1. CBn Reviews 'Casino Royale' (2006)

    By Devin Zydel on 2007-04-27

    Over the last several months, members of the CBn Forums have been reviewing all the James Bond 007 films in the “Countdown Threads“. If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register–it’s free and only takes a minute. In addition to those “Countdown” reviews, forum members can post their own reviews of Daniel Craig’s debut Bond film, Casino Royale, in the Members Reviews forum. What follows is a selection of the reviews…

    Teaser Poster

    Official ‘Casino Royale’ Teaser Poster

    ‘Casino Royale’ by Youknowmyname

    After the controversial decision of a ‘blonde Bond’ many fans were disgruntled at the prospect of Daniel Craig taking over the role of everybody’s favourite secret agent. Pierce Brosnan went out with a bang in the action-packed adrenaline rush that was Die Another Day. An invisible Aston Martin and parasailing on a rocket car bonnet was all good fun, but did special effects eclipse the central character?

    Casino Royale centres more on Bond, the brutality of the villains, a credible plot and importantly ditches the computer generated images. Craig, a contemporary reincarnation, delivers a gritty, humanistic performance–a ruthless, chauvinistic loyalist with a taste for the finer things in life. Initially lacking suavity, he is unruly, undisciplined, unrefined. Asked how he would like his martini he replies, ‘Does it look like I give a damn?’ Bond effectively ‘grows up’ and is primed to become the super-spy we know and love. His mission is to derail the funding of world terrorist organisations by defeating poker player Le Chiffre, the archetypal Bond villain who will do anything to win. Director Martin Campbell skilfully engrosses us in the ensuing action and drama, even holding our attention during potentially boring poker games.

    There are no weak links in the cast, but Craig is the focus, delivering a poignant portrayal of Ian Fleming’s hero, a tormented, vulnerable man. Countering those who labelled Craig as ugly, the filmmakers, cleverly parodied the entrance of Bond girls Honey Ryder and Jinx, having him emerge from the sea in his swimwear, captivating the female audience.

    In keeping with recent Bond movies and in stark contrast to the shrieking, one-dimensional Bond girls from the Moore era, the main female figures are portrayed as intelligent and capable. Vesper Lynd is charmingly played by Eva Green who, on her first meeting with Bond makes it perfectly clear she is able to resist his charms and Dame Judy Dench commands attention as she returns as ‘M,’ 007’s redoubtable superior.

    Bond veterans may be disappointed by the absence of Q and the usual hi-tech gear, but the lack of extravagant gadgets gives the action more of an edge. There were instances when I thought Bond might actually perish. Craig performs most of his own stunts, adding to the realism of the superbly choreographed fights. The spectacular opening sequence when Bond chases a terrorist through a building site features some very impressive free running. The film is accompanied by an equally remarkable soundtrack, sometimes thrilling, occasionally haunting and featuring the most rousing theme song since GoldenEye.

    During the last twenty minutes the pace slows, though predominantly it moves along briskly, sometimes verging on frantic and for those who haven’t read the book, a second viewing is advised to fully appreciate the plot. It lags a bit during the romantic scenes between Bond and Vesper, occasionally becoming a little detatched, but those who have read the book will appreciate the importance of these sections and this is the only quibble I would have about the film.

    The final scene doesn’t need a car chase or shoot-out to be as compelling as it is…Bond introduces himself, bringing an end to his beginning and leaving you eagerly awaiting his return.

    ‘Casino Royale’ by tdalton

    After viewing the film a couple more times, my opinion on the film has changed slightly, as some (minor) parts of the film have shown some weaknesses, but in the overall scheme of things, I think the film is better than I remember it being in theaters…

    Overall, I think that Casino Royale is one of the 2 best Bond films to date, on par (or even slightly ahead) of The Living Daylights. With some time it may be my favorite Bond film (and it may already be), but I’m hesitant to make that claim because, even in the wake of my first viewing of Die Another Day, I thought that was a good film until subsequent viewings of that film on DVD.

    Daniel Craig is the highlight of this film, and he’s the best actor to ever take on the role of Bond, and it’s evident in his performance. Never has an actor been as believable as Bond as Craig is in Casino Royale. In this film, it’s easy to believe that Bond could actually exist in the real world as opposed to the highly glamorized world that he has existed in for the past 40+ years. While Casino Royale does, for most of the time, operate in a similar glamorized world, Bond comes across as a real person who could really exist in the real world. Credit this to Daniel Craig who has taken Bond from being a 2-dimensional character that saved the day with a one-liner and a smile into a character who is a force for the villains of the world to reckon with.

