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Casino Royale (2006)

June 30, 2010

9/10 Blonde Ambitions 

Now this is how you reboot a franchise.

Casino Royale is about newly appointed double-O British agent James Bond who, with the help of a saucy little Treasury agent, sets out on a rogue mission to take down a terrorist bankroller in a high-stakes game of poker before his clients get to him first and attempt a global attack.

So, James Bond was kinda suckin’ there for a while.

Back in ’95, things were looking awfully promising thanks to Goldeneye standing as one of the best in the franchise (and the video game adaptation didn’t exactly hurt matters either), but then it all went kinda sour for the next couple entries. The subsequent video games were all flimsy knock-offs, the writers pretty much stopped trying altogether, and did anyone see Die Another Day? Yeah, fuck that. I don’t care how many times Halle Berry puts on that bikini, James Bond does not hang glide/surf away from an Arctic avalance on the hood of his car. That, kids, is what you call “jumping the shark”.

Anyway, four years go by, the curmudgeonly old bastards at Hollywood finally stop ignoring the obvious and bring back Goldeneye director Martin Campbell, ditch Brosnan (even though he wasn’t all that bad to begin with), forget that they ever gave the go-ahead to cast Denise Richards as someone named “Christmas Jones” and start the whole damn thing anew. Ballsy plan of action, but, good lord, did it pay off.

But first things first, people, ’cause Daniel Craig is arguably the best guy to play Bond after Connery. I’ll make my way down the Best Bond list when I eventually get around to pulling a marathon, but all the same, the dude is a badass, simple as that. Who cares if he doesn’t have those chocolate locks, who cares if no one’s ever really heard of the guy, who cares if he’s wildly different from every vision of the character that came before him? I’m sure that we all cared before we bought our tickets, but Craig did one bang-up job of shutting us the hell up. The guy is tough as nails, the ladies cannot resist his scent and no matter what you throw his way, he will brush that dirt off his shoulder and throw it right back in your face without breaking a sweat. Awesome, just what Bond needed.

Man, this is just a well-casted movie all-around.

All the things that can be said about Craig can more or less be said about Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre – the most sinister Texas Hold’em junkie this side of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. Never heard of the guy before, and aside from the occasional bloody tear, he doesn’t even have any eccentric physical attributes like a lethal bowler cap or wildly impractical metal teeth to distinguish him as the villian of our story. But give that guy five minutes, a knotted rope and a wicker chair with the seat cut out, and he is all set. Double awesome, just what Bond needed for an enemy.

And Eva Green’s not too shabby either as our latest Bond girl, Vesper Lynd. The reason she rocks is because she’s not Pussy Galore, she’s got attitude to spare, she’s pretty but she’s not a Playmate and there’s a lot more depth to her than just being the latest gal that Bond gets to screw. Very refreshing to have a complex character like her play opposite Bond for once and actually develop a relationship with him a la On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the oft-forgotten Bond classic).

But so much of the credit goes right back to director Martin Campbell.

Because of him, this movie is nothing short of a two-hour adrenaline rush, it really doesn’t brake for anything whatsoever. From the black-and-white intro where Bond becomes 007, to the jaw-dropping parkour chase scene through the construction site and the foreign embassy, to the airport terrorist attempt, to the kind of poker tournament that the producers at ESPN2 would sell their children into slavery for, to Bond’s torture scene that made every man in the audience cross their legs and start wearing cups to work, and finally finishing up in an epic footchase through a sinking Venice. Dude, this movie is nuts, it’s an absolute blast and I really have no idea why the producers don’t just hire this guy every single time. Why fix something when it ain’t broken? Completely escapes me.

Only complaint is that it’s a bit hard to follow the complexities of the story the first time around since it’s kinda hard to listen while Bond is charging through walls and getting defibrillated back to life, but that’s an easy enough issue to remedy on the inevitable second viewing.

