Casino Royale


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Casino Royale
"Forget charm school veneer; forget gentlemen's club small talk. This man is not messing."

The Bond marketing machine has always been vaboom, so much so that it is easy to forget how good the films are - good at what they do, not "And the winner is…"

A fresh James introduces renewed excitement. Will he, won't he? Is he, isn't he? Pierce Brosnan evolved into the best incarnation of Ian Fleming's creation, better than Sean Connery, because he maintained the understated debonair charm of an ex-public schoolboy perfectly, while remaining focused on the job. Connery was better in bed, but Brosnan could read social shorthand blindfolded, although in GoldenEye, his debut as 007, he came across as dull and stiff.

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The director of GoldenEye, New Zealander Martin Campbell, directs Casino Royale, which introduces Daniel Craig. Not only is James a different person in more ways than one, but many of the well-loved traditions have been ditched. There is no Miss Moneypenny, no Q, no catch phrases, few explosions and only one-and-a-bit girls.

The opening credits are so camp and Sixties, you begin to have doubts, followed by the song, which is awful. As expectation switches to life support, Bond (Craig) is on screen, murdering a man in a public toilet and then shooting a colleague between the eyes. Wow! Roger Moore wouldn't have done that.

Casino Royale was Fleming's first novel, which, for contractual reasons, had been out of bounds for decades, although a spoofy dud was made in 1967 (not by The Broccoli Bunch), with David Niven as a geriatric James, Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd and Orson Welles as Le Chiffre. It had five directors, including John Huston, and eight writers, including Wolf Mankowitz, Billy Wilder and Joseph Heller. Few will admit having seen it.

The 21st century version remains surprising loyal to the original storyline, which concerns a MI6 agent being sent to a posh gambling palace in an out-of-the-way beauty spot (Montenegro) to play high stakes poker with an international money launderer (a chilling Mads Mikkelsen) and clean him out. Chaperoning the agent, whose penchant for martinis almost kills him, is the elegant Miss Lynd (Eva Green) from Her Majesty's Treasury office to keep an eye on Bond's bankroll, courtesy of British taxpayers.

If that is all it is, you would not be queuing round the block. The stunts are spectacular and the action almost never stops. Excluding the rumpy, when James and Vesper finally get it on, the scenes at the casino are the only times when the pace eases off. Card games, like writing novels, are not visually memorable. There is only so much you can do with a black tie and a sweaty palm.

Chronologically there is something seriously wrong here. James gains his double zero licence-to-kill status at the beginning of the movie, which means that this is the dawning of a dangerously attractive career, and, therefore, predates Dr No, and yet Judi Dench is M, the Cold War has melted, terrorism is the new SMERSH and Bond uses mobile phones, laptops and electronic gismos, not even thought of when Fleming was tapping away on his portable typewriter in the Bahamas.

Putting that aside for the purists to fight over, Casino Royale (2006) changes everything. The elements of pastiche, with pop up one-liners and luscious lips lingering in the memory, have been replaced by a well written script - Paul (Crash) Haggis did the final polish - and a hero who belongs in Jason Bourne's world rather than George Smiley's. The formulaic hooks that held the franchise together, with their nudge-nudgeries and polished sense of humour, are noticeable by their absence. Whoever agreed to a 12A certificate should put their eyes back in. The new Bond, the Craig Bond, is a killer. Forget charm school veneer; forget gentlemen's club small talk. This man is not messing.

Is Daniel James? That is the question. And the answer is probably no. Craig's performance is electrifying, so much tougher than you would ever suspect, but then he's the best actor to take on the role. He's in the Connery mould, in the sense that there is no pretence at upper class self-effacement. His pick up lines are smart, without being smug, and Bond's trademark arrogance, when it comes to women, has been replaced by… sensitivity?

WARNING: Craig takes his kit off too much. He may look hunk central in swimming trunks, but even Halle Berry didn't strip to the basics as often in Die Another Day. Is this pandering to the prurient? Or feeding the frenzy?

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2006
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Casino Royale packshot
James Bond earns his double zero status and relaxes at the poker table with a mass murderer.
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Read more Casino Royale reviews:

Stephen Carty *****
Chris ***

Director: Martin Campbell

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis, based on the novel by Iam Fleming

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankole, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic

Year: 2006

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US/UK/Czech Republic


CFF 2007

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