Casino Royale

2006

Martums

M: I knew it was too early to promote you.
James: Well, I understand double-ohs have a very short life expectancy. So your mistake will be short-lived.
M: Bond, this may be too much for a blunt instrument to understand, but arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand in hand.
James: So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Ian Fleming would be pleased. From the onset, this film does every bit of justice to the Bond franchise. Take the locations for example: Venice, Montenegro, Miami, Nassau, Madagascar, Mbale and Prague. All excellent locales in their own right, but string them together and you trace the path of one of the most glue-your-asses-to-your-seats-and-your-eyes-to-the-screen adventures to visit box offices in recent years.

Don't let the locations alone justify my grading of this motion picture. Look at the performers: Eva Green, who is stunning and capable beyond description; Giancarlo Gianini who, for the first time since 2001's Hannibal, makes you grin and grimace nearly simultaneously; Judy Dench, who is second only to Kevin Spacey in Se7en in her ability to transform from icy to warm in less time than it takes you to blink. Then there's the new guy, playing our old favorite, in an old story where we see him again for the first time, which makes him the new guy. My head hurts. Regardless, Daniel Craig is excellent in his performance as Bond. He displays virtually every quality flawlessly, which is equally true of Green. Green and Craig are an excellent pair, both playing strong and confident, then injured and vulnerable, in a combined performance that makes you wonder, what the hell are they up to?

Even the supporting roles are well done. The villains are worthy opponents: Sebastien Foucan (whose short-lived performance is spectacular), Malcolm Sinclair, Isaach De Bankolé, Mads Mikkelsen and Jesper Christensen. A bomb-maker, a traitor, and a candlestick maker. Just kidding. Also a terrorist and two bankers (one to the stars, one to the underworld). With a gorgeous accountant, all that's missing is a lawyer. I kept wondering why Mads Mikkelsen's character was such a weakling. A scar-eyed asthmatic with an awful, absolutely hideous hairstyle, whose only saving grace is card counting. When he gets out of the Land Rover in Mbale, he looks like he's just been gang-banged in a prison shower, not remotely like a tough guy. How could this ball-scratching-loser be James Bond's Great Adversary?! He isn't. He's Jesper Christensen/Mr. White's biatch. I know you're as relieved as I was. White is our enemy in the shadows. The sinister, behind the scenes, underlying dirt bag. But villains shmillans, forget not Caterina Murino--be still, my beating heart.

And to top off all that, a young Felix Leiter, played by Jeffrey Wright. The cast is complete.

Locations and performers alone do not make a good Bond flick. And since this is a great Bond flick, and a remake at that, there must be some decent wheels in this one. Now, in all honesty, the disappointing but inevitable trend of corporate sponsorship has continued with what are, at best, meager results. With a couple of mediocre sponsors like Ford and Sony, the hollywood sponsor-whoring has gone too far. The saving grace is not one, but two Aston Martins. In a nod to Bond films of years past, (most notably Goldfinger, when they first appeared), there's a gorgeous 1965 Aston Martin DB5 that Bond wins in, what else, a Poker match. Then there's the new, stylish, embarrassingly sexy and, well, you get the idea, Aston Martin DBS. I need a cold shower.

Explosions. Did I forget the explosions? Well, we nearly (nearly) blow up a prototype super-jumbo jet which is an obvious nod to the forthcoming Airbus A380. And Bond obliterates the (new) Aston Martin in a breathtaking and (for me, at least), heartbreaking fashion. Had he damaged the 1965, this film's only fitting genre would have been as a tragedy.

Toys: here's another aspect of the film that they got exactly right: Virtually no unbelievable toys. No Q, no gadgets, no bullshit. It's an early Bond, when he first earns his double-oh, license-to-kill-status. The film's only obvious techno shenanigans are one bad guy's micro detonator controlled by his mobile, and the sub-dermal implant locators. The bulk of the work is done with a suppressed P99 and text messaging. A speakerphone and an automatic external defibrillator in that (damn sexy) DBS are as far as the gadgetry gets. Bond has been stripped down to his bare essentials for this film. In one scene, quite literally. Which brings me to

The Torture Scene. It's painful to watch. It's brilliantly done. Craig is so good, so charming, even at this excruciating moment, he'll make you laugh, if somewhat awkwardly. Some people chuckle, some wince. He's excellent.

A fabulous opening scene, in Prague, in black & white. (The first few minutes of the film are entirely B&W, even the studio splashes are B&W). Nicely done.

And a spectacular mission-preceding-a-mission. One of the coolest foot chase scenes since District B-13, (thanks to Czarina for recommending that one). The chase sequence is breathtaking and must be seen, no description would do it justice.

In short, this is the finest Bond film to date. Without many gadgets. No nude silhouettes in the title sequence. No invisible cars, or rockets behind the headlights. Back to basics. Love. Poison. Betrayal...

All very James Bond. Casino Royale is spectacular.

This film isn't worth seeing just once. It must be experienced several times just to begin to absorb all of its qualities. For once, the studio hype machines have it right: James Bond is back, and better than ever.

Drop everything and go see it today.

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