ARCHIVE REVIEW: Casino Royale

Casino Royale
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, & Paul Haggis (screenplay), Ian Flemming (novel)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, and Judi Dench

A lot of people didn’t want James Bond the movie character to have an origin.  One of the most iconic screen characters of all time hadn’t needed one after twenty films, and with the announcement of some blonde nobody taking over for Pierce Brosnon, tensions rose and spite was emitted before the movie even finished filming.

When the movie came out though, stunned silence from those unfortunate critics.  Seeing Martin Campbell’s realistic reboot of the 007 franchise after the Brosnon super-hero version left audiences turned off gave fans and newcomers alike one of the most entertaining movies they’d seen in years.  In fact, Casino Royale rates up there with the best of the Bond films, and it may even be the best.

Thankfully, Royale doesn’t tell Bond’s entire life story.  We instead follow him as he reaches “00” status within MI6 (Britain’s version of the CIA for those unfamiliar).  To earn this, he must eliminate two high value targets within a close time proximity.  In a visually stunning and masterfully written black and white opening sequence, we see him do this.  He fights to the death with a thug in a bathroom, tearing it a part.  This is interspersed with him telling his second mark how it happened, before coolly planting a bullet in his head.  From the get-go, we know this one is different.

What follows is a cross-continent journey in Bond’s attempt to stop the ruthless La Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), a banker for terrorists who cries blood (this still is a Bond movie, after all.)  This mission culminates in an engrossing high-stakes poker game in Montenegro.  Even if you know nothing about poker or gambling (you can learn here: http://www.onlinecasinoaustralia.com.au), Campbell films it with such tension you’re bound to still be entertained.  It’s also broken up with intense fight scenes and witty British banter between Bond and Vesper “Money Penny” Lynd (Eva Green.)

What makes this film so different than its 20 predecessors is that it makes you feel Bond’s inner conflict and torment.  The violence is not just for fun.  In a grisly fight scene between rounds of poker, Vesper assists James in helping to strangle one of the crime lords.  A while later, she sits huddled in the shower still in her evening gown.  “It’s like there’s blood on my hands, and it’s not coming off,” she says.

If that makes it sound like there aren’t jaw-dropping action sequences with amazing set pieces, then that’s a mistake.  Scattered pretty frequently throughout this movie’s driving narrative are some of the most well executed action sequences ever seen on film.  From a jaw-dropping chase through an African construction site to one hell of a finale inside a sinking Venetian house, beautiful scenery and fast-paced brutality continue to be a staple of the Bond films.

Though his intuition and ego are still ever-present, Daniel Craig’s Bond goes deeper than any of the others, finding what drives this complicated character.  One of the biggest complaints people have with Casino Royale is that it detracts into a love story in the last third.  Not only are these scenes excellently written and acted, they’re crucial to understanding how Bond came to be a trust-no-one, ruthless agent he is in all the other films.  You feel the tenderness between him and Lynd, and the heartbreak later on.

Eva Green is a great asset to the cast.  She brings spit-fire and passion to a character that until this movie was never fully realized.  Her reluctance to get involved with Bond is understandable, and when she gives in it makes it all the more eloquent. She subverts Bond girl cliches and gives us a female character that is actually interesting and not just eye candy, although she’s that as well.

The rest of the cast is also excellent.  Mikkelson is great as the vicious La Chiffre, bluffing his way through poker and then stunning audiences with one of the most gruesome torture scenes in recent memory.  Dame Judi Dench is reliably excellent as M, spouting rage and wisdom as if she were born to do it.

Not only is Casino Royale a new direction for 007, it has some nifty tricks up its sleeve that heavily influence the action genre to this day.  The storytelling is flawless, as is the cinematography.  It’s not only one of the greatest franchise reboots, it’s an action milestone, and a grueling reminder that they really don’t make ’em like this anymore. At least not often enough.

Grade: A

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12 thoughts on “ARCHIVE REVIEW: Casino Royale

  1. This movie is fucking awesome. I didn’t care for the last half-hour, but I would forgive it somewhat.

    The parkour, the poker game, Daniel Craig coming out of the water. You gotta love that.

  2. This one got an A+ from me. I was guilty of prejudging Daniel Craig as the blond nobody, I mean no other Bond has ever had blond hair! 🙂 Suffice to say, he won me over and the script is just so smart and juicy I could watch this over and over again!