    In terms of his portrayal of the character, Craig’s turn in Casino Royale is the best debut to date, and it’s also the best performance of Bond by any actor, and it’s exciting to wonder about where he might take the character in Bond 22 and Bond 23 (and hopefully 24, 25, and 26 as well).

    An acting performance perhaps even on par with Craig’s brilliant work is that of Eva Green. Having read the novel several times, and knowing what ultimately happens to Vesper, I would have thought that it would have been very difficult to like Vesper because of that knowledge. Eva Green, however, makes her character into a very likable character all the way until the very end, and even makes the viewer feel sorry for her, even though she has done terrible things to both Bond and MI6. Her banter with Craig in scenes such as the train scene and the “last minute details” scene are brilliant, to say the least.

    Mads Mikkelsen’s turn as Le Chiffre is very much in line with the character that Fleming put down on the page in 1953, and I’m not sure that a better actor could have been chosen for the role, despite my initial skepticism of the casting decision.

    As far as the pacing of the film, which I have heard many voice opinions in criticism of the action-heavy first half of the film, I find it to be both a strength and a weakness for the film. It’s a strength in that I think that it was necessary to do so in order to show those who may have been on the fence about this new direction that they could still do the action scenes on par with what had come before in the last few films, and I think that they proved that they could. It’s also a weakness, though, as others have said, because of the pacing problems that they pose for the film, but I’m not sure that it’s a very major issue, however. The Miami sequence is a great action sequence, and the free-running chase is still not one of my favorites, but it doesn’t bother me as much to watch anymore, and it’s important to the storyline, so I’ll let it slide.

    I think that the biggest weakness for Casino Royale is the music and, most notably, “You Know My Name”. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rock version of this song that can be found on iTunes. It’s a brilliant piece of music, and in that version, I think that it is one of the best title songs the series has ever seen. But, the version that they used in the actual film is terrible. No matter what setting I have it on (and this is a review of the Blu-ray disc, so there is the option for Linear PCM audio or “lossless” audio as some call it), the music completely dominates Cornell’s vocal. It’s impossible to hear him, and sometimes he’s even overtaken by the background vocals. This is not his fault (at least on the performance end, anyway), as it’s clearly a mixing problem, but it just sounds the whole way through as if it’s singing the song into a pillow, and the vocal has that muted sound to it.

    But, moving on to the rest of the music, I find David Arnold’s score to be distracting at times. There are certain points in the film where it just overwhelms everything that is going on onscreen. In the Miami sequence, it distracts at about the point where Bond is on top of the tanker truck, and this is a problem at random times during the film for me. Also, with the promise of this being a new sound for Bond, it sounds very much like The World Is Not Enough in many parts of the film, and the only pieces that really stand out as being very good are the small parts where “You Know My Name” is sampled in the score.

    Overall, Casino Royale is a top-notch Bond film that has everything going for it (except the music) and is certainly one of my favorites of all-time. Daniel Craig’s performance has a lot to do with that, but I think that EON has finally steered the franchise in the right direction and will finally get things back to the standard that they were when films like From Russia With Love, Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were being made.

    ‘Casino Royale’ by 007.5

    A few months ago, one of my ignorant friends said that since I was a James Bond fan and “all” James Bond fans apparently hate Daniel Craig, that means that I hate Daniel Craig. Well I never ever said that I hated Daniel Craig. At the time he got the role of 007 I said that we should wait and see the film, although I will admit to loving the headline “Double-0-Zero”, a reference to Craig’s underwhelming performance at his first press conference after landing the role.

    I hoped that Craig would restore some much-needed grit to the Bond franchise after the Brosnan years, in which Bond seemed to have a gadget for each and every little thing. Much of the media said that Bond needed to be stripped back to his roots, although this was the same media that was praising the invisible car and other similar crass inclusions in the Bond series. I fully agreed that Bond needed to be stripped back–I’ve been saying it for years. He’s a human being (an extraordinary one at that) not a Teflon superhero. My attraction to Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of 007 is because he was able to add a darker humanity to a character who had become just too unbearably smug under Roger Moore’s direction. It is no surprise that my favourite Moore film is For Your Eyes Only in which Bond was more mature and reflective and less cocky; the plot intriguing rather than needlessly complex and the gadgets at a minimum. Likewise George Lazenby, Bond for a single film in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (a film that was excoriated at the time, but one which true Bond fans have always appreciated and one which is finally getting the credit it deserves), was needed because Connery had started to sleepwalk through the role as early as Goldfinger. “Carry On Bond” started with Connery NOT Moore.

