Bond is BACK, baby!

Casino Royale is a very different James Bond film from probably any made in the last 30 years, and that's a good thing. You can consider this the Batman Begins of the Bond franchise: It's faithful to the source material but pretty much discards anything that's come before it as far as other movies, it gives us some insight into the character, and is much more "raw" than the films that preceded it.

" /> Bond is BACK, baby!

Casino Royale is a very different James Bond film from probably any made in the last 30 years, and that's a good thing. You can consider this the Batman Begins of the Bond franchise: It's faithful to the source material but pretty much discards anything that's come before it as far as other movies, it gives us some insight into the character, and is much more "raw" than the films that preceded it.

" />

Review: Casino Royale

Published 7 years ago by

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: Daniel Craig is the best James Bond since Sean Connery in a movie that’s sure to bring this franchise back to life.

daniel craig Review: Casino RoyaleBond is BACK, baby!

Casino Royale is a very different James Bond film from probably any made in the last 30 years, and that’s a good thing. You can consider this the Batman Begins of the Bond franchise: It’s faithful to the source material but pretty much discards anything that’s come before it as far as other movies, it gives us some insight into the character, and is much more “raw” than the films that preceded it.


The film opens in black and white and has Bond waiting for a high ranking MI6 official in the official’s office. From the conversation we learn that Bond is not yet a 007, having fulfilled only half the requirement of killing two people before being qualified for promotion. The film cuts to a grainy and still, black and white sequence showing Bond in a brutal hand to hand fight, where he (of course) comes out the winner, but it certainly isn’t clean or pretty. The man he killed was an operative of the official he sits before now, who is a traitor and within seconds will qualify Bond for 007 status.

Not much about this film is very typical as far as what’s become established as “canon” for how a Bond movie should unfold. They usually start with a breathtaking action sequence, always more elaborate than the one shown in the previous film, but here we start as described above, which is much more intimate. From there we go to the opening credits which for the first time ever do not include silhouettes of naked women. Despite this the graphics were very 60′s, which I found interesting since the movie takes place present day. After the credits, THEN comes the action sequence, but again it’s not typical as there is an obvious lack of gadgetry, replaced by an extended on-foot chase scene and culminating in a brazen move by Bond. At this point we can discern that Bond has just gained his 007 status very recently.

“M” is extremely annoyed and angry at how he handled the situation in the opening sequence, giving MI6 a very public black eye and causing her (yes, Judi Densch as “M”, even though this is supposed to be very early in Bond’s career) to come close to booting him out of the service. He’s very arrogant with plenty of ego and despite how tough he is, he’s still quite “green” when it comes to being a “double-oh”.

The basic plot has him tracking down a man who acts as a banker to terrorists, investing their money for them and giving them immediate access to it whenever required. It’s pretty clear early on that he’s going to lose a boatload of money ($150 million) and will be scrambling to replace it, which happens at an ultra-high stakes poker game.

The poker game as a big part of the reason why I only gave this 4 stars instead of 4 1/2 or even 5. It’s just plain boring and goes on too long, despite the fact that it’s broken up into three or four scenes. The director could have taken some cues on how to execute the scene from the folks over at the World Poker Tour, who manage to make watching a bunch of guys sitting around playing poker pretty exciting. Not much of that here, though. There’s also the fact that I would have preferred to see Bond playing Baccarat, which is his traditional game, but that involved more luck than any sort of skill so maybe that’s why they decided against it.

Another thing that went against the movie was it’s length, at almost two and a half hours, and the fact that it reminded my of the last Lord of the Rings movie with making me think it was over, but going on to another apparent ending, and then another. That’s it for the negatives as far as I’m concerned.

Ah, but the big question: How was Daniel Craig as James Bond?

Freaking cool as hell, that’s how he was.

Any hardcore Bond fans who were up in arms about the selection of blonde haired (gasp!) Craig as Bond can rest easy. Craig was in my opinion the best Bond since Sean Connery. I might even say equal to Connery… especially Connery in the first James Bond film Dr. No, which was as close as any prior movies came to the gritty realism of Casino Royale.

