Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Casino Royale

Casino RoyaleCinema Monolith: 6/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!Film Reel
IMDb: 8.0/10
The Arizona Republic: **** out of 5

Released in the UK on November 16, 2006 and in the US on November 17, 2006
Rated PG-13
144 minutes

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 passable entry in the Bond canon, and for me a slight disappointment as a reboot to the franchise.  (6/10)

Casino Royale

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10 comments on “Casino Royale

  1. I’ve heard a lot about some of the Craig films, particularly this one and Skyfall and I may get around to watching them at some point or another. I’m not going to go through your other Bond reviews for personal reasons you should know very well if you’ve been through my blog, but I trust that Craig’s Bond films do get a bit better about… certain issues than Sean Connery’s movies, right?

    • Todd Benefiel
      7/4/14

      Well John, to give you a little ‘preview of coming reviews’, I did not like Quantum of Solace at all, but thoroughly loved Skyfall, and consider it one of the best of the entire canon. So if you don’t mind going out of sequence, and want to try only one, go with Skyfall.

      And about the ‘certain issues’: in that regard, the Craig films are not as ‘overt’ as the Connery films, so I’d say yes, the Craig films do better in toning it down a bit. And though I understand your views on the subject, I will say that the Connery Bonds are still my favorites.

      • And for that reason it’s probably best I avoid those reviews because otherwise I will likely experience an overwhelming urge to post angry comments talking about the sexism of the Bond franchise and inevitably starting a fight that I really don’t need to get involved with. (It’s the same reason I asked for no Bond films in my 1964 Blogathon).

        Some of the Craig films, however, I might be open to seeing if I get the chance. I know Pierce Brosnan was starting to get better about those issues so I’d imagine Craig tones it down even more (although I’d totally be willing to start watching it more often if someone actually cast a woman as James Bond). In that case I suppose there’s no harm in at least trying it. After all if I don’t like what I see I don’t have to watch it to the end.

        I also presume that this version of Casino Royale makes a lot more sense than the infamous 1967 spoof version. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that but it was a really confusing movie that had a great cast but there were five different writers who wrote separate parts which ended up creating an extremely disjointed and incoherent narrative which left me spending too much time trying to make sense of something to actually find it funny. I think it opened with David Niven as the “real” Bond casually driving past a bunch of lions in the English countryside and there was an assassination (and by “assassination” I mean the guy’s hat was shot off his head but he was otherwise unharmed) and ended with a mind-boggling climax in which a ton of random groups of characters come out of nowhere to help out and Woody Allen is tricked into taking a nuclear explosion pill that explodes killing everybody in the casino. This one actually has a story that actually has some sort of coherence, right?

      • Todd Benefiel
        7/5/14

        Definitely, the new Casino Royale is a film with an actual story, and is not merely a collection of comedic moments and skits; I’ve never seen the Casino Royale spoof, but I’ve read about it, and it sounds like a real mess, so trust me, I’ll be steering clear of that one.

        And yeah, if you give a Craig Bond a try, and things go south for you, by all means hit that ‘stop’ button! I did the same thing with Crank a few years ago!

  2. Stu
    7/8/14

    I really enjoyed this one, Todd, although I suspect that’s partly because of what came before; I quite liked Pierce Brosnan’s Bond but Die Another Day is hands down the worst Bond film ever released! This seemed like Citizen Kane in comparison.

    So far I’ve been impressed with Daniel Craig’s Bond and the ‘tougher’ more authentic Fleming hero has worked out well. Still, I’d trade it all in any day for a redneck sheriff, a safari suit, a series of quips, a raised eyebrow, a slow-moving laser beam and a femme fatale by the name of Beaver Rodriguez.

    • Todd Benefiel
      7/8/14

      Trust me, I wasn’t a fan of Die Another Day either, so Casino Royale was definitely a breath of fresh air for me. And for most-despised Bond, I think I’ll go with A View to a Kill; I dread having to watch that again for a review.

      Beaver Rodriguez! Coincidentally, she was in my favorite scene from that Bond knock-off I bought in Amsterdam…

  3. Stu
    7/8/14

    I look forward to the review of that one soon (and would be interested to know Leonard Maltin’s score…)

    • Todd Benefiel
      7/8/14

      I forgot where I hid the damn thing, so it may be a while before a review gets posted. And I believe Leonard gave it 17 stars.

  4. Well, I guess you’ll be pleased to know I finally saw Casino Royale and yes, it did in fact make a lot more sense than the 1967 version. I still stand by everything I’ve said about Connery’s Bond but Craig might not be so bad after all.

    http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/2014/07/craigs-bond-is-okay.html

    • Todd Benefiel
      7/30/14

      Cool John, glad you liked it. I keep yapping about Skyfall, but I really think it’s worth a look, and if you liked Craig’s Bond in Casino Royale, I think he’s even better in Skyfall. And thanks for the link…I’ll check it out this afternoon!

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