    I saw Casino Royale and I wasn’t disappointed. My verdict is so far, so good. I wasn’t happy when I heard that the famous gunbarrel sequence wouldn’t be the preamble to the movie. However it was well worked into the pre-title sequence which had something of a film noir feel about it, as we see Bond’s first kill–qualifying him for Double-0 status. Bond’s first kill, going down in a seedy toilet, sees him whirl round and blast the screen with his gun. We then see the famous gunbarrel and the blood pouring down the screen and then we are launched into a hilarious pre-title sequence, featuring packs of cards and silhouettes of Bond fighting. I was actually trying to stop myself from laughing during this classic Bond-esque opening. It was a laugh of excitement as much as anything.

    As for Craig, he has told his critics where to go. I said that the proof of the pudding would be in the eating and it was. His performance had the right mixture of hard-man menace, weary cynicism and humanity. Craig’s Bond led the film properly and with confidence. Craig had a conspicuous lack of gadgets and the film isn’t any worse for that, in fact it could be the total opposite. We get to see Bond using a bit of wit and ingenuity for a change. Craig’s fight scenes are brutal and to the bone and reminded me of Lazenby’s fight scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We haven’t seen Bond spill so much blood since Licence To Kill–a fine Bond film which was hammered unfairly by the press for having the nerve to try something different.

    Now the media critics have lurched into reverse spin saying that Craig is the “best bond since Connery”, but for me this is an empty compliment, since Connery spent four of six films sleepwalking. What is more accurate to say is that Craig has the potential to be a great Bond and hopefully in the future the producers of the film will have the nerve to stick with a more sparse formula, returning the franchise to its roots in intrigue and ingenuity.

    Craig aside, Eva Green co-starred as Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. Her character was enigmatic and interesting and she was pretty hot in those casino dresses. Judi Dench redeemed herself as M after her debacle of a performance in The World is Not Enough, which you may, or may not, remember culminated in the fiasco of her kidnap (if the real head of MI6 got kidnapped…). But in Casino Royale Dench showed a return to form and formed a good partnership with Craig. Mads Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre, the villain, although we find ourselves in a strange position of feeling sympathy for him as it becomes clear that he is accountable to someone–but he’s a pretty good poker player and he’s handy with a rope, as he shows in one particularly gruesome scene!

    Given that the producers decided to take a different approach to this film, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that we are left with something of a cliffhanger. But just in case, for some you, the whole tenor and tone of the film just isn’t Bond, Craig gives us a cool reminder, right at the end, as he delivers the line we came to hear (as a hapless villain begs for mercy)–“Bond, James Bond.”

    James Bond will return…

    ‘Casino Royale’ by 00golf

    I had become board with Bond. I personally liked Pierce Brosnan as Bond. The movies he made were at best mediocre and predictable. There were some good moments but the Bond movie seriees was on life support after Die Another Day.

    It wasn’t actually a bad Bond film, it was just so full of cringeworthy one liners and sci fi gadgetry that the attempts by Pierce Brosnan to be Bond were drowned out.

    I had basically just gotten out of Bond. I stopped watching the movies, posting on message boards and was not paying any attention the news coming out of the Casino Royale production. I didn’t even have any real opinion of Daniel Craig. *the guy from tomb raider right… whatever.*

    The pre title sequence at first was a bit troublesome to me. I had actually thought for a few minutes that Wilson and Broccoli had just become so washed up of ideas that all they had left was a generic hit man. then the title sequence, No girls? I felt at that time I was watching Bond’s on screen funeral. The song was okay but sounded generic to me at first.

    The Madagascar scene piqued my interst somewhat. No gadgets and a Bond, the first since Connery who actually looks like a guy who could kick someones . I was also liking the fact that Craig is a guy in his 30’s. The only problem I had with the scene was that it was so fast paced I was having a hard time digesting what was taking place.

    M’s first scene was brilliant and Judi Dench was really showing her amazing acting skills. They really were resetting Bond back to the beginning. My interest in the movie was improving by the minute.

    When Bond went to Nassau I was now thoroughly enjoying the movie. I was getting the concept of what they were doing and Craig seemed to get this very well. Picking up Solange was a classic Bond type moment.

    The Miami Airport scene was okay. Great spy work at the body works exhibit. You actually get a feeling that Bond is a spy. The fact that was now coming back to me over and over was how Bond was relying soley on himself and not some gadget to save the day and I could not be happier about this.

    The elegance of Montenegro, along with Nassau was putting me in a great mood. When Eva Green is introduced into the movie as Vesper Lynd on the train I felt there was terrific chemistry. She is everything a Bond girl is suppose to be. Every bit smart, feminine and not a female Bond equivelent. The dialogue on the train was refreshing.

    The movie keeps getting better and better. The great chemistry between Bond and Vesper, the poker game where Bond loses his initial buy in and just sits there. Wow! You certainly don’t expect this. I wasn’t even sure he was going to win at this point where as in any other Bond movie it is an automatic.

