Sunday, May 18, 2014

Casino Royale (2006)

After Die Another Day, it was time for the James Bond series to get a bit of an overhaul.  Feeling a bit tired after twenty movies that more or less followed the same path, it was decided to opt for a new actor and a new (sort of) way of doing business.  Pierce Brosnan was out and in was Daniel Craig.  With director Martin Campbell and a fresh take on things, the 21st James Bond film took some bold chances and ended up rejuvenating the series to an amazing degree.  We've got great acting, great action and a great story.  Let's take a closer look.
  • Love the black and white pre-credit scene.  I've actually tried watching some of the early Connery entries by turning the color down and I have to say that it makes Dr. No even better.
  • Daniel Craig makes a splendid Bond and his first scene shows just why.  Tough and utterly lethal, Craig still gives the man enough of a sense of humor to sell it to the casual crowd.
  • The brief bits of the fight we see between Bond and a henchman are quite good.  Martin Campbell directs them with a wonderful sense of clarity and focus.
  • Nice touch with the gunbarrel logo being used to segue into the opening titles.
  • The supporting cast is quite excellent here with Eva Green doing good work as the treacherous and tragic Vesper (since this, she's become sort of a go-to for female villains); Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre makes for a nicely creepy bad guy, though he is helped by the wonderfully bizarre touch of him having a condition that causes him to weep blood.  It's not hard to see why he's the new Hannibal Lecter.
  • Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright bare also fun as Bond';s allies, Mathis and Felix Leiter respectively.
  • The foot chase in Madagascar is the action highlight of the movie.  While free-running has become something of a cliche, its use here makes for an awesomely dynamic action scene as the difference between Bond and his prey makes it even better.  While the bad guy is smooth and athletic in his style, Bond just slams through like a freight train.  My favorite bit has Bond smashing through a wall like The Incredible Hulk.
  • The shot of the two men fighting on the crane while David Arnold's score blasts and the camera swoops around them is just fantastic.  This sort of thing is why we go to the movies.
  • The first hour or so of the movie, and really the entire script, is brilliantly set up as we get a solid setup for the plot before getting to the stuff from the actual Fleming novel.  This works to the film's advantage as realistically, if you put in everything from the book you get about an hour and thirty minutes or so of screen time.
  • Bond in the Bahamas is great stuff as Craig gets a chance to really settle into the part and win over the audience.  He's funny, charming and more than a little ruthless as he tracks a lead he got during the foot chase and foils a plane bombing in Miami that ends up putting Le Chiffre in a bad spot.  I also dig how the poker element is set up throughout.
  • The film works great as a way to subtly reboot the franchise.  Bond in this film has only recently gotten his 00 status and is still working into the part, so to speak.  This makes his relationship with Judi Dench's M a little more interesting and it pays off quite nicely six years later in Skyfall.
  • Really, if you look at it from a certain angle, every change in actor has been sort of a reboot;.  Connery/Lazenby start it off with relatively serious spy thrillers that have a healthy sense of humor.  Moore comes in and there is much more humor with a little camp thrown in.  Dalton and Brosnan are more serious and introspective to a certain extent with the action and spectacle getting ramped up a little more.  Die Another Day can been seen as a culmination of all these elements, a possible explanation for why it seems like such a damn mess at times.
  • The film really settles into a groove once the material from the novel kicks in.  Bond's first scene with Vesper is a deliciously written scene with both performers playing off each other nicely.  The film does a very smart thing here, letting the characters gradually fall for each other as opposed to it coming about because there's only thirty minutes left in the film and we can't have Bond screwing a woman at the end of the film he doesn't care about.
  • The poker scenes are nothing short of hypnotic.  Even if you know nothing about the game, the scenes are shot so well and the editing is so crisp, you find yourself drawn in.  Bond playing mind games with Le Chiffre is also fun, as it tends to be in the franchise.  Bond playing mind games with the villain is even more satisfying than the inevitable part where the villain gets killed when done well.
  • The hardest part of the novel to do is the torture scene after Bond cleans out Le Chiffre.  The scene is given a sparse, dark look as Bond is tied naked to a chair while the villain smashes his balls with a bit of knotted rope.  The brilliant thing the film does is turn a rather horrific scene into something quite funny as Bond turns into the ultimate wiseass, essentially laughing off his predicament while pointing out that if Le Chiffre gets info from Bond kills Bond he will die at his employer's hands knowing he was scratching another man's balls when it happened.  It's a bravura bit of acting from Craig and quite effective.
  • The film sort of settles into an easy pace while Bond recovers, resumes his love affair with Vesper and resigns from the service.  This makes her eventual betrayal and the ensuing action scene and suicide by our female lead more tragic.  It's a smart bit of filmmaking.
  • The last scene has Bond tracking down the man who killed Le Chiffre and delivering his intro line as the credits roll.  It's a nice setup for the next movie and a great way to end this one.
Casino Royale was a great breath of fresh air for the series.  Daniel Craig makes a great Bond; the action, cast, everything works like clockwork.  Truly a great flick.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.