Man, I vividly remember when I went to see this for the second time in theaters (an occasion that rarely happens to me anymore) with my uncle – the movie starts, the movie ends, I ask him what he thought and he responds, “One of the Top Ten greatest movies of all-time.” As much as that sounds like one hell of a hyperbole, I gotta say, it was hard to argue against his follow-up comment of, “It’s got everything I could ever want in a movie, what more could I ask.”

It’s really a shame that Quantum of Solace was such a let-down and didn’t keep up with how out of sight this movie is in any way shape or form, but whatever, I guess it’s hard to break old habits. Nevertheless, Casino Royale is a phenomenal back-to-basics, gadget-free reinvention that reminds us all how totally effing fun and cool James Bond can be. Still not quite in my Top Ten, but an easy pick for one of the best action movies of the past decade.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 1:01 am

    I have to mention that the opening credits to this Bond film was the best I’d seen in the franchise. The usual intros always seem to be a half hour rainbow montage of naked women that put me to sleep before the movie starts. This intro was much more fun and has the sweet Chris Cornell song “You Know My Name” that got me pumped up for a reboot that I wasn’t all that crazy about going into the theater.

    • June 30, 2010 11:29 am

      Yeah, I forgot to mention that, but it was definitely an unusually cool intro for Bond. I completely forgot about the mulit-colored nudie girls there for minute.

      • June 30, 2010 2:23 pm

        Not to mention the awesome black & white scene preceding it.

      • June 30, 2010 2:33 pm

        Darn tootin’.

  2. Darren permalink
    June 30, 2010 3:53 am

    Love this film. It was the first film I saw with my better half, in the cinema. Awesome movie.

    And you’re right, this is how you reboot a franchise. Steer away from the cheese like Christmas Jones and invisible cars, and go back to basics.

    • June 30, 2010 11:06 am

      Man, hard to beat that for a first date to the movies. Almost beats my winning selection of Snakes on a Plane.

  3. June 30, 2010 11:02 am

    I’m with you, man. Casino Royale is really, really good.

    Why they didn’t have Martin Campbell helm Quantum of Solace is beyond me.

    As sweet as Craig is in the role, a part of me still kinda wants to see Clive Owen as Bond.

    • June 30, 2010 11:05 am

      Oooooooo. Good casting call. Wonder why they overlooked him. Definitely got the look, then again, I’m still not really sure what I think of him as an actor. Has yet to really stand out to me.

    • July 22, 2011 1:20 pm

      Much as I like Clive Owen, I can’t see him as 007. He’s much too cool a customer. There’s something about his persona that doesn’t jibe with the Bond character.

      Daniel Craig is a cool customer, as well, and a craggy one, at that, but I was totally psyched at the idea of him as James Bond. I could see him as Bond and the role fit him. He really pulled it off. Everyone made a big deal of his being the first blond Bond, but that was a completely irrelevant factor and the least important reason to wonder whether he could play Bond (much the way everyone made a huge deal of Madonna’s ability to be a mother based on her musical persona – one had nothing to do with the other). I love his accent, which is his natural speaking voice, by the way. Although James Bond is perceived and portrayed as smooth and suave, the rough edges that Craig added to the character were completely plausible.

      Agree that Quantum of Solace sucked. Was very disappointed.

      • July 27, 2011 2:44 pm

        I could see Owen in a tuxedo, I can’t see him as Bond either really. Craig absolutely killed it here and he was one of the many things that made this the reboot the franchise desperately needed.

        And yeah, Quantum of Solace, let’s just forget that ever happened.

  4. June 30, 2010 1:08 pm

    Loved Casino Royale especially the first time I saw it. From the start, you know you are in for a completely different James Bond reboot, one that is much more kick-ass and realistic than the previous Pierce Brosnan ones. As you said, the side characters get much more development than in most previous Bond movies which is also a breath of fresh air. I do feel, however, after multiple rewatch that it sags a bit toward the middle but nothing too significant. Finally, I did like Quantum of Solace, it may not be as good but not too shabby either 😉

    • June 30, 2010 1:15 pm

      My one big compaint with Quantum of Solace – outside of it’s horrendous title, what a mopey bastard Bond was, how confusing the story was and how poorly paced it was – was that there’s not a single action scene in that whole movie that comes even close to matching the the parkour chase scene in Royale that goes down within the first 15 or 20 minutes. Booooooooooooo.

