Casino Royale Reviewby [email protected] (sdo230 AT gmail DOT com)
November 17th, 2006
reviewed by Sam Osborn
Director: Martin Campbell
Screenplay: Neal Purvis, Paul Haggis, Robert Wade
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judy Dench
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content, and nudity)
James Bond has been reinvented again. It's time for an origin story; stepping away from the embarrassing previous film, Die Another Day, and going back to roots. In Mr. Brosnan's shoes now is Daniel Craig, a blonde beefcake with carven features and a stony countenance. He's tougher than Brosnan, and less afraid to get his shoes soiled. He doesn't speak much; his mother apparently only taught him sly comebacks and cheesy pick-up lines. But Mr. Craig is a brusque, youthful version of the Bond we've come to be used to. He's flawed and overly confident, but ineffably charming. Put simply, he'll do.
His villain is Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson)--I suppose any Bond film isn't complete without an idiotic name for its villain. Le Chiffre has a demented left eyeball that's appropriately scarred over and that intermittently bleeds to give the effect of weeping blood. He's lost $100 million of his clients' (terrorists) money in a botched stock market sabotage. He now must put his prodigious poker talents to work so he can win the $100 million back before the enraged terrorists take revenge.
Funding Bond's buy-in at the high-stakes poker game at Montenegro is the Treasury agent Vesper Lynde, played by the illustrious Eva Green. She's not your typical Bond girl (read: she's not a slut). A lot of fuss has been made over the romance that glows between Bond and Lynde, remarking mostly on how much of a sissy Bond would be if he would actually fall for a girl. And he does. For the most part, the love story is handled smartly; but near the end, as the love story blossoms, it quickly becomes too bubbly and sappy for even me (I gave three stars to The Devil Wears Prada for goodness sake). This isn't to say Ms. Green isn't up to snuff, however. On the contrary, she's the best thing that's happened to the series since Pussy Galore. She has acting chops and a face more beautiful even than her body. A more suitable actress could not have been chosen for such an important entry into the Bond series.
And so I guess the question on everyone's mind should be answered: Is Bond back? I'll admit to not truly knowing. The days of Sean Connery were before my time, and their recreation on DVD is simply not the same. Bond flicks must be experienced in the present, I suppose, and judging a Bond without the hordes of fans clapping and yelping around you just doesn't add up. But, at the very least, is Casino Royale an improvement over the campy dregs of Die Another Day and the Pierce Brosnan series before it? Well, it thankfully isn't as silly. Die Another Day heightened all the delicious implausibility to ridiculous heights, to the point where the requisite absurdity of a Bond film became distracting. Casino Royale manages here to toe the thin line of camp and quality. The Bond formula hasn't changed; there are still villains who weep tears, girls with big breasts bobbling on galloping horses, lots of machine guns, and acrobatics that rarely adhere to the laws of physics. But Bond doesn't surf a tsunami, as he did in Die Another Day. Bond has returned to glamour and class. The film is strong and adventurous, spanning the globe with bullets and a body count. It's long (144 minutes) and has a sweet tooth for sentimentality. All the elements are here and, perhaps, any Bond film is only as good as the sum of its parts. But I suppose that isn't true. There must be an energy that powers the whole thing; a defibrillator to shock all the parts into place. Director Martin Campbell applies this current liberally, and makes Casino Royale beat with a vicious pulse. It's entertainment of the very first order; meaning that anyone and everyone will have a bloody good time. So, yes, Bond is back.
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