Casino Royale Review

by Steve Rhodes (Steve DOT Rhodes AT InternetReviews DOT com)
November 17th, 2006

A film review by Steve Rhodes

Copyright 2006 Steve Rhodes

RATING (0 TO ****): ****

James Bond is back, and he is in fighting trim. Played now by LAYER CAKE's Daniel Craig, he doesn't just play the part -- he completely redefines and rejuvenates a role that had been showing its age. Completely devoid of Bond movies' usual campy parts, CASINO ROYALE could just as well have been titled RUN BOND RUN. Like Lola in RUN LOLA RUN, Bond literally sprints through some great action set piece. His physical exhaustion in them is palpable. And this is a BOND who bleeds, sometimes profusely, and whose face often looks like someone has taken a weedwacker to it, since it becomes of a mass of cuts and nicks.

But don't worry. Bond hasn't become a superhero, and the movie takes itself seriously but not too seriously. Many of the funny bits are so prime that the audience laughs loudly and applauds vigorously at the same time.

Eyes. Let's talk about eyes. Craig's got a pair of beautiful blue ones that can glare with laser like intensity at villains and can seduce any female within a hundred yards of them. When he's staring at you from the screen, you feel like a deer caught in the headlights. You can't move.

Daniel Craig is so fantastic in the role that you'll swear that he was born to play James Bond. Not only is he by far and way the best Bond since Sean Connery, he will probably end up being even better with another Bond film or two under his belt.

With the sole exception of a weak opening, caused mainly by a lame song, everything about CASINO ROYALE is nothing less than spectacular. This is ironic since the 1967 version, which was a Bond spoof, is only really bad Bond movie ever made. Sure, some have been disappointments, but only the original CASINO ROYALE was actually a bad film. In contrast, the remake is one of the very best Bond movies ever, ranking right up there with GOLDFINGER and DR. NO. CASINO ROYALE is nothing less than one of the best films of the year.

The seamless stunts are breathtaking. You'll swear that Craig must be doing all of his own stunt work, which I assume he isn't. But the editing is so perfect, it is nearly impossible to ascertain where Craig ends and his stunt double begins.

Almost all of the casting is terrific, with the possible of exception of a few minor villains who could have been a bit stronger. As Le Chiffre, the banker to the world's terrorists, Mads Mikkelsen gives us a brooding villain, who isn't trying to destroy the world. He's just financing others bent on destruction. With his inhaler always at his side, Le Chiffre is a very human bad guy, but no less evil.

As one of the best Bond women in a long time and one of the most intelligent, Eva Green (THE DREAMERS) plays Vesper Lynd, an MI-6 accountant who has been sent to finance Bond's card game with Le Chiffre. Bond and Lynd's chemistry together is both interesting and genuine.

There are several differences in this Bond story, which is set just after he achieves double-oh status. There are few gadgets, and the original game of Baccarat in the book has been replaced with the modern card game of Texas Hold 'Em. The script wisely has the card game take several breaks during which time the action away from the gaming tables is pretty exciting, which helps build the tension for the big final round, when we'll see if Bond can correctly read Le Chiffre's tell.

The pacing is perfect and daring. Many times director Martin Campbell (GOLDENEYE) lets the action slow to a crawl. As we catch our breaths, we get to know Bond and his world better. An especially good such sequence occurs when Bond and Lynd first meet on the train and try to piece together each other's background, based solely on how they handle themselves.

M (Judi Dench), usually nothing more than a token character, is integrated into the central part of the storyline. In a small part, Jeffrey Wright gives a nice reading of Felix Leiter, Bond's counterpart in the CIA. Leiter, although a mediocre card player, is there with Bond and others trying to win in the high stakes card game with Le Chiffre.

Finally, don't worry that CASINO ROYALE has turned the Bond franchise into some grim actioner. The dialog is consistently delicious. Early on, Bond puts Lynd down by telling her, "Don't worry. You're not my type." "Smart," she replies smugly and quickly. "No, single," he explains with a hint of twinkle somewhere deep down in his ocean blue eyes.

The last line on the closing credits reassuring us -- as if we needed reassuring -- that "James Bond Will Return." It can't be soon enough for me. Craig is great in the role, and I can't wait to see what he'll do in his sophomore outing.

CASINO ROYALE runs 2:24, but I wouldn't cut a single second of it. It is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, November 17, 2006. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.


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