Film Review: Casino Royale

Not really a reboot of the James Bond franchise, but an entirely continuity-defying telling of Bond’s first adventure as a 00 agent. Guns, girls, cars and plenty of very expensive beverages await you…

Principal Cast and Crew

Daniel Craig as James Bond
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre
Judi Dench as M
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis

Directed by Martin Campbell

Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Full details available at IMDB

Synopsis

James Bond, newly promoted to 00 status, is assigned to discover the funding behind a terrorist network.

The Scores

Originality: I have not read the original Casino Royale novel, but this film is an adaptation of it, and so it’s not a new story. It’s not a hugely innovative story either — the plot twists, while at least occasionally unexpected, are not things which have not been done before. This doesn’t mean you spend the whole film thinking it’s just a retread of old material though. Three out of six.

Effects: It’s a Bond film, which means big money — a reported seventy-two million pounds (that’s British pounds — about $130 million US dollars) went into the making of this film. Big money means big effects, and they don’t disappoint. Explosions, gunfire, explosions, more gunfire… all excellent. I cannot, however, give the effects a perfect score due to some rather implausible choices of effects for the collapsing building in the later part of the film. Five out of six.

Story: I watched the film, and I enjoyed it, but I’m still not entirely sure why certain things happened. There are things going on to keep you interested, but not always enough information about why events take particular courses — and why didn’t anybody mention the rather inept agent from beginning again? Four out of six.

Emotional Response: One doesn’t expect a strong emotional response from an action film, and most of the time Casino Royale consistently fails to deliver one. That said, there are a few points where the film does start tugging on the heartstrings, and it’s hard to ignore the wow factor of the ever-larger Bond film showpiece action sequences — but it’s also hard to really, truly care. Four out of six.

Acting: There was a lot of criticism from some quarters for the choice of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, but I think the choice has paid off well. Craig’s Bond is a brutal killer underneath a slick dinner jacket, and he slips in and out of every aspect of Bond’s personality with consummate ease. To borrow a thought from the BBC review of this film, Daniel Craig is an actor, and a very good one. As for the rest of the cast, Judi Dench delivers superbly as M once more, although she finds herself in a rather different situation to previous films. Her first scene is particularly good. We must of course also consider the Bond girl and the villain, without which it would hardly be a Bond film. Eva Green turns in an excellent performance as Vesper Lynd, even if it did involve slightly too much eyeliner. On the villainous side, Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre comes across as rich, vicious and definitely not sane — just what the role needed. Five out of six.

Production: Bond films are expected to feature exotic locales, gorgeous scenery, luxurious hotel rooms and for this film the titular casino. I went in recalling the casino scenes from GoldenEye, which oozed obscenely rich sophistication. The casino in this film has a different attitude, busier and noisier, with the luxurious quiet of the private salon where much of the action takes place, but it can’t be faulted, and as usual we’re given a good dose of escapism with numerous five-star hotels, vast quantities of champagne and complicated cocktails made to Bond’s exacting requirements. What stands out most in production terms is the opening sequence, which is in black and white with gorgeous lighting and some very interesting choices of camera angle — and the early chase through a building site, featuring copious and gratuitious free-running. Sound and music are superb, with a soundtrack that manages to sound like a Bond film without making very much use of the classic themes, a deliberate choice to reflect that this is the making of the Bond we know; the familiar music gradually insinuates itself into the soundtrack as the film progresses, culminating with the famous 007 theme as the credits roll. Glorious stuff. Six out of six.

Overall: As an overall grade I award five points out of a possible six. This film is good, but it does have flaws which one has to look past. Don’t go in expecting Battlestar Galactica-style plotting, because you’ll be disappointed. Go in for some entertainment, escapism and wonderfully implausible action and you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.

In total, Casino Royale receives thirty-two out of forty-two. I’m not going to weigh in on whether or not it’s the best Bond film ever, or if Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever, as whatever I say, most of the rest of the world is bound to voice its disapproval extremely loudly. I don’t think many people are going to leave the cinema disappointed thought, no matter who their favourite Bond is.

12 replies on “Film Review: Casino Royale”

  1. Jethro says:

    I enjoyed it.
    Well, here’s my theory here.

    Bond looks different every few years. The logical conclusion here is, duh, it’s a different person getting promoted to 007 and getting the name "James Bond" to go with it.

    Prior to this movie, my theory was that MI6 has some super secret Spy Rejuvination Technique which involves some X-Treme plastic surgery. And, uh. Making the guy a different height.

    I think either of those make about as much sense as anything else about the whole Bond thing (;

    But it was a fun movie except for all the boring poker stuff.

    • Eldhrin says:

      Re: I enjoyed it.

      Well, here’s my theory here.

      Bond looks different every few years. The logical conclusion here is, duh, it’s a different person getting promoted to 007 and getting the name "James Bond" to go with it.

      Prior to this movie, my theory was that MI6 has some super secret Spy Rejuvination Technique which involves some X-Treme plastic surgery. And, uh. Making the guy a different height.

      I think either of those make about as much sense as anything else about the whole Bond thing (;

      But it was a fun movie except for all the boring poker stuff.

      I liked the poker stuff – I don’t know more than a very basic and insufficient subset of the rules, but I did enjoy it. It was nice to see that Bond had to both outfight his enemies and outplay them, two completely different battlefields, with all sorts of obstacles to overcome.

