Eye For Film >> Movies >> Casino Royale (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Chris
Spy movies owe a lot to James Bond. If not their inventor, he helped make the genre what it is today. So does Casino Royale, adapted from the first of the original novels, breathe new life into spy movies or just give us more of the same?
Before the opening credits we see a new approach with a gritty, realistic fist fight shot entirely in black and white. Then cut to rain-sodden Uganda where some Large Amounts of Money are changing hands. Cut again to colourful Madagascar where Bond gets involved in a chase while locals bet on a snake-and-raccoon fight. A myriad of visual contrasts, a dizzying pace and stunts that look as though they hurt. It all holds much promise even before the plot enters to make sense of it all.
The big change, of course, is the new Bond. Not only a new actor (Daniel Craig) but a whole new style. Gone is the debonair, slightly camp 007. Welcome bruised and bashed, a man's man, an intelligent fighting machine. Love interest Vesper later calls him a "former SAS type". This is the Bond before qualifying to 00 status, more Marine than manicure.
The original book was set in the Cold War era. Predictably, this has been updated to fighting a terrorist network and people who bankroll them. But the main story is in a way, Bond's coming-of-age - how he lets go of his ego and learns not to trust anyone, even the most trustworthy. He prefers women who are married - to keep things simple - but in the lovely Vesper (Eva Green) he meets his match. Not only seductively alluring, she carries as much clout as he does (holding the purse-strings for the Treasury) and challenges him as an intellectual equal. Vesper has no intention of becoming his 'disposable asset'.
Craig seems to do everything right. His personality seems close to the author's original concept, he has worked very hard to live up to the part, and his physique and sexual charisma exceed expectation. Likewise, Eva Green is a great improvement on the barbie-doll types usually inhabiting Bond movies. But they both suffer from a singular flaw: neither exude, for me, any memorable star appeal. While Connery, and to an extent Moore and Brosnan, lit up a stage and became the face you couldn't forget, Craig simply looks like an above-average crime actor. Green works the part and has some reputable lip-trembles, but most of the classic lines abounding in the script are simply recited. Mads Mikkelsen, as the evil Le Chiffre, has the most unforgettable features, yet even he does not achieve the power of, say, Philip Seymour Hoffman in the not dissimilar Mission Impossible III.
The film is still worth seeing for fans or for anyone wanting standard entertainment of this kind. The plot is better than average and fairly faithful to the book. Judi Dench is convincing as M (a character she has played many times). We get to see the new Aston Martin DBS (in a special colour, Casino Ice, not available until 2007) alongside the Bond favourite Aston Martin DB5. Ivana Milicevic, who plays Le Chiffre's girlfriend, has stunning outfits by Versace and Roberto Cavalli; and there's an admirable attention to real stunts over CGI.
But in terms of fresh life, Casino Royale is a safe $100M investment rather than anything radically new. In a scene near the end, Bond is giving artificial resuscitation - not very well, apparently, as the drowning victim's chest doesn't move. The producers seem similarly not to have taken any chances on the well-preserved body of Bond stories other than adding superficial improvements.
Bond is largely a fantasy character, but this attempt at 'realism' made me wonder, does anyone in 2006 really believe the Secret Service are that efficient any more?? After losing at cards, Bond orders a Vodka Martini. "Shaken or stirred?" the bartender asks. Bond replies, "Do I look like a give a damn?" Likewise, a shot of Bond at the box office is usually a pleasant experience, but this film left me past worrying whether it was shaken, stirred or simply made earlier.Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2006