Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Casino Royale: A Review

“Casino Royale is the best Bond movie ever!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this since the movie’s release. We finally got around to watching it over the last couple of evenings. It’s a good movie. It is, quite surprisingly, a relatively clean movie. The “best Bond” ever? I dunno.

I should admit my bias. For me, “Bond. James Bond. ” is a tall, dark and handsome man (Clive Owen!) with a glint in his eye representing both sardonic wit and a reflection off the steel blade he has hidden in his tuxedo inner pocket. He’s cool, aloof and unflappable. James Bond is a literary character in the fullest sense – he goes beyond the realm of real human beings. That's where Casino Royale threw me a curve - this Bond is all too human.

The opening scenes of the latest Bond caper, filmed in black and white, use lighting and camera angles which pay homage to the Sean Connery era of Bond films. It was a very nice touch. Also nicely done were the opening credits. Here the strolling Bond stopping to shoot a villain was replaced with playing card motifs striking down bad guys who shatter into cascades of colorful drops. Also missing is “Q” with his plethora of gadgets. No Moneypenny (although a clever bit of dialogue gives a tip of the hat to this character).

Gone are the light touch and comedic elements of the Moore and Brosnan movies. While I loved Pierce Brosnan as 007, his films had the sense of being almost a parody of the Bond legend.

In this latest incarnation, James has just received his “OO” status and he acknowledges to “M” that double O’s “have a short life expectancy. M chastises him for being a blunt instrument when finesse is required. As one reviewer put it, this Bond is “more raw and less refined than other [Bonds], as I guess you would expect for someone who's new to being a double O…”

Daniel Craig is a more masculine, edgy and even more intelligent Bond than previous incarnations (Sean Connery being the obvious exception). He is detached and unquestionably possesses the ability to put a bullet between someone’s eyes and return to his card game unfazed. He also is a Bond who actually bleeds and shows battle scars. This Bond is more special forces soldier than dapper spy.

The climatic buildup centers around a high-stakes poker game. Purists will scoff at Bond playing something other than his usual baccarat, but as my hubby pointed out, this positioned the film nicely within the current poker mania.

Daniel Craig is not classically handsome, but he has a sculpted physique which the film is all too eager to show off. There's a sense of Everyman about him and perhaps this is more in keeping with what a spy should be.

Casino Royale’s plot was a little too convoluted. Its characters a little underdeveloped. The first chase scene a little far-fetched for a film that wanted to put believability back into the action. The Bond girl was more intelligent than stunningly beautiful, although beautiful she was.

This Bond was a wholly different creation from previous Bonds. As long as I could resist comparing apples to oranges, I enjoyed it.

And the last line? Classic.

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