Hmm. Much as I love these review dialogues, it's time we girlies had an input into this intellectual discussion. To be sure, Daniel Craig is not as tall or as handsome as Pierce Brosnan; but I can assure you he is sex on a stick and few women would climb over him to get to the debonair Pierce. He is not elegant but brings a devastatingly attractive feral intensity to the role that has been missing since the early Connery movies. But even Connery didn't look at women like that.
Thrillers typically present us with a desirable fantasy image of manliness. We enjoy this fantasy because normally we don’t get to use violence in our everyday lives, and films give us the fleeting taste of how smashing it would be if we could, successfully and without consequences. Thrillers in recent years have often presented us with divided or damaged heroes. The point is that as their heroes have become better equipped to turn the tables on seemingly superior forces of bad-guys – have become more powerful, more invincible, more God-like – it has been getting harder to maintain the illusion that men who can do such things could possibly be decent human beings. The brilliant Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy got around this most ingeniously by having a hero who had lost his memory. He therefore isn’t the morally compromised person he was before, but he has inherited that person’s skills and knowledge. (The much earlier jolly Schwarzenegger thriller Total Recall used the same plot device). The writers of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies varied the presentation of Bond as a charming, fundamentally decent chap with strong suggestions that he is cold, isolated, unable to maintain any relationships deeper than banter with Moneypenny or dalliance with incidental females.
This movie ingeniously gives us the history behind Bond's detachment - a heart twisted and pierced by loss and betrayal. The action sequences are very good, but the human story is better, and superbly inhabited by both Craig and Eva Green. It makes perfect sense that Bond recognises the tension between his career and any chance he might have of personal happiness, and resigns when he has fallen in love; and perfect sense that he returns to it after Vesper's loss, a sadder and (after a talking-to from M) a wiser man.
It's excellent, a real leap forward for what has hitherto been a shallow franchise. Let's hope they can keep up the progress with the next one.
Andrea Hopkins (DI Reviewer), 05/12/06
Whisper it if you dare. Casino Royale is at times a boring movie. Long anyway at 144 minutes, it struggles to live up to its barnstorming quarter-hour free-running chase sequence, one of the best ever Bond action scenes. Thereafter, interminable interludes, a po-faced poker game that goes on for hours and a big-baddie killing that happens off-screen are all major disappointments.
A back-to-basics brutality is breezing its way through our cinemas. Last year Batman began, and now Bond is born. The Bourne Identity has a lot to answer for. The vogue for bare-nuckle, elbows-and-knees punch-ups is given full rein in Martin (Goldeneye) Campbell’s latest Bond outing. If there was any doubt about Daniel Craig’s suitability for Bond, that’s because people were expecting him to match up to the iconic image we’ve come to love or hate. But, no, this is a stripped down Bond – twice his pecs pop out of the sea, once he’s butt naked – and much is made in the script of his toned body and tight trouser seat.
It’s a deliberate theme. For this is a Bond who’s just won his 007 wings. He’s rough and ready; undisciplined and unguarded. He’s got a lot to learn and Judi Dench’s hard-edged M isn’t sure he’s up to it. Like in Fleming’s books, Bond’s a professional killer. And Craig gives 007 a physique and psyche to match. Even the opening credits are a rhapsody on Bond’s killing abilities; no trace of the titillating sensuality of the other films.
If you’re looking for the witty asides and glistening gadgets forget it. No bad thing, though. And Craig has the acting ability to pull off the role. The disappointment is in the overstretched length and the hamfisted direction of many of all but the too-few action scenes. Director Campbell and producer Broccoli haven’t the balls to do away with every Bond cliché: their attempts at an ‘Ursula Andress/Halle Berry’ moment, where a beach-body Bond encounters a horsebacked beauty is like an extremely bad commercial. The relationship stuff is not bad – Craig and the excellent Eva Green have real chemistry – it’s simply overlong. Like the card-game zzz.
But it could have been so much more. The opener aside, a tanker-and-plane showdown at an airport is the main action highlight. But most other fight scenes are bewildering. Entertaining, then, but not brilliant.
Craig deserves another go. This one was refreshing, but not shaken or stirred half enough.
Glenn Watson (DI Reviewer), 04/12/06
The producers of the Bond franchise have taken on a lot with their 21st film. Ian Fleming’s first and arguably nastiest novel about the character, a new actor, and the question of how Bond fits into today’s world are enough to make most filmmakers balk. It’s a good thing they chose Martin Campbell to direct it: the man behind 1995’s Goldeneye returns to the series undaunted and unleashes a film that kicks off Daniel Craig’s tenure in fine style.