    The torture scene was just another testament to making Bond real. Even when Vesper is srceaming and Bond is about to lose his manhood he will not relent.

    As Bond falls in love with Vesper and shows the human side you know great tragedy is coming but the scenes were well done. The final fight scene in Venice was not as good as I would have liked but far better than the goofy heroics or near Superman/Batman quality we’ve come to expect. Then, the final scene standing over White, neatly dressed with his famous tag line, then the monty norman theme and the credits role. The best finish of any Bond movie to date.

    Bond had become just another action movie and the character, larger than life but without any depth. Now, Bond once again reigns supreme. By going back to the basics of who and what Bond is they have saved the series and made Bond the leader of the action genre once again.

    ‘Casino Royale’ by JCRendle

    007 is back and better than ever.

    When Daniel Craig, 39, was cast as the British icon James Bond in October last year people acted as if Craig was a national enemy–hate campaigns, websites and press rumours all seemed to point to a terrible casting mistake, had EON productions finally flipped?

    Thankfully the answer is no, the casting of Craig, who starred in Layer Cake and Steven Spielberg’s Munich, was an inspired choice and a great way to turn around a rusty, yet still successful, franchise. After 2002’s disappointing Die Another Day, which relied heavily on GCI and over the top gadgets as well as an aging Pierce Brosnan, many Bond fans wondered where the series would go next–would they carry on in the same vein or would they do something drastic?

    This has been answered with the release of the 21st Bond film Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel of the same name, which introduces the British secret service agent to the world. In keeping with Fleming’s novel, which showed Bond early in his career, the producers have used the opportunity to completely overhaul the series and show Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent, though set firmly in 2006.

    Daniel Craig is great as Bond, showing a masculinity and strength that Brosnan often lacked, the coolness of Sean Connery and realism of Timothy Dalton. Those looking for the camp humour favoured by Roger Moore may be a little disappointed, but don’t take this as meaning the film is completely humourless.

    Gone are the cheesy sexual innuendos, being replaced with witty comebacks and clever puns (For example, after Bond barely escapes with his life during a break in Tenez Les Cartes, he returns to the table to a shocked look from the films antagonist Le Chiffre, with a smile he quips “I’m sorry, that last hand… nearly killed me.”)

    The action set pieces are perfect, gone is overused CGI–everything you see here is real, from a free running parkour terrorist (Sebastien Foucan who plays bomb maker Mollaka) to a car chase that set a new world record in car flips.

    The casting for the film is inspired, with perfect performances all round–though special note has to go to Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who makes Le Chiffre the best Bond villain for a long while (and no, he is not planning to take over the world), it is easy to forget that this is only Mikkelsen’s second English language film.

    The direction (From a returning Martin Cambell – GoldenEye) is handled stylishly, with remembrance and style of the Bond films of the 60s as well as a film-noir Pre-Title Sequence, shot in black and white.

    Look out for the 1964 Aston Marin DB5, find out how Bond’s Martini’s are really made (watch out, they’re strong) and pick out the winks to the Bond’s of old.

    James Bond is back.

    ‘Casino Royale’ by bleary_25

    Batman Begins was a fresh start–baring little resemblance to the Tim Burton films of the early 90s.

    Superman Returns was a sequel to the Richard Donner movies of the 70s.

    Both approaches have merit. Both have given a shot of adrenaline to their particular franchises.

    In some respects, Casino Royale wants to have it both ways–begin again, but with the icons that the man and the franchise are known for.

    So, we have a knew James Bond. This happens every now and then. The general public is used to it. They’ve grown up knowing that the role belongs to no singluar man. Where Batman had to suffer the indignity of Val Kilmer and George Clooney, the character has been saved by Christian Bale.

    James Bond has suffered similar indignities–George Lazenby and Roger Moore. At least Lazenby starred in a good film, because his performance was stilted to say the best. The Moore era swang wildly in quality–from the impressive debut in Live and Let Die to the nobody does it better, mega-budget thrill ride of The Spy Who Loved Me to the over-the-top, James-Bond-in-Space embarassment that was Moonraker.

    Like Bale, Daniel Craig has saved the franchise.

    Not that it being in Pierce Brosnan’s hands was a bad thing. He shot the franchise to impressive box office heights–out-performing imitators like XXX and often being in the top 10 or 15 money-makers of the year.

    But to be competitive, the films got increasingly sillier. The second half of Die Another Day is the most ridiculous Bond film since Moonraker. Ironically, the first half is the best Bond film since the Timothy Dalton movies.

    So, the series gets a reboot. Often after movies of excess, the franchise has pulled back and gone for some more real and down-to-earth. After You Only Live Twice there was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After Moonraker there was For Your Eyes Only. And after Roger Moore there was Timothy Dalton.

