Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released in the UK on November 16, 2006 and in the US on November 17, 2006
Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Caterina Murino, Jesper Christensen, Isaach De Bankolé, Diane Hartford, Tsai Chin
When I’d first heard that the Bond series was ‘going back to its beginnings’, I assumed that not only would the story be based on the first Ian Fleming novel, but the time frame of the film would be set during that same period as well: the Cold War era of the 1950s and early 1960s. Well, I was wrong on the latter count, that’s for sure. The opening sequence had me fooled with its black-and-white photography and apparent lack of modern amenities, but soon I realized this was a Bond for the new age, ushering in a high-tech, hyper-aggressive period of the franchise, with Daniel Craig making his debut as a brutal and vindictive James Bond.
Here, the film stuck fairly close to the Fleming story, save for some necessary updates; after Bond earns his double-0 ‘license to kill’, he foils the plans of terrorist financier Le Chiffre, and soon they meet again in Montenegro at the Casino Royale, involved in a high-stakes poker tournament where Le Chiffre hopes to win back the terrorist money he’d lost, and where Bond plans to deny him that opportunity. Along the way, Bond joins forces with Vesper Lynd, a British treasury agent he falls for, and René Mathis, an MI6 contact.
Craig definitely exuded cool in the role, and admirably handled the action scenes required of him, but I’m not sure if his looks, expressions, or attitude qualified as what long-time fans would consider acceptable Bond attributes. The same goes for the screenplay; though I was more than happy to see the rampant silliness gone, there was now a sense of humor that was lacking, and the story was laced with characters who were cold, impersonal, and just a bit too sour to be appreciated. On the other hand, director Martin Campbell brought a nice look and tone to the film, along with set pieces both big and small, and images of rain-slicked streets at every turn.
Now, after three viewings, the film and Craig have both grown on me, but Judi Dench’s M is still a travesty of Bernard Lee’s classic, spot-on portrayal, and Jeffrey Wright’s take on Felix Leiter was an uncomfortable fit. Admittedly, the final scene was a beaut, and I loved that it directly connected to the next film in the series, Quantum of Solace, but beyond that, this was just a satisfactory entry in the Bond canon, and for me a slight disappointment as a reboot to the franchise. (7/10)