Compared to some of Fleming’s books, Casino Royale is very simple. Bond, a young secret service agent, earns his 00 status and is assigned the case of LeChiffre, whom he must stop from winning a high stakes poker game at a flash casino in Montenegro. Along the way, he falls in love with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a fellow British government employee and his colleague during the op.
Unlike the 1967 spoof version of the book, Campbell’s Casino Royale sticks closely to its source. A few details are changed (LeChiffre was then banker to SMERSH; now it’s any terrorist you care to mention) but the story is followed almost to the letter. This means the filmmakers have a pretty straightforward plot at their disposal, so they are able to concentrate on some of the more intriguing aspects of the series: romance, emotion, and humour are at the foreground, and expertly handled. Bond’s relationship with Vesper explains his evolution into a womaniser living on his shallowness, and is almost devastatingly moving. The Bond we see here is not droll Moore or breezy Brosnan; it's not even wry Connery or gritty Dalton. Craig’s Bond is a younger, by turns clumsy, rude, and unglamorous (though hugely muscle-bound!) spy who uses inner nastiness to outsmart the bad guys and isn’t ashamed to appear with scratch marks on his face. For those who may fear that this Bond may be a bit too serious and dark, that’s not the whole story: some of the film is very funny, as in any scene featuring Judi Dench’s marvellous M (“God, I miss the Cold War!”) and Bond and Vesper’s quip-laden first meeting (“I’m the money...every penny of it”).
Casino Royale contains some of the franchise’s best directed set pieces, particularly a crane-top fight and a chaotic sequence at Miami Airport where Bond tries to stop a plane being hijacked (oh, so topical!). The Venice set climax is a real belter: furious, frightening and ultimately moving, and the one car crash in the film is no frivolous joke: it’s a proper smash with cuts, bruises and bloody eyes. The famous nude torture sequence is a masterpiece of dank lighting and implied scuzz.
There are a few problems with the film: the opening song is poor, there are a few pacing issues (the card game goes on a bit, the final third contains a false ending or two) - and Craig, despite being a wonderful actor, doesn’t really have the face for Bond: the guy is ugly, and no amount of working out can fix that. But it’s testament to his acting and the quality of the script that it doesn’t matter. Craig's reading of the character provides a convincing answer to the question on many people’s lips in the run up to the film’s release: “if Bond existed in today’s world, what would he be like?” Following on from Brosnan, who breezed his way through the 90s, confident, lean, even-handed, and a bit of an all rounder (like the decade itself), Craig portrays Bond as a murky, vulnerable anti-hero to suit our troubled times. Although it’s an open question as to how the next Bond film could possibly improve on this one (there'll have to be a newly written, original story - will it be any good?; will the vacuous Bond ever satisfy us again now we’ve seen this genuine guy capable of real love?), the end of Casino Royale felt like a new beginning rather than a closure. I hope Craig sticks around for a while, and that his subsequent efforts are as good as this one.
George Sawer (Unverified), 22/11/06
Being a bit of an old fashioned Bond fan I was both looking forward to and slightly wary of Casino Royale. However I made myself keep an open mind… and boy am I glad I did! Here is a great film, not just a great Bond film. The script is fantastic and really helps us get to know Bond all over again.
Daniel Craig doesn't say much until a good half an hour into the film. This is most welcome and brings some of the mystery back into a character that has had over 45 hours screen time over the years! Daniel Craig’s performance is superb; I concur that brown contacts and some hair dye would have helped make him more a ‘Fleming’ Bond in appearance but his personification on the whole is superb.
If Connery was the definitive Bond for the 60’s Daniel Craig brings us the first real 21st century Bond. Eva Green makes for an excellent Bond girl and her performance should be applauded. The one thing I did not like was the rating. A film so brutal and sexually charged, and with such adult themes should not be watched by anyone 12 or younger, and I fear too many parents will take 10 year olds or younger, thinking ‘it's just a Bond film’ and be shocked by its brutality.
This has to be one of the films of the year and if you are old enough you have to catch it. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, the great elements of Fleming's book were apparent as were some new and clever plot lines. I strongly recommend it!
Ed Blagrove (DI Reviewer), 21/11/06
Without a shadow of a doubt this is the superior Bond film - only Mission: Impossible and True Lies come close and they weren't even really real members of the 007 franchise, just 'homages'.
Goldeneye was the last good Bond (and, back then, the first good one in over 20 years) and its no coincidence that it shares a director with Casino Royale. That man, Martin Campbell, has never made a film this good before, however.
Sure, there's still a bucket load of dreck, notably in the dialogue, but this is that rare thing: a well made, solid, sensibly paced action film with just a little bit of soul.
Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever, Eva Green's appearance here should sell a bucketload of Dreamers DVDs (not to mention launch a million Google image searches) and Phil Meheux's cinematography is the best in the whole Bond ouevre.
All in all, a strong Bond, a Bond you can trust, a Bond that won't break easily.
Roll on Bond 22... I only hope they get a good director next time around too.
Brendon (DI User), 20/11/06
OK.....where do I start?
Is it a good film?........undoubtedly.
As good as the critics would have you believe.? Probably not.
Casino Royale is a tense, action-packed and well directed thriller. It dispenses with pretty much everything that has gone before.......and therein lies the dilemma.
Is it a Bond film? It`s dark brutality does reflect much of the early novels by Ian Fleming and so it has much to appeal to many of the purists who feel the recent movies have started to lose the plot when it comes to the character and essence of Fleming`s creation. However, the films had the aim from the start to add the ingredients of glamour, gadgets, witticisms and, most notably, charm in the lead character. And it`s charm that is so sadly lacking in this movie.
Yes, Daniel Craig captures a new level of relentless savagery and brutal efficiency that you can`t even begin to imagine Brosnan or poor old Roger even bothering to attempt. Yes, the opening standout sequence on the building site is one of the greatest set pieces committed to film. However, you are reminded more of John MacLean`s never-say-die bloodied and battered character from Die Hard than of the suave secret agent 007. Even his sharply written and well delivered witticisms are tinged with a sense of SAS-style "super hardness" (see Torture scene) rather than the dismissive one liners that have reminded us in the past that this is a Bond movie, and that no matter how bad the situation, 007 will use his charm, gadgets,humour or initiative to get himself out of a nasty bit of bother.
There is no doubt that the real villains of the 21st century probably do embrace the thuggish brutality that we see oozing form his counterparts in Casino Royale. Like Licence To Kill before it (Sanchez) Bond faces adversaries that would be more at home in a Tarantino movie and there are times when you are crying out for a bald head and white cat to make an appearance just to remind you this is escapist fantasy and not an episode of Spooks with a big budget. The Character of Le Chiffre does promise a certain villainous familiarity but his rather unsphisticated demise is a disappointment compared to the more creative despatch of previous Bond baddies.
The stunts and set pieces are fantastic; no more dodgy CGI and dubious stunt doubles.....Craig is a much more believable action man than any of his predecessors. The film also benefits form a classy opening pre-title and, arguably, one of the best main title sequences ever.... an inventive and wildly stylish piece of retro art that pays homage to 60`s cool and is less formulaic than recent offerings....Maurice Binder would have been proud! The theme song, however is on a par with the low benchmark set by recent Bond films. Fortunately this is compensated by a gripping soundtrack that is David Arnold`s finest effort to date.
So what of Daniel Craig? He can act, he can run, he can fight and he can look hard, he can even do romance....but is he believable as Bond? There are scenes in the Casino when he exudes menace and certainly reflects the dark persona of Fleming`s original character. But unfortunately, for me anyway, it`s the eyebrows and hair that desperately need that dark persona. In certain scenes, Craig`s blondness passes unnoticed due to lighting, grime or action sequences....but there are other times (emerging from the water and staring at a potential female conquest) when he looks like Worzel Gummidge on steroids. He was such a controversial choice in the first place that the producers could have at least compromised and tinted his albino eyebrows and darkened his hair...just as a token gesture! Because he isn`t the tallest Bond(you struggle in certain fight sequences to pick him out from the crowd), a darker hue would have at least had doubters more appeased when some subtle tinting could have been combined with his much-hyped physique and brooding persona.
But as a NEW Bond? There is no doubt he has made the character much more realistic and complex than the last two actors to don the tux..........but do I really envisage Craig`s face when I think of Bond? To be honest ...no. And where do they go from here? This is Bond year Zero, so what comes next? If the producers intend to keep the gritty tone of the novels then perhaps they could do worse than to take the brave step of revisiting each novel in chronological order and updating the storylines to work in the modern era. This would at least achieve some much needed continuity to the series and allow Craig to grow into character as the novels unfold.
Somehow, I doubt they`ll have the courage of their convictions to attempt anything so bold, no matter how logical. Casino Royale is so far away from the patchwork mess that was Die Another Day that it was always going to be a good movie in it`s own right. Whether it is a great BOND movie with a great BOND.......well....no matter how much the critics enthuse, it is the public who will decide if Bad Ass Bond will be taken to their hearts. As for me..............I am still undecided. I saw this film with someone who doesn`t like Bond films....and they really enjoyed it. Perhaps that says it all.
7.5 out of 10
Bill Tanner (Unverified), 16/11/06
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