      And I’d hate to see the plastic surgery that turned Sean Connery into Roger Moore…

      • Timeshredder says:

        Duh. James Bond is from Gallifrey

        When I heard that the studio thought of this as a "reboot," I wondered if they were also going to keep Bond in his original era. Obviously they didn’t, but I think this film sounds like an interesting take on the character.

        • Jethro says:

          Re: Duh. James Bond is from Gallifrey

          When I heard that the studio thought of this as a "reboot," I wondered if they were also going to keep Bond in his original era.

          Yeah, there’d be a lot less cellphones and laptops. And product placement.

          I like my "James Bond as a Title" theory. I never really thought of him as the same character. I mean, he looks different, he acts different in most ways… you’re right, he IS a lot like The Doctor.

          Fun movie. The first chase scene was great.

      • Jethro says:

        Re: I enjoyed it.

        And I’d hate to see the plastic surgery that turned Sean Connery into Roger Moore…

        *lol*

        Especially the Leg Shortening bit…

      • vanyel says:

        Re: I enjoyed it.
        I enjoy watching Celebrity Poker, which is a lot more entertaining, however when I’ve watched the real poker player shows, it’s a lot more like this one, though even they talk more. Yes, that means I thought it moved too slow too, though not *quite* enough to call it boring.

        While I know the rules to Texas Hold’em from watching these shows, and haven’t much of a clue to Baccarat, other than it seems to be sort of like Blackjack, it did seem odd that they made the switch. I could only assume they did it because holdem’s all the rage these days and thought the audience could relate better, but I always thought that it added to the character to be playing something more exotic. Maybe he advances to Baccarat as he matures as a 00?

        To me, Craig is the first Bond that "felt" like Sean Connery — the same rugged good looks (versus the more pretty boy good looks of the others) and general demeanor seemed more Connery-esque to me. Some will probably think that is a good thing, and I liked that quality too, but Roger Moore has always been my favorite Bond because of the humor he injected into it.

        Overall, while not the *best* Bond movie (I still like For Your Eyes Only the best of all), it *was* the best Bond movie in a lot of years… and that first chase scene was just mind blowing…

    • rickyjames says:

      Re: I enjoyed it.

      But it was a fun movie except for all the boring poker stuff.

      They did everything they could to make that poker game audience-friendly and entertaining short of having Phil Gordon himself do commentary and putting a plate of Oreos in front of the bad guy (a homage to the cult movie Rounders to you non-poker buffs…).

      For the record, back in the 20th Century JB’s game of choice was a form of the casino card game baccarat called chemin de fer:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baccarat#Baccarat_Chemin_de_Fer

  2. zonk3r says:

    i very much enjoyed it
    i only had two gripes though…

    one was that the pacing was a bit off and made the movie feel really long at times. the other thing is that the movie didn’t seem to have a definitive ending. it sort of felt like it was about to end several times (sort of like how return of the king felt).

    all in all, not the best bond movie but a damned good start to reviving the franchise. craig is an EXCELLENT choice and nailed the character. i had fun and look forward to having this on dvd (which is how i sort of rate movies, "is it worth owning on dvd?").

  3. rickyjames says:

    A Worthy Reboot
    Well, Bond is back. Craig did a great and legitimate job in HIS interpretation of 007, and his first kill was all of the "unworthy sissy actor" rumors. He’s defintely got the balls (and physique – that dude has spent some serious time in a gym) to play the part. More scrappy pit bull than urbane cultured gent, tho – which is a quite legitimate way to play the part, I guess. I personally still wish we’d gotten one more Brosnan flick, tho…

    Still, there’s something about this outing that bugs me that I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe. It’s like it stretches willing-suspension-of-disbelief just a liiiiiiiittle too far. A Bond flick by definition is over-the-top, but holy cow, some of this one felt like a hyperkinetic Bugs Bunny / Roadrunner cartoon complete with sledgehammers and dynamite sticks. The intial chase was a fracking MARATHON and nobody was even breathing hard. Bond’s face looks like a tiger mauled him in more than one scene and is back to picture-perfect normal the next hour or day. Oh, deal me out of this hand while I self-administer a trip to the ER. I understand that part of the reboot here is trying to capture the action flick audience, but Bond is a very special kind of action flick and I think they may have gone a little bit too far over the line.

    Most of all, Bond as EVA astronaut with Mission Control backing him up or spying on his web sufing is a subplot they’d do well to jettison in a hurry, along with M playing Dr. Phil and lecturing him about saving his soul. Bond is an expendable, self-sufficent loner, not a dog on a leash.

    Somehow there were holes of logic and continuity that were bigger than needed in this, too. I’m still trying to figure out the whole girl accountant angle – the ending implied she input the bad-guy account number into the Swiss banking computer before the poker game even started and when she was supposed to be just a straightlaced government employee. She did this of her own will? They were already holding something over her? I missed something there, along with a lot of other things…

    One thing’s for sure. When ***I*** win a $100 million poker tounament, I for sure ain’t leaving the room before transfering the money…

    • Nickvotrobeck says:

      Re: A Worthy Reboot

      I’m still trying to figure out the whole girl accountant angle – the ending implied she input the bad-guy account number into the Swiss banking computer before the poker game even started and when she was supposed to be just a straightlaced government employee. She did this of her own will? They were already holding something over her? I missed something there, along with a lot of other things…

      She didn’t input the account number for the winnings until the tournament director showed up at the villa where Bond was recovering and Bond told her the password.

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