” is interesting because it means one of two things. A) this could be THE original James Bond, right back at the start of his adventures, or B) Every actor (and possibly film) before were all different agents using the 007 persona as a cover. Either way, this shit just got interesting!
What’s more is that it’s not only the character and timeline that’s been re-booted… but someone’s meddled with the age old formula! It doesn’t open with the gun barrel sequence, there are no women in the titles (outrage!), there’s no gadgets (other than a sim card reader – zzzzz), he drives a reasonably priced car, has a normal phone, Felix has turned into a Brother, no Q, and no Monneypenny. Personally, some of it was refreshing, but they overdid the ‘next gen’ elements, shunning a lot of things that made the old Bond films… Bond films.
Yet there are still individual elements and themes lifted from the previous Bond legacy: the key characters have the same names, M is still Judy Dench, it’s as much a travel piece as any previous movie, he pumps numerous women, there’s some huge action set-pieces, we see a fat German with a gold car (!), and when 007 says “I Love You”, you’re still completely fucked. I feel that this film only carried on with the bare minimum required to pass this off as a genuine part of the franchise.
The action’s second to none and makes every previous fight, chase, and budget-blowing stunt look like amateur hour. The parkour/free running chase lasts around 10 minutes and never gets boring, the airport action is as tense as they get, hand-to-hand staircase fight is raw and superb, the car crash – although basic – is jaw dropping and Venice… that’s just off the hook. When the actual gambling begins, Casino Royale slows to a crawl, with very little tension for those that don’t gamble, however the film is literally revived, which also counts like action. There’s not a lot of the big scenes here, but they’re outstanding and well-placed to keep the film moving.
Other than being a Sony-sponsored assault on your retinas, 007 spending most of his time running between places (or after things), and Bond walking through Venice square – not in a shitty hover-gondola there aren’t any other aspects that stick out for being lame. Story wise, you couldn’t ask for a better one, and although it’s not dumbed down, it’s quite simple and straight-forward considering it involves the British secret service, British treasury, several one-man terrorist contractors, local police, a main villian, an african rebel army, the villain’s boss, a bunch of henchmen, and a couple of double-crosses…
Special kudos to director Martin Campbell saved the franchise once before with GoldenEye (ensuring Bond’s success post cold-war) and completely re-invented it with this installment – making him as crucial as any actor in the 007 seat. After the excess that most remember from Die Another Day it was the perfect time for a clean slate, and this is the perfect re-boot, shaking off the theatrics and putting the focus back on a tense spy thriller.
It’s not a great ‘Bond film’ in the classical sense, in fact, you could barely even call it a ‘Bond’ film, however, this is the kick up the arse that the franchise needed to bring it in-line with modern attitudes & modern cinema, and in that sense, this is a brilliant 2000s action film, that happens to have James Bond at the centre.
Villain: Scar eyed man – maths genius, blood crying, gambling and weak. 5
Henchman: Wet airport guy – kind of henchman. Parkour guy – kind of. Bald guy – kind of. 2
Bond Girls: Horse-riding exotica HOT!. Vespa – HOT!!!!. Blonde Baddie… HOT. 9
Action: Footchase in building site & consulate / airport / staircase fight / revival / Venice – 7
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I know it doesn’t have all the elements of the Bond movies, but this is, by far my favorite Bond film. I don’t sound like a “classic film lover” right now: I really love “From Russia with love” and “Goldfinger”, I know they have the merit of being the early ones, but I still prefer “Casino Royale” because it presents Bond as a human being, as you said.
Oh, before I forget, I know there’s still one film remaining but CONGRATS on this great blogathon , I couldn’t write so much like you did. I’m glad I could participate at least with one review.
Can totally see where you’re coming from. As I say, it’s not a “Bond” film but it’s an absolute peach of an action/spy movie. It was probably my most enjoyable film to watch through the 22 in January.
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Just re-watched this for the umpteenth time this weekend. Still VERY impressed by this and you’re right, it’s a fresh interpretation of what people typically expect from the Bond franchise, but still has all the elements why we love ’em. I love the action sequences, the banters, scenery, etc. which made for a very enjoyable film for repeated watching.
I like GoldenEye too, Martin Campbell should do more Bond films!