Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale (2006)

Film review by: Witney Seibold

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            I refuse to get embroiled in the arguments over who the best James Bond is. It’s a churlish exercise, and ultimately proves nothing about the films, about you, or about your knowledge of film. Besides, it’s so clearly Pierce Brosnan.

 

            This new “Casino Royale,” which was the first book in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel series, is the third film of this title. It’s the twenty-second film to feature that erstwhile British spy, and the first to feature hunky blonde Daniel Craig in the role (Craig has already signed on to do another). “Casino Royale,” though, sticks close to the source material and give the James Bond franchise a much-needed reboot. I did not see that last James Bond film, “Die Another Day,” but a film-knowledgeable friend of mind described it as being akin to the first half of “Batman Begins” (where he was in a dirty foreign prison) grafted onto “Batman & Robin” (which was a colorful and flashy vomitorium).

 

            For those of you who would regularly go to James Bond movies for the impractical technology, snarky jokes, and predictable stories, you will be sorely disappointed with “Casino Royale.” For those of you who want to see one of the best action films of 2006, and arguably one of the best James Bond films, by all means see it.

 

            The story starts with a young Bond, not yet an agent, trying to work his way into his 007 status. This is not a slick and dashing Bond, but a thicknecked thug. Bond, after all, is a killer. His first mission, to track down the villain who is supplying certain guerillas with weapons and money, is a little blown when he accidentally shoots up an embassy (there was also a lot of parkour involved; that marital art that forces you to do a lot of Spider-Man-like leaping). To make up for it, he must face the villain, a man nicknamed Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), in a high-stakes poker match at the titular ritzy casino. He is aided by two stalwart agents, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who is this close to being Bond himself, and the curvy French Vesper Lynd (the curvy French Eva Green). Yes, Judi Dench is back as M.

 

            The director Martin Campbell (“The Mask of Zorro,” “GoldenEye”) has managed to breathe some new life into the series, and thank goodness. “Casino Royale,” while still rated PG-13, is darker, harder edged, and contains an element of realism that had merrily floated away over the course of some of the other Bond films. Bond is tough, even mean. He is stripped naked and tortured on camera, being struck in the one part of his anatomy that James Bond usually employs a lot in his films. He is a strong, fleshy, hardass of a spy.

             There are still chases and set pieces. The aforementioned chase is thrilling, and near the end there is a fight scene in a sinking Venetian building (!). These are amazingly shot, and not so far-fetched as to make us roll our eyes. “Casino Royale” is that rare breed of film: the intelligent actioner. It’s very good.

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Published in: on October 2, 2007 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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