Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Casino Royale

Going back to the beginning has become a popular way to go in recent years. For some franchises it has been an incredible creative shot in the arm ("Smallville," "Batman Begins"). For others (the "Star Wars" prequels) it's made us wish they'd just left well enough alone. For James Bond, the most iconic figure in motion picture history, starting over from the beginning was the right way to go.
"Casino Royale" has been called a re-make. It's not. The 1967 film of the same name (LOOSELY based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel) was a spy spoof that not even a stellar cast (Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Orson Welles) could raise above the level of mediocrity. It's been called a prequel. Again, no. This film is set in the present. The most accurate description I've heard to describe "Casino Royale" is from the Imdb poster who called it a "reboot."
The most commonly asked question with every new Bond is, does he stack up to Connery? The inherent problem with this question is that if you're asking it the answer is invariably going to be no. For some, there is only one Bond, and his name is Sean Connery. I agree with the consensus that Connery was the best, but Pierce Brosnan did a great job with the character as well. ("Die Another Day" was not his fault.)
Now we have Daniel Craig ("Road to Perdition," "Munich"), and he is spectacular. Granted, since I'm not a Bond obsessive (they've basically made a variation on the same movie 20 times) I was much more open minded to his being cast than many were. But only the most determined cynic will be unimpressed with his work here. His Bond is inexperienced, and while he is brash and arrogant, he is still unsure of himself. He's still earning his swagger. He makes mistakes, he gets his hands dirty, and he bleeds. He's human. This is a great look into the character of Bond because we're still seeing the moulding process. We know who he's going to become, but he's still figuring it out. I have a hard time imagining any of the previous Bond actors pulling this off, even Connery. Connery was an icon from frame one. Craig is showing us the icon in the making which, at least to me, is far more interesting, and probably a greater acting challenge.
The main Bond girl in this film, Vesper Lynd ("Kingdom of Heaven's" Eva Green), has a personality and a name that actually sounds real. Not showing up until an hour into the movie, she accomplishes what no one has done since Diana Rigg in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (very underrated movie)- she makes James Bond fall in love. She poses a challenge for him, something that we're not used to with Bond. The banter between the characters is well written and well executed. In most movies it would go without saying that this goes a long way towards making us buy into their relationship and becoming invested in it, but for a Bond movie it's worth mentioning.
Directed by Martin Campbell ("GoldenEye") and co-written by Paul Haggis (a busy man), "Casino Royale" is a great Bond film because it doesn't follow the Bond formula. We can't figure out exactly what scene is going to be next from following the James Bond Story Map. The puns and double entendres are virtually non-existent. I loved Desmond Llewellyn's Q in the previous films, but I did not miss the goofy sci-fi gadgets this time around. This is about as close to realistic as you can get with James Bond.
Campbell is in top form here, creating electric action sequences, balanced with intriguing character development. It's 2 hours and 24 minutes yet never drags. Sure it could be shorter, but unlike many poorly paced event films in recent years, it doesn't NEED to be. There are also some great in-jokes (apparently Bond could go either way on the shaken or stirred issue) and we are introduced to the new Felix Leiter ("Syriana's" Jeffrey Wright) during the poker game. I look forward to seeing more of him in the next installment.
Some critics have stated that they felt that the game takes too long and slows the movie down. Of course the poker game is going to take up a lot of screen time, the movie's called "Casino Royale" for a reason!
This movie is an absolute blast and is satisfying on virtually every level. Bond is back and it's comforting to have him around in this modern world. 9/10

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