  5. June 30, 2010 1:30 pm

    love Craig as Bond but both the films have been utterly terrible and, in trying to be both Bond and Bourne, take place in a world that is utterly unbelievable. To talk reference 9/11 and then still go for the whole terrorists playing poker shtick makes no sense. Either adapt to the world or don’t but please spare the fudge.

  6. June 30, 2010 1:50 pm

    i really wanted to like them and have even rewatched CR twice thinking i had missed something that made it as awesome as everyone said… but no.

  7. June 30, 2010 5:32 pm

    I was really upset at the lack of gadgets. Where’s the poison-shooting left earring? All Bon d had was a defibrillator in the car.

  8. Branden permalink
    June 30, 2010 5:46 pm

    I loved Casino Royale. The one thing is didn’t like about the movie was the last thirty of film, the love story with Vesper and Bond. I thought it slowed the movie down. It should have been in Quantum of Solace, even though I hated it.

    • July 1, 2010 8:53 am

      Yeah, the pacing does drop a smidge there, but then she turns “spy” and things get pretty interesting again right quick. And good point about Quantum of Solace, her character and their relationship probably would have done well to have spanned two movies. The bond girl in that one was useless, so was the villian, so was everybody actually.

      • July 1, 2010 4:23 pm

        It’s hard to remember the point of the Bond girl in Quantum, and Mathieu Amalric is so hilariously not frightening he made a terrible villain.

      • July 2, 2010 12:31 am

        the point of the Bond girl was that a) the series is so dead that they dare not have one and b) the villain was so lame (i.e. the plot had already happened in the real world and was foiled by people power not secret agents) that they rather distastefully thought the best way to inject some tension would be to plonk in some rape threat.

  9. June 30, 2010 6:39 pm

    Agreed! CASINO ROYALE is pure awesome in a can! One thing that you mention in the very end. It’s gadget free. That is the one thing about the movie that rubbed me the wrong way, but only slightly. One of the things I loved about all the Bond movies, and provided the only cool moments in the later Bronson flicks, was the ridiculous gadgets that were employed. I know, it’s a tad unrealistic to have a car with more artillery than a fucking aircraft carrier, but still, it was awesome! Minor gripe though. Awesome movie! Good review!

    • June 30, 2010 9:13 pm

      Thanks, man. The gadgets were great in Bond for a long time there, but eventually they really started to feel arbitrary and ridiculous (like I said, just watch Die Another Day). Always liked that this was about Bond instead of all the shit Q gave him.

      • July 1, 2010 2:17 am

        Agreed. That inviso-car was just weird, and the satellite was just a re-hash of the super weapon from DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER! Even so, DIE ANOTHER DAY made up for it with all the references to other Bond tech! I still laugh when Bond turns on the THUNDERBALL jetpack whilst musing, “Does this still work?”

      • July 1, 2010 8:54 am

        lol, i missed that, but I still don’t think that’ll save it for me on another watch.

  10. July 4, 2010 10:41 pm

    Agreed, this is the way to do a modern Bond film. If only they could have followed it up with something even half as good. Quantum of Solace is awful.

  11. July 5, 2010 10:25 am

    I thought Quantum of Solace was a nice foil to Casino Royale, in the sense that even if it wasn’t as great of a film, it is has similar style and and form to Casino so that it will (hopefully) fit nicely into a trilogy for Daniel Craig’s contribution to the series.

    • July 6, 2010 8:47 am

      Eh, maybe I need to see it again, but I wasn’t crazy about it on its own or as a continuation. Still can’t wait for the next entry, but one of the other things that bothered me about Quantum was how blurry so many of the action scenes are. I hate it when directors just shake the camera around so it looks like shit is happening really fast when in actuality it just looks like a clusterfuck where you can’t tell an ass from an elbow until someone finally dies. Ugh, serenity now.


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