Thursday, October 11, 2012

James Bond Marathon: Casino Royale (2006 film)

Originally Written and Posted at on 11/23/06 w/ Additional Edits.

Based on Ian Fleming's novel, Casino Royale is the story of James Bond going on the search for a terrorist as he teams up with an accountant during the mission. Directed by Martin Campbell and screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis, the film marks a reboot of sorts for the franchise as it takes Bond back to basics. For the role of James Bond, Daniel Craig takes on the role in his first outing as Agent 007. Also starring Eva Green, Jeffrey Wright, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Jesper Christensen, and Judi Dench as M. Casino Royale is a thrilling yet hard-boiled film from Martin Campbell.

After attaining the license to kill as a secret agent for the British government, James Bond is now on his first mission. In Madagascar, Bond is trying to retrieve a message that involves a plot to destroy a new super-plane. After chasing a bomb-maker named Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) into the city, Bond enters into an embassy where he's been caught on camera killing a man despite a successful mission. Meanwhile in Uganda, a terrorist named Steven Obanno (Issach de Bankole) is talking to Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) about a man he needs to help raise funds for his own group. Mr. White brings in Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who has been a brilliant, pokers player that often wins with the money going to fund terrorists. Back in the U.K., M is upset over Bond's actions as he tries to find the connection that leads him to a man named Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) where he goes to the Bahamas. After meeting Dimitrios' wife Solange (Caterina Murino), he gets a clue where Bond goes to Miami to find Dimitrios' plan where he has sent a henchman to try and destroy the super-plane.

Bond succeeds in his mission where M learns that the plot was part of a scheme involving Le Chiffre who plans to play a game in Montenegro. Bond, a skilled pokers player is accompanied by a mysterious accountant named Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) whom he meets on a train. Arriving in Montenegro, they meet up with Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) who decides to help fund Bond in order to beat Le Chiffre. With Lynd posing as his wife, Bond goes into a battle of skills against Le Chiffre where the game becomes intense. With Bond's ego troubling him, so does Lynd's troubling emotions after an attack that involved Le Chiffre in conjunction with Obanno. Losing money, Bond unexpectedly gets help from CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who helps fund Bond with his money as the game becomes more challenging. Despite being poisoned by Le Chiffre's henchwoman Valenka (Ivana Milicevic) and nearly dies from it, Bond succeeds with Vesper's help.

With Vesper warming up to him, things seem to go great until she was kidnaped as Bond tries to rescue her. Instead, he and Lynd gets captured by Le Chiffre into wanting to know the password to his account. Bond refuses where after being tortured, he was saved all of a sudden as he and Lynd settle some deals and Bond has fallen for her. It is at that moment, Bond has thoughts of giving up his role as an agent only to realize that he can never quit where he is forced to face tragedy and everything that requires to be a 00 agent.

The problem with some franchises, especially in the James Bond franchise, is that they tend to have cliches and everything else that follows a formula. Fortunately for this film, many of those cliches and formulaic ideas expected from Bond are thrown out of the table. While there's still Bond making out with fine women, tension with M, and doing all of the action stuff that he's done. What isn't there is some of the catchy one-liners (except for the famous one), gadgets, Moneypenny, swagger, or anything that can be considered parody. Instead, director Martin Campbell and his screenwriters went back to the old-school Bond and going more into text of its novelist, Ian Fleming. The result is old-school Bond with more action, more background story on him, more of his flaws, and how he became the 007 that audiences came to know and love.

While writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have added elements of action and humor to their previous work with Bond films, the duo strayed away from the silliness and everything else that would've made the film predictable. The major factor into the script is Paul Haggis who adds not just a sense of psychological drama but also the reality that Bond is actually human with some flaws as he learns on what it takes to be a 00 agent. Particularly in the relationship between Bond and Vesper Lynd that is filled with some sexual tension that becomes something more emotional as their relationship develops. The result is a fantastic script created by the trio of Purvis, Wade, and Haggis that brings enough depth and entertainment.

Returning to the franchise is GoldenEye director Martin Campbell who definitely uses the script to broader, fresh territory after the recent action-driven Bond films. With locations in Africa, the Bahamas, Miami, London, Venice, and Montenegro, Campbell definitely brings a more worldly presentation to the franchise while letting the drama and tension unfold for all the characters. While some of the humor often comes in Bond's tense relationship with M, Campbell definitely restrains himself by going more into a balance of intense, dramatic sequences and fantastic action sequences. While the card-playing scenes might feel like it slows the film down, it works to add the tense feel of Bond and Le Chiffre. Then there's the action scenes where the film starts off with a band of how Bond got his 00 status in a black-and-white sequence where he beats a man up in a bathroom and then killing another man. With some stuff done in handheld cameras, the action is definitely more engaging with some great stunt work and action sequences to give the feeling that its energetic and realistic at the same time while showing Bond actually going through some pain in some of those sequences. The result is a very tight, ass-kicking action film where Bond is badass.