    The rest of the cast is equally great, Mads, Giancarlo Giannini, Judi Dench, they all work so well here and give the characters gravitas, not playing them as caricatures like in previous Bond films. Totally agree about what you said about Eva Green. Her banter with Bond on the train to Montenegro is one of my 20 Favorite Scenes of all time: http://wp.me/pxXPC-6O

  3. My god is this a great movie. Martin Campbell saves the franchise again…Craig rocked this like I never expected and Eva Green…let’s just take a moment to honor her hotness…:)

    This was an origin story that I think effectively explained why James is so “love em and leave em”. Fantastic from top to bottom and probably the best opening sequence of the series (and song imo)…using a casino theme throughout? Who ever would have thought to do that?:P

    • Yeah, it’s both a brilliant Bond film/origin story and just a plain brilliant movie. Very impressed, and sad of the recent news in Entertainment Weekly that the franchise might be gone for a while.

  4. I’d give this movie 1 out of 10 (and the 1 point is earned by Eva Green). It basically sucks. Nothing exciting happens, it’s all about Bond and some other guys playing poker. Very very boring. Only the other Casino Royal (the spoof with David Niven) was probably worse than this one. Craig IS no Bond! He just doesn’t have it. Roger Moore, THAT was Bond as Fleming intended it. Craig is nothing more than another Jason Bourne, and would most likely lose any fight with the ‘real’ Bourne. As of Casino Royal, the series is doomed. And please please please let Judi Dench be killed in a next Bond movie, I hate her, bloody feminist. Bring back a Roger Moore kind of Bond and lots of busty women for Bond to screw and fancy high-tech gadgets. THAT’s what Bond is about and made it such a good series. Up to now that is. RIP Bond.

    • I’m actually kind of glad the movie went away from the misogynistic viewpoint you seem to favor here. It’s nice that Bond has some back and forth with the women that isn’t just in the bedroom. The movie actually explains his disinterest in relationships in a very clever way even though the series doesn’t usually do that kind of clever.

    • Yes i agree with you. The best bond movies are those directed of John Glen all 5 of them. The best bond ever is Roger Moore. Period.

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  6. ‘Casino Royale’ is the best James Bond movie at least since ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987), and probably since ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969). A large part of the credit must go to Ian Fleming, since the film actually is a fairly faithful adaptation of Fleming’s novel by the same title (the only way for the movie to have been more faithful was if it had been a period piece set in the 1950s, when the novel was published).

    Instead of the joking, gadget-toting pretty boy Bond that we had all gotten used to over the years, Daniel Craig plays James Bond as Ian Fleming originally intended: A tough guy with a tortured soul who does his job well, even though he finds the job distasteful. Craig’s acting skill and his Steve McQueen-like masculine charisma make him the best James Bond since Sean Connery.

    As in Fleming’s novels, and most of the best Bond films, James Bond has a genuine relationship with his leading lady, rather than just the scattershot shagging that most people expect from Bond. Eva Green holds up her end of the deal admirably, and Vesper Lynd’s treachery and demise are cleverly used in this film as the explanation for how James Bond becomes a heartless womanizer.

    To top it all off, ‘Casino Royale’ includes some top-notch action sequences. Once again as in all the best Bond films, the action is exciting without descending into silliness (a trap into which the Bond films have fallen all too often, particularly in the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan eras).

    Somewhat paradoxically, James Bond has been reinvented for the 21st Century by reviving Ian Fleming’s original vision of the character. Bravo, ‘Casino Royale.’

  7. Totally love your post and all the responses here (though some of them hate this Bond film. Fair enough. Nothing is perfect). I was also not in favor of the Bond series. I literally saw James Bond as a “cold-heart bastard”. But after this, I finally understand why he became the man he was before (and after) Casino Royale. His heart-breaking romance with Vesper had completely ruined his soul and whatever left of it. I started to feel for his personality rather than criticising him like I did before.

    It will always be remained as my most favorite Bond film as well as the best action thriller movie ever. Remove it from the reputation of the franchise, it’s still a masterpiece of action genre. The entire cast was fantastic, especially Craig and Green. Their chemistry on screen was so true and so convincing that really shook my heart when Vesper died (the first time I cried on a Bond film). And the scores were just absolutely excellent, including the theme song You Know My Name.

    Overall, I cannot find a single thing that I dislike about the film. Truly a flawless picture. For my personal opinion, even the new “best Bond film” SkyFall (as some experts have claimed) cannot match it.

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