Anthony's Film Review
Casino Royale (2006)
Casino Royale takes the Bond formula, reinvents it, and gives us a thrilling addition to the series...
The 21st James Bond movie breaks away from several Bond traditions. It does not start with the famous gun-barrel sequence. Instead, it goes right into a black-and-white prologue depicting the two kills James Bond makes in order to earn his 00 status. When you finally see the gun-barrel sequence after this scene, all you see is Bond turning 180 degrees and firing his gun, following by the curtain of blood. No trailing circle or Bond taking a few steps before the shot. It's actually a very nice twist, because it cleverly links the opening scene and opening credits. You'll see what I mean when you watch it.
It also does not feature the well-known supporting characters of Q and Miss Moneypenny. That is because they are likable but not essential. You will also not see too many gadgets or humorous double-entendres, even though the dialogue still has some wit. Bond does drive a car here, and it is an Aston Martin, but don't expect any weapons firing from it. Even the way James Bond has always liked his vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) is out of the picture. It's not essential. If these elements are important to you in a Bond film, watch any of the previous twenty Bond films.
The bottom line is that the filmmakers have made a wise choice in making Casino Royale a realistic spy thriller, a pattern often seen when the last Bond film has over-the-top action and/or steps into science-fiction territory (e.g., You Only Live Twice and Moonraker). The one who really makes this happen is Daniel Craig as James Bond. He plays an agent who is tough, ruthless, and vulnerable. Sure, that may describe Sean Connery, but note the last adjective. When was the last time you've seen James Bond with so many cuts and bruises or experience real pain? 007 may be a super spy, but he's not a superhero. He's also human enough to fall in love, something not seen since 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
While we're on the topic of Daniel Craig, let me address the criticisms of this actor. I don't care if he's blond. I don't care if he seems too much like the character of Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon in a Robert Ludlum-based cinematic trilogy. That's because I'm not comparing Daniel Craig to the previous five Bond actors or to non-Bond spy films. What I am comparing him to is the character of James Bond as Ian Fleming envisioned when he published the novel Casino Royale in 1953. Daneil Craig comes very close to the ruthless Bond in the novels. One obvious sign of this is that 007 in the novels has a scar down his right cheek, which you'll see plenty of times on Craig's face following some brutal action sequences.
Let's not forget that this is a James Bond movie and parts of the old Bond formula still applies. Casino Royale has a plot, which involves a banker named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who forwards funds from high-stakes gambling establishments to international terrorist groups. Bond's mission involves attempting to win at Texas Hold 'Em poker in order to stop Le Chiffre's activities. The Bond girl here is Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), an accountant who assists Bond with this high-stakes game. The opening credits sequence is pretty cool with it's playing-card motif, and the song "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell is quite good. Most importantly, the action does not disappoint. Even though the action is mostly concentrated in three or four long scenes, it's pretty exciting to watch.
The best part of all is how much the movie ties to the present. The James Bond films are fantasy action films, but they have always reflected the times they were filmed in. If you watch the series staring with Dr. No in 1962, you will see all sorts of allusions, like the Cold War, changing attitudes towards women, sci-fi movies like Star Wars (i.e. Moonraker), and the war on drugs (i.e. Licence to Kill). Casino Royale is best described as the first post-9/11 Bond film. It is best illustrated by an action sequence at an airport, which is quite suspenseful because something like that could possibly happen in real life.
Lastly, I would like to clarify some continuity issues. It is true that this movie is the 21st Bond movie and still put out by the production company founded by Albert Broccoli. At the same time, Bond's mission in Casino Royale is clearly his first mission after being promoted to a 00 agent. Yes, James Bond has taken the same approach as Batman, with a reboot of the series. From this point on, the James Bond films exist in two timelines - 1962-2002 and 2006 onward - but we're still allowed to count the film number starting from the first film in 1962.
After a four-year hiatus since 2002's Die Another Day, the wait has been worth it. Casino Royale delivers what Bond fans expect with enough originality to freshen the Bond formula. At first, I wasn't sure if Daniel Craig was the right choice for Bond or whether I would be OK with the break in continuity. I wasn't too excited about seeing the movie until I heard the reviews. Now I take it back. This is one of the best James Bond films, and Daniel Craig has already delivered a powerful performance on his first outing. I'm especially happy that the James Bond series can survive this long and really propel itself into the 21st century.
For more information about Casino Royale, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following:
Official James Bond Films
Unofficial James Bond Films