Casino Royale (2006)

As the new Bond movie just got released, and the suspicion is that it may be Daniel Craig's last, I went back to watch the first where he was cast as the leading man. I had really liked the Pierce Brosnan incarnation of Bond, but it got really, really gadget-heavy by the end, and that took it to a place well beyond its more realistic (although still fantastical) roots. The Brosnan Bond had become its own parody, and that was what made it lose its luster. It's important to recognize that this is where Bond had left off.

This new Bond would be very thin on gadgets. For the entire movie, we don't even see "Q" (the usual Bond quartermaster and developer of various technical wizardry). Instead, we get a couple little trackers that are smaller than a pill and a car with an emergency kit in the glove box. As a result, we are treated to physical stunts that have had a resurgence since Statham and Tony Jaa came onto the screen.

The movie shares a title and some plot points with the 1967 Bond film. Thw two will inevitably be compared and contrasted elsewhere, but they are such different films with such different scripts that it seems ridiculous to compare them. David Niven played a VERY different Bond, and comparing the two would be like comparing Tom Baker's Dr. Who to Peter Capaldi's - they are just so different that trying to compare them detracts from both.

I'm not sure why it is that Bond villains need to have some kind of deformity. Originally, it was likely a physical reflection of the severe flaws in their personalities and moral compasses, but I think we've gone past that kind of in-your-face, beat-you-over-the-head metaphor. Nevertheless, Mads Mikkelsen plays the lead bad guy who has a scar across his left eye, and he bleed tears when he gets frustrated or when the story calls for it.

We need to have a Bond Girl, and Eva Green fills the role nicely. She is very well shot in this movie, and it accentuates her strong physical characteristics. I say this specifically because she has a hard time looking pretty when she smiles with her teeth - it's very odd. She fills her role very well, however. They give her the role of a relatively strong woman, used to using her femininity to get what she wants, but she's also "smart" in that she has access to the bank account and works for the Treasury department.

Judi Dench, who I still can't get over what a fantastic job she did in Philomena, is the actual strong female role in this movie as M, Daniel's boss and ruler of all things spy. She commands the screen when she's on it, and that makes it hard for Daniel to steal those particular scenes. The fact is, that's the way they are designed, and they work perfectly. Giancarlo Giannini saunters in as the local contact, and we then get a whole host of other periphery characters once we get to the actual high-stakes card game at the casino.

The movie is about intrigue and action, and that is where this new Bond runs wild. The action is fast and gritty. The stunts are very physical, and everything has a kind of weight to it that was definitely lacking in the previous few films. The problem is that a lot of the time the editing is being done to mask the action rather than help tell the action's story. So many quick cuts at strange angles give the impression that something is happening, but the audience doesn't actually know what it is.

Acting was very good
Action was very good
Effects were very good
Story was good
Dialog was very good

Bottom Line: A whole new Bond breathing life into the franchise at the right time.



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