Movie Review #684
Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions Limited presents…
Studio: Casino Royale Productions — Stillking Films — Casino Royale — Babelsberg Film
Copyright Holder: Columbia Pictures — Danjaq — United Artists
Produced with the Support of: Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) — Columbia Pictures — Sony Pictures Releasing
Country: UK — Czech Republic — USA — Germany — Bahamas
Spoken Languages: English — French
Directed by Martin Campbell. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming.
Cut version rated PG-13 by the MPAA — violence, sexual content, nudity. Uncut version not released in the USA. Runs 2 hours, 24 minutes. London premiere on November 14, 2006. Wide release in the Czech Republic and the UK on November 16, 2006; in the USA on November 17, 2006; and in Germany on November 23, 2006.
Featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond (007), Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (Bond girl), and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre (Bond villain). Starring Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankole, and Jesper Christensen. Also starring Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sébastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair, Richard Sammel, Ludger Pistor, Joseph Milson, Daud Shah, Clemens Schick, Emmanuel Avena, Ade, Urbano Barberini, Tsai Chin, Charlie Levi Leroy, Lazar Ristovsky, Tom So, and Veruschka. Featuring uncredited cameo appearances from Richard Branson and Ben Cooke.
The first twenty James Bond movies spanned five namesake actors, four decades. The precision and plots seem to suggest a TV crime procedural in this way. We’ve seen different stories in this time, and they have to be different. Elsewise there’s nothing to cover up for the series’ repetition.
Enter episode twenty-one, “Casino Royale”, stage left. This is the Next Generation of Bond, where his character will actually develop into an interesting personality, not just a persona who gives his name and asks for that specific vodka martini every single outing. Whether “Casino Royale” as that specific story was chosen because it was the first “Bond” book, because it had yet to be adapted Eon Productions, or because 21 is both the ordinal number and a card game, I can’t exactly say. But the screenplay was more than a simple modernization. Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale was no more than another outing. Remove about five words and it fits anywhere in the series.
That’s where the screenwriters are making an impressive choice here. They’re not rewriting it, just expanding it. And it fits: no Bond movie has ever acknowledged its predecessor, so why acknowledge any of the first twenty Bond films? In fact, why not start from scratch, and reintroduce Bond to everyone?
It’s a tremendously dynamic move, but it doesn’t end there at all. “Casino Royale” leaves the door open for a sequel, and it does this only by introducing Bond with three dimensions. (Two is preferred, I get it, I get it.) Bond’s story is written with a much more internal locus. It’s not motivated by, “What happens is set in stone, and Bond’s just some guy along for the ride that leads in.” The framework is, “Bond’s psyche, emotion, and instinct are what drives this film and its sequels.” Sequels, not following appearances of the same character.
Previously, the driving force in the plot was boobs, bombs, and bad guys, or maybe the audience’s insistence that they be there. There is a different engine installed in “Casino Royale”, but these facets offer the best select moments in the movie.
Boobs: Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) isn’t just a Bond girl for Daniel Craig; she’s a femme fatale. She does design one of the most tragic endings I can recall in a Bond movie, but her relationship with Bond is so believable. Banter is top-notch here, among other possible mentions.
Bombs: they’re there’s but they’re not even necessary to make a great action sequence. That opening chase (almost) compares with “Bullitt”! Hell, we don’t need action for excitement. Just watching Bond and his arch nemesis Le Chiffre stare each other down is a heart-pounder. There’s at least two other scenes I could spoil, but shan’t.
Bad guys: Mads Mikkelsen is outstanding as Le Chiffre. His performance as a Bond villain is a good chunk of what beings out the dramatic entries in this reboot.
The movie spotlights jaw-dropping editing. We open in black and white to learn a little about Bond’s first two kills. The first kill being juxtaposed with the second, to create a well made prologue. And I’m dying to spoil how this opening becomes the gun barrel interlude. What follows, of course, is the opening credits montage, which is computer-animated this time around. That much is incredible. With the additional music cue–Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name”–the movie has already promised a good 50% of what it later delivers. The rest, of course, is pleasantly surprising…but remember, all two and a half hours of “Casino Royale”, it’s just the very first chapter, waiting to be developed into the full novel.