    The idea of a reboot coincided with Bond producers finally getting the rights to Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. It was previously adapted as a one-shot TV episode in the fifties starring Barry Nelson as American Agent, Jimmy Bond. It was also the basis of a Bond spoof in the 1960s–at the height of 007 mania–starring David Niven as one of the “seven James Bonds at Casino Royale” as the cheesey closing song tells us. It is truly bizarre.

    Ian Fleming’s novel is updated very well to fit into a post-9/11 world really well. Where the villain Le Chiffre in the novel is trying to win back money he lost from SMERSH (Soviet Counterintelligence), in the film he is working for an unnamed terrorist outfit.

    The pre-credits sequence–shot in stark and sometimes grainy black & white–covers the two hits Bond has to make to gain his Double-0 status. And the first half of the film gets the giant action sequences, that audiences expect from a Bond movie, out of the way before settling in to a very faithful adaptation of Fleming’s first book.

    Whereas Christopher Nolan’s new Batman movie begins anew–new actors, new score, new everything–Casino Royale cleverly uses pieces of 007 iconography in new and interesting ways.

    There is the pre-credits sequence, which evolves into the famous gun-barrel logo that has opened every offical James Bond movie since Dr No. There is the title sequence, reminiscent of Saul Bass’ work–Daniel Kleinman takes the casino theme to heart (and diamonds and clubs)… and succeeds in spades. The song, “You Know My Name,” is by Chris Cornell–a deep, rock voice to accompany a new and different Bond.

    The original James Bond theme by Monty Norman is weaved through David Arnold’s score of the film only very briefly–most noticeably when we see Daniel Craig in a tux for the first time. The full piece is reserved strictly for the end of the movie, when Craig gets to utter the immortal line, “The name is Bond, James Bond”–the perfect ending to a film which hopes to cover his growth into the character we know.

    Martinis and Aston Martins also figure throughout the film. Bond orders two martinis in the film–a nudge-nudge about the famous “shaken, not stirred” catchphrase, and a specific type of martini, the recipe for which comes straight from Fleming. As is the name he christens it later on.

    We also get the classic 1964 Aston Martin–made famous in Goldfinger–as well as the brand knew Aston Martin DBS, which is fitted out with some life-saving gadgets, more of the type Fleming might have envisioned, rather than the in-built rocket launchers of movies.

    And Judi Dench, as M. This is a strange hold-over for a reboot, but she works so well in the role–and playing off Daniel Craig, it’s impossible to complain. She also makes a distinction between this film and GoldenEye–where there she rebuked Pierce Brosnan’s 007 for being a relic of the cold war, in this movie she wonders why she granted Bond his double-0 and says she misses the cold war.

    The action sequences of the first half of the film are impressive–particularly the free-running sequence, where Bond persues a man who almost defies gravity while trying to escape the newly-minted Double-0 agent. Bond is almost uncool in this sequence as he stumbles and struggles to keep up–but his sheer force is impressive to watch. I can’t imagine any of the previous actors bursting through dry-wall quite like that.

    The second-half of the film, set in the titular casino, mostly revolves around high-stakes poker. Le Chiffre needs to win back money–he’s not a villain trying to destroy the world, but simply to save his own skin. His scarred eye that occasionally weeps blood is the creepy type of affectation that Ian Fleming’s villains used to have–no metal-teethed villains here.

    Mads Mikkelson is Le Chiffre is very impressive–cool, calm, creepy but also over-his-head. He is no Rosa Klebb or Auric Goldfinger or even Francisco Scaramange. For a start, his name is easier to get your tongue around. He must show vulnerability in the same way Bond does–not so much as our hero, but enough to make his role in proceeding fascinating.

    Eva Green is given the Bond Girl role of a lifetime in the part of Vesper Lynd. The one-on-one verbal stouche between Lynd and Bond when they first meet on the train to Montenegro is up there with the classic train conversations of film–perhaps equalling a similar moment in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. The verbal sparring and the intellectual one-upmanship is heaven-sent here–and one wonders if this is the work of screenwriter Paul Haggis, who polished the script after series regulars’ Neal Purvis and Robert Wade put the original ideas on paper.

    The romantic relationship is where Haggis’ fingerprints are most obviously noticed, particularly in the (fully-clothed) shower scene between Vesper and James–where she is suffering from shock after witnessing Bond strangling a man to death. It is no clearer to me that this is Haggis’ work than when he delicately cleans Vesper’s fingers in his mouth–very reminiscent of a story Constable Benton Fraser told in an episode of Haggis’ TV series, Due South. (Haggis’ big-screen work hasn’t impressed me so much, but his TV show about a Candian Mountie influences a James Bond film and I take notice…)

    Beyond beautiful locations, beautiful women, creepy villains and a reasonably believable terrorist-based plot, the film hangs on one thing–the performance of Daniel Craig as the man with the licence to kill.