I’ve never read the Ian Fleming novels but from what I’ve heard, the version of Bond portrayed in this movie was much closer to the Bond of the printed page: tougher, nastier and less polished. After the first couple of Bond movies came out, and especially once Connery left the franchise, the series almost became campy, just shy of the over the top style of the old Batman TV series starring Adam West. They tried to bring it back somewhat with Pierce Brosnan, but by then they were still doing these monstrous productions with incredible gadgets and were deep into the formulaic Bond movie school. Although I like Brosnan as an actor, he just didn’t have the physical presence to carry of a good James Bond.

This was a great Bond origin… before he said “Shaken, not stirred” or “Bond, James Bond”, or even had his signature theme music. Oh, don’t worry, all those things finally show up, but only very close to the end and it’s done masterfully, giving a sense of having Bond grow into the role of a seasoned 007.

Side note: There was one scene in the movie that was REALLY pretty rough violence-wise, almost enough to push it into R-rated territory, so think about that before bringing a child under 11 or 12.

Overall, this was a fantastic James Bond flick, and a great movie even outside the narrow scope of that genre. I highly recommend it and I’ll be watching it again on DVD for sure.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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TAGS: 4 star movies

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  1. I agree with you Vic although I would rate it a 5 stars. I am seeing again this week!

    Craig is so kewl as Bond indeed!

  2. It sounds like this is the “Batman Begins” of the Bond franchise… it’s about time. I want to see this one, and I’m not usually a Bond movie fan.

    Good job on the review…

    Brian

  3. I agree with you that crade was a kick ass bond but the film was just borin

  4. I was somewhat disappointed, probably because of the hype. I was especially irritated by the long poker game (yawn) and the sinking house in Venice. What was that about? Daniel Craig was good, that much I grant, but there wasn’t enough action, I didn’t feel Craig was convincing enough in his attempt to communicate love for Vesper, (the love scenes manage to fail to do this, despite being so bloody long). Vesper’s betrayal/loyalty twist at the end was poorly handled, and the second group of villains weren’t set up well enough. Worth seeing, yes, worth raving about, definitely not. Also, when you’re having you’re goolies whipped, it is definitely really hard to speak, not only for the searing pain, but for the waves of nausea. Craig didn’t get that across that at all. Next one had better have more action in it.

  5. I think it’s worth raving about as compared to the last few Bond movies which were in my opinion approaching the level of the old live action “Batman” TV show with Adam West in terms of being “out there” in regards to stunts, gadgets and plot.

    Hopefully the next one will pull out all the stops with Craig in full “Bond” mode.

    Vic

  6. yes.. Bond is back again with fresh air. The way they presented BOND is starting from 00 is too good. I myself give 5 stars for the movie.

    No doubt about Craig as new agent. He perfectly suits the character.

    Well done..!! Craig..

  7. I thought it was great compared to Bond movies from the last couple decades. But that’s like comparing it to Barney the Purple Dinosaur. Bond once meant tough, smart, cool gadgetry, and incredibly hot girls. Somehow tough fell out of the equation. Don’t even mention that Remington Steel guy to me. What a colossal mistake he was. Remington Steel was definitely missing the tough gene. He was anything but tough. All the franchise needed was to put tough back in. I can only presume Remington Steel got the girl, but I never bothered to watch one of his movies to find out. If he did get the girl it was only because the script said so…and I bet it wasn’t believable. My point is Bond has been synonymous with Suck for a long time. This movie is definitely better than Suck. But are you all sure it measures up to old school Bond?

  8. It’s as close as any of the Bond movies have been in a looooong time to “old school” (read: Connery) Bond.

    Unfortunately the director of “Casino Royale” won’t be doing the next one, so the quality level may not be there.

    Vic

  9. I would also say 5/5
    But is that scene the one in the staircase? I was pretty disturbed at the scene..and I was over 15.

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