US Release Date: 11-17-2006
Directed by: Martin Campbell
- Daniel Craig, as
- James Bond
- Eva Green, as
- Vesper Lynd
- Mads Mikkelsen, as
- Le Chiffre
- Judi Dench, as
- Jeffrey Wright, as
- Felix Leiter
- Giancarlo Giannini, as
- Caterina Murino, as
- Simon Abkarian as
- Alex Dimitrios
Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
Just as Batman Begins restarted the Batman saga so goes Casino Royale. Daniel Craig is the latest Bond and he makes the role his. He is not as charming as Connery, or as dashing as Brosnan. However, he is far more exciting than Dalton and he could easily wipe the floor with Moore.
Based on the Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale tells the story of Bond's first assignment as a double 0. It involves him gambling in a very high-stakes game with a man who funds terrorists. In other words, if he loses, Great Britain has directly financed terrorism. The plot involves plenty more than the card game, but that is the center piece.
Most interesting is that this movie gives some hints at Bond's history and explains why and how he is who he is. He wears his first tailored suit and falls deeply in love. He drives an Aston Martin. It also makes dramatic changes to the series. Gone are the ridiculous names, (Pussy Galore?) When Bond first meets Vesper she says she is there to oversee Bond's gambling money. Bond responds that she is worth every penny. Yes, this is a reference to M's secretary Moneypenny who is no where to be seen. Also missing in action is Q or even his assistant R.
With this revamped Bond, the level of danger is raised, sort of. Bond bleeds and gets hurt. Don't even ask about the seat-less chair scene. He doesn't always end up on his feet. That is a definite improvement from the Bonds of old who never even smudged their silk shirts. The problem and contradiction to this new level of realism is that the action scenes, although mostly gadget free, are still very outlandish. One of the first action sequences is a very long chase through a construction sight that has Bond chasing a man who jumps and climbs as if he is part lemur. The danger is only real if the action scenes ring true.
Although Casino Royale makes many of the improvements that Scott and I have been waiting for, it still seemed a bit hollow. Perhaps I should have been more careful of what I wished for. As a huge Jason Bourne fan I liked the new seriousness that Bond has discovered, but I also miss the familiarity of the old shaken and not stirred secret agent.
Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
It felt very good to be watching a Bond movie and see the words, "Based on the novel by Ian Fleming" flashed on the screen. And not only that, but unlike some of the Bond movies of the 70s also based on the original novels, the plot of Casino Royale actually resembles the plot of the book. There's a whole lot of stuff tacked on to the beginning of the plot (some of it unnecessary), but once Bond actually arrives at the casino, the plot is fairly faithful to Ian Fleming's book.
There are a number of improvements in this movie over the previous films. Nearly every Bond book Fleming wrote ended up with Bond in the hospital or at least having to take time off to recuperate. Until this movie I don't think the cinematic Bond ever even bled once. Daniel Craig's Bond is beat and bloodied and pummeled throughout the movie. This is a Bond who has to work to finish a case. The stakes seem higher for Bond here even though the villain's plot is actually much tamer than in the earlier movies. There's no world domination plan, just an attempt by a money launderer to save his own ass. Bond's vulnerability, both in the physical and the emotional action, make him much more human, which is a good thing.
The thing that still sticks in my craw about this movie is the decision to set Bond's origin story in modern times. According to this movie Bond wasn't a part of the cold war at all. Dealing with the Russians is something the older agents must have told him about when he was in training. All of the other times an actor took over the part of Bond it felt as though they were continuing the same character. Here it almost feels as if Daniel Craig is playing some new guy also named James Bond, but with no connection to anyone else who bears that name. So long as they were jump starting the series again, why couldn't they have set it in the past?
Eric's "shaken not stirred" comment, also brings up a good point. The Bond character is supposed to be suave and sophisticated. He will kick your ass and know which wine to order while doing it. That's part of what makes Bond, Bond. The Bond here, as M puts it, is a blunt instrument. Hopefully in the next movie they can bring a little bit more of that smoothness back into the character.
I hate to sound as though I am criticizing this movie too harshly, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action is almost non-stop and when it does stop, there's enough character development and plot to carry the movie. Daniel Craig does make a good Bond. He's a great actor and for those who still complain that he's blond, just remember that the Bond wasn't supposed to be Scottish either, but that didn't stop Sean Connery.
Eric mentions the Bourne movies and it does seem as if the producers of this film paid attention to those movies while preparing this one. I'm old enough to remember when the Bond movies set the trends in the spy genre, not followed them. It's good that they made this movie more "realistic", but they shouldn't forget those things that make Bond, Bond. He's not just Jason Bourne with a British Accent.
The most visceral killing ever by Bond.
I really should have watched this movie before Quantum of Solace as it is a better movie. From the opening black & white sequence where 007 kills the guy in the men’s room, one of the most visceral death scenes from any Bond movie by the way, you know that this is a new James Bond. Daniel Craig is the most violent and least sophisticated Bond thus far in the venerable franchise, I will just add that he looks damn good in tight pants.
Every Bond movie needs at least one scene where you say to yourself, “Damn, he’s cool.” That moment comes early in Casino Royale. When Bond is chasing the guy at the construction sight and the guy seems to have lost the super agent, until, after a split second of silence, Bond comes crashing through the site at the controls of a bull dozer with a steely glint in his eyes.
In Quantum of Solace Bond doesn’t drink a single vodka martini. He does here but has no preference between shaken or stirred. I assume that is because this is a younger Bond who has yet to develop his tastes. But I agree with Scott that this update makes him seem a different character with the same name. In the past when a new actor assumed the role there was always a feeling that he was the same man. Welcome to the 21st Century I guess.
Speaking of the other actors to have played the role, wouldn’t it be cool for the Oscars to present all six men with a tribute of sorts. How great would it be to see Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig walk out on the stage of the Kodak Theater together?
Photos © Copyright Sony Pictures (2006)