    When he was announced as the new James Bond, I had two reservations–I hadn’t seen him in anything and he wasn’t Clive Owen. Owen’s name had been bandied about ever since he put on a tux for the film The Croupier and he also is close to the cruel mouthed, hard man that Fleming wrote about. I wasn’t anti-Craig, he was just an unknown quantity.

    Since the announcement, I have seen him in a few things and was very impressed. And the brilliant theatrical trailers left me with no doubt that the right man was hired for the job.

    Spectacular reviews got me even more excited. Probably the most excited I have been about a film since Serenity last year–which I was fortunate to see in previews long before the hype began and its impressive reviews were written. This time I had to watch the film make $300 million worldwide before I put paid my money and took up my seat… in a Gold Class cinema, with reclining chairs and two dry martinis delivered during the film! It’s the height of decadence elegance to watch a Bond film while drinking martinis…

    Daniel Craig is impressive in every way. He looks great, looks good in a tux and has acting chops that surpass all the previous on-screen James Bonds. I’m a fan of the Timothy Dalton movies, but even though he had a harder edge–and moments of romance–he didn’t require the range Casino Royale demands of this blonde haired, blue eyed newbie.

    M describes her knewest Double-0 as a blunt instrument and for the much of the movie he is just that. Throughout the film he becomes more and more refined–a thug turning into the sophisticated killer that we know and, well, love. James Bond is a hard man to love. In the Bond novels, he explicitly falls in love only twice–in Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In between times, women are there for information or for pleasure… sometimes both. This film goes some way to explaining why he feels the way he does.

    And while the film peels away layers of Bond’s past–we touch on a mysterious benefactor, as well as his parents’ death–we also watch him put layers of armour on, to protect himself from pain and hurt and loss. To do his job most effectively, it is much easier for his to trust nobody and question everything. And to keep his feelings hidden–or to not have them at all.

    As I said, the film is very faithful to the book–even though it is updated to present day. And there are three key ingredients that translate really well onto film: the card game (here Texas Hold ‘Em, in the book Chemin De Fer), the torture sequence and the last line of the novel–The bitch is dead–which necessarily takes a back seat in the movie. If any of these things had been messed with, I’d have been disappointed. They are used and used well–the torture sequence both horrific and, with Bond’s pithy comebacks, unsettlingly funny as well.

    Prior to this movie, my favourite Bond films were (in order of release): From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. On first viewing, Casino Royale keeps this company very well. And just like it’s attempts to honour both the new and the old in Bond cinema, it is both as great as these films… and sometimes greater. It’s a new beginning, but it feels comfortable–like an old Bond film.

    Rightly, the formula hasn’t been messed with–but the character himself is allowed to take centre stage.

    ‘Casino Royale’ by Double-Oh Agent

    The name’s Bond…James Bond.

    Those words evoke many a thought in the public’s mind–style, suaveness, sophistication, womanizing, dangerous, cool. Pick a glowing adjective and it’s most likely appropriate. It has certainly been the case for 44 years, 20 films (21 if you count Never Say Never Again), and five James Bonds. It is true again in 2006 with Daniel Craig slipping into the elegantly tailored tuxedo for Casino Royale–the best Bond film in years.

    From the very beginning with a rousing but brief black and white pre-titles sequence viewers know they are in for something different. Add to that a new 007, no Moneypenny or Q, Bond falling in love, and nary a world threatening plot by a megalomanical villain and one might worry about the franchise’s new direction, especially those vociferous people who had problems with the casting of Craig as the sixth actor to step into 007’s shoes. But after watching Casino Royale, those fears are soon proven baseless. There can be no debate–Daniel Craig IS James Bond 007.

    In the finest performance ever for a James Bond actor in his debut, Craig absolutely nails the part and carries the film with a confidence, swagger, and cool that rivals the great Sean Connery. Craig may not be the most handsome, darkest, or tallest of 007s, but he is the most physical, the most fit and trim, and the most ruthless. From the very first scene he understands and grabs hold of the essence of Bond and never lets go. He dominates every scene he’s in and there is never a doubt that he can do any of the stunts Bond does. He embodies the hardness and detachment of Ian Fleming’s Bond yet still manages to be loving and tender in his scenes with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Their scenes, particularly upon their initial meeting on the train, in the car, and arrival at the Hotel Splendide crackle with electricity as they politely exchange barbs back and forth, refusing to be pigeon-holed by the other. Their relationship is believable and well-acted and handled.

    Speaking of Green, I must point out that I was against her casting as Vesper Lynd, preferring instead Rose Byrne. Of the pictures I had seen of Green prior to her filming I was not impressed with her looks believing that she wore too much makeup around the eyes and mouth. However, I can now say that in Casino Royale she has never looked better. She does a great job as Vesper and she won me over. She was a good casting choice and I think I would place her in my top 10 Bond girls.

    The other Bond girl is delicious eye candy. Caterina Murino’s Solange Dimitrios is suitably sad and ready for a romp with 007. Unfortunately, she is gone all too soon but she leaves an indelible impression.

    As for the villians, Mads Mikkelsen is slimy and sinister as the desperate Le Chiffre. He has a number of quirks from a bleeding eyeball to frequently using an inhaler, but he is at his most cool during the gambling scenes with his ability to shuffle poker chips one-handed. The rest of his entourage are a non-descript bunch in historical Bond terms. Kratt, Valenka, and others look interesting but effectively do little on a henchmen scale. More exciting are the peripheral villains such as the African rebel leader Obanno and his lieutenant, the mysterious terrorist organization’s middle man Mr. White, the detached Alex Dimitrios, and the exciting bombers Carlos and Mollaka. They are a much more colorful group and help make the film soar in excitement.

    Bond’s allies Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) are what you would expect they’d be from the novels where they are Bond’s best allies in his history of allies. Wright has some funny lines and Giannini perfectly captures the spirit of Fleming’s French creation. Judi Dench, meanwhile, gives her best (and funniest) performance as “M”.

    The plot/screenplay is well done and has few, if any, holes. The Casino Royale story has been updated terrifically from Fleming’s novel. By switching the game from baccarat to poker, the organization from SMERSH to terrorists, the loss of funds from brothel-owning to the stock market gambling, everything clicks as does the sparkling dialogue. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis should be commended.

    Peter Lamont does one of his better jobs in production design as does costume designer Lindy Hemming. Editor Stuart Baird is also in fine form, but it is the cinematogrpahy by Phil Meheux and direction by Martin Campbell that is really noticeable. This is perhaps the best looking Bond film ever and Campbell strikes all the right notes in his direction. Whether it is Bond’s arrival in the Bahamas, his tailing of Dimitrios and Carlos, the touching shower scene with Vesper, or the cringe-inducing torture scene, it is all pure gold. This proves that GoldenEye was no fluke and officially puts him among Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert, Peter Hunt, and John Glen in the elite group of Bond directors.

    The stunts are all top-notch from the PTS fight to the Miami Airport chase, to the stairwell fight, to the climactic finale, but nothing can top the sheer energy, thrill, and agility of the parkour chase, which will go down in Bond history as the best chase (foot or vehicle) of the series. Kudos especially go to Sebastien Foucan who played Mollaka. The man is simply amazing.

    David Arnold’s music perfectly captures the tone and energy of the film throughout and Chris Cornell’s song You Know My Name sounds great if a bit unintelligible. When combined with Daniel Kleinman’s main titles, you have a winner. Kleinman does a fantastic job with the titles with its gambling and playing card motif and is easily one of the series’ best.

    And regardless of whether you agree with producers Michael G. Wilson’s and Barbara Broccoli’s decision to not film a fifth 007 film with Pierce Brosnan (which I would have preferred before filming Casino Royale with Craig), they should be commended for having the vision and the guts to go in this new direction. Despite all the complaints from fans and critics about the reboot and choice of 007, they overcame the odds and proved all the doubters wrong with a stellar film which will undoubtedly go down in the series alongside the likes of From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Well done.

    But in the end, this film is all about Bond and Daniel Craig and neither disappoint. Craig makes his Bond fallable and human, a Bond who will do whatever it takes to get the job done, consequences be damned. He also makes his Bond dangerous and believable, a Bond who can handle himself in any situation with or without a weapon. In short, his Bond is Fleming’s Bond and what higher praise can there be?

    Perhaps my favorite parts of the film are seeing Craig’s 007’s ability to think fast on his feet such as in the free running chase or at the Bahamas hotel, his tailing ability demonstrated in the Miami Airport sequence which perfectly captures the skills required in the spy world, and his ability to immediately read and size up those around him whether it be Solange on the beach, Vesper on the train, or Le Chiffre at the gaming table. All these scenes perfectly capture why Bond is who he is and why we all love him so.

    In conclusion, Casino Royale is a film where Bond fans and non-Bond fans can sit back and enjoy the ride for 144 minutes of high quality entertainment. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll jump, and you’ll cheer. It’s a roller coaster ride of thrills and suspense–exactly what a 007 movie ought to be. It’s Bond…James Bond, and nobody does it better.

    ‘Casino Royale’ by 00Twelve


    It’s hard for me to write this review, as I’m still reeling from this film, as I’m sure many of you are. As a Bond film, Casino Royale was utterly amazing. I stayed clear of the script, so I managed to see the majority of the film not knowing what would be said or what the cinematography would look like. I am really thankful that I did. I never would have thought in a thousand years that Michael and Barbara could produce a film such as this. Casino Royale goes so far beyond anything I’ve come to expect from this franchise…I am currently trying to figure out how I’m going to watch Brosnan or Moore again! I don’t say that to be cold, by any means, but it’s just such an improvement in the character and the visual storytelling, that it’s basically a whole different world.

    And I like it.

    First of all, let me say that Daniel Craig is unbelievably amazing as James Bond. James Bond is his now. He has set a new bar. Hallowed be Sean’s name, but this is a different man. This is who I’ve always wanted James Bond to be. This is a man closer to the real world than I’ve ever seen in this franchise. This is the man that Ian Fleming created in 1953. But right for this world as it exists today. Truly an impressive feat. This is the first man that I think could actually be nominated for an actinng award…for playing JAMES BOND! From the first scene, through the “dirty martini” scene , through the torture scene (and by the way, the “itch” bit was tremendous…Craig was brilliant), and on to the end, this man did things that I never thought EON would have the courage to allow an actor to do. Please, EON, don’t stop giving this man the opportunity to act!

    Now, Eva. Whew. Eva is so beautiful and talented…she’s set a new bar for the character of “leading lady” as well. I’ll admit it, it hurt quite a lot to see her character’s end (and I’ve read the book 2-3 times). I invested in her character, and I invested in Vesper and Bond’s relationship. I only wish On Her Majesty’s Secret Service could have played the resignation/new life angle as well as this. (It’s only now that I finally understand what Tracy’s death will later do to this man…) I think Eva might have looked her best either when she wakes Bond up in her green dress, or when she’s getting ready in the mirror in the “dinner jackets” scene. Anyway, not important. She did real justice to the character, which is important.

    I’ll sum up Le Chiffre and M more quickly…Le Chiffre was fantastic as a villain. Still the feel that this is a Bond villain, but so much more dynamic. No villain yet has touched Le Chiffre in terms of complexity and vulnerability. I cannot wait to see where the trail will lead in Bond 22. M…Judi’s performance was insane. She has finally been given the opportunity to show part of why she was knighted. The new dynamic between her and Bond is just fantastic. It actually makes me feel OK that M is still her and not Sir Miles (dare I say it). By the way, I liked Villiers, but I’m sure Moneypenny will make her debut in the next one. Even if she doesn’t, I’m not gona shed any tears. Same goes for Q. This film was quite compelling even without them.

    Campbell really shot his best film to date. I understand everyone says he’s no auteur, but I don’t care…this was a well-shot film. Thanks again for the opportunity to make creative visual pictures. My favorites at the moment were the PTS and Bond’s initial reaction to the dirty martini. Everything was just shot extremely well. All of it. Especially the fight sequences.

    And those…I’ve NEVER winced during a Bond action sequence, perhaps because I never invested in the character quite so much. When Bond gets his head smacked against a wall during the stairwell fight, I actually gasped. (Kudos to the sound team!) Not to mention the torture scene…that was just harrowing. (Again, touchdown for the sound team!) The action scequences were just phenominal. No complaints here. This Bond is an assassin, period. This is James Bond.

    Felix. I liked him…even though they decided to detach the character from his literary closeness with Bond. I think they’ve set him up well to either return in Bond 22 or at some later date, without too much commitment to doing one or the other. And this comes from a big Felix fan. I accept this Felix (not that anyone cares…).

    Quickly…the locations were breathtaking (and shot well), the Aston made me smile, the titles and song were AWESOME (Yep! The song too!), the music was wonderful…definitely Arnold’s best yet, the rest of the characters delivered, and “the line” was either the best ever or right under Sean’s first utterance.

    This film, as some have said, is one of the best stand-alone films I’ve seen in quite some time. Nevermind its place as a Bond film. I don’t care what anyone thinks…I’m ready to see Craig do anything as this man…whether it be proper adaptations of Fleming or not. And I actually have to grudgingly give props to P&W, and of course to Paul Haggis. This was easily the best script since the early days. Who would have thought?

    Anyway, I could go on and on…but I’ll stop here. I know this sounds like a puff piece, but I swear it’s not. I really am that impressed. I’m sure I’ll get jaded enough to complain about it at some point.

    Casino Royale is fantastic…a true renaissance like no other in Bondian history. Five stars.