Helping Campbell in his presentation is cinematographer Phil Meheux whose flashy colors in some of the film's night, exterior settings brings a dark mood to the film while some of the sunlight settings are wonderfully shot with the interiors, notably the opening sequence is wonderful with its grainy, handheld camera work that adds a new style to the Bond franchise. Production designer Peter Lamont and his team of art directors definitely add new style to the franchise with some flashy looks for the Bahamas sequences as well as the Montenegro setting with some sheer, icy look for the hotel room. The cars also play a role to the film and they definitely look cool. Costume designer Lindy Hemming definitely goes for a more classic style with the tuxedo along with some amazing dresses for Eva Green to wear in which, she looks very beautiful. The opening credit sequence for Bond by Daniel Kleinman definitely plays up to the card game scenario with some fine visual effects by Angela Barson.

Editor Stuart Baird does some wonderful cutting, notably the action sequences where it isn't too fast or extremely quick like most action films. Baird cuts it right to the point where the audience knows what's going on while other sequences, there's long cuts and perspective cuts that indeed work to give the film a nice pace to everything that goes on. Sound editor Eddy Joseph definitely plays up the intensity of the sound with nice design on the action sequences which are layered with a lot of sounds and the way it's mixed to the music from composer David Arnold. Arnold returns to the orchestral world of John Barry by adding dreamier arrangements for some of the film's romantic moments while more brooding notes in the dramatic scenes. Arnold also goes for some wonderfully screeching, intense music for the action scenes that works with the old arrangements that Barry did in previous Bond films with the theme from Monty Norman. Finally, there's the song You Know My Name by Chris Cornell where mixed with Arnold's musical score, the song is definitely one of the more rock-driven tracks that adds punch and power that hasn't been heard since the classic Paul McCartney song Live And Let Die.

Then there's the film's cast that's definitely less-star driven and has more to do with real actors. While actresses Ivana Milicevic and Caterina Murino don't have much but to look sexy and play their respective world as Bond henchwoman and Bond Girl, they do bring charm to their roles. Issach de Bankole, Sebastian Foucan, and Simon Abkarian are excellent as henchmen of sorts for Le Chiffre with de Bankole bringing an intimidating presence as Steven Obanno while Foucan is great for his action running, and Abkarian is more sly as Alex Dimitrios. Jesper Christensen also brings a complexity to his role as Mr. White in how he plays things while making sure that Le Chiffre does his job. Giancarlo Giannini is great as the complex, charming Mathis who is careful for Lynd's behavior while having some motives that is more about financial than personal. While Jeffrey Wright doesn't have much to do, he is good as Felix Leiter in how he helps Bond and being a smooth, American agent who knows that America isn't all that. Judi Dench remains at the top of her game as the irritable M with her authoritive personality and her love-hate relationship with Bond as she and Craig are great with the tense relationship they bring.

Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as the brooding Le Chiffre who brings a different personality than most Bond villians where he sheds a bloody tear and carries a respirator. Mikkelsen adds a lot of intelligence to his character that has a knowledge of numbers and knows how to play poker while proving that he can be menacing in a torture scene as it's a great role for the Danish actor. For anyone that wants to become a leading Bond girl, they will have to step up in their game as Eva Green gives a fantastic performance as Vesper Lynd. The French actress, who had recently made her film debut in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers in 2003 while appearing in the good but flawed 2005 Ridley Scott epic Kingdom of Heaven, definitely adds a new sense of beauty and depth that hasn't been seen from Bond girls in recent years. In fact, Green is more of a Bond woman who is more emotionally troubled and complex in her role where her motives are very ambiguous. While Green can play pretty and be sexy, she shows her worth in just being one of the rare women who can stand up to Bond and make sure he does things right. It's a great role from Eva Green who definitely has more promise than most of Bond girls from the past.

Ok, for anyone who enjoys the cock-sure swagger of Piece Brosnan, the brooding nature of Timothy Dalton, or the humorous vibe of Roger Moore. They're going to have to go because Daniel Craig is now James Bond. While purists may feel that Sean Connery may own the role, Craig's Bond is more of a badass. The man can take hits, show cuts and bruises, and will break his own body to get the job done. Daniel Craig is also a better actor than his Bond contemporaries, that includes Connery, by showing more flaws and emotions to his role. Craig also displays the kind of arrogance and charm that Bond has but he's more into his own in the way he displays himself dramatically while he's a real fighter in the film's action sequences. Plus for the ladies, he is also very sexy where he also makes a sexy entrance from the beach sporting some speedos and looking very good for a man's man. This is a new James Bond and Daniel Craig has what it takes to be 007.

Casino Royale is an incredible film from Martin Campbell that features a towering performance from Daniel Craig as James Bond. Along with a wonderful supporting cast that includes Eva Green, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Mads Mikkelsen, and Judi Dench. It's a film that definitely stands as one of the best films of the Bond franchises. Notably as it brings Bond back down to Earth after a period of misguided silliness. In the end, Casino Royale is a magnificent film from Martin Campbell.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia with Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Die Another Day - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall - SPECTRE - No Time to Die

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

© thevoid99 2012


Anonymous said...

Good review Steve. I had a lot of fun with this movie, mainly because it had so much fun with itself in the long-run. Craig seems like he was born for the role and I can't wait to see what else he can do as Bond in Skyfall.

Chris said...

Even though I'm not a big fan of Craig as an actor, the pacing of Casino Royale was terrific.
Martin Campbell should head back to the director chair again, Goldeneye is Brosnan's best Bond movie in my opinion, and Casino Royale is likely going to be Daniel Craig's finest. If they continue the tradition, Campbell will be standing by for the next Bond actor in a few years time.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-This is so far my second favorite Bond film and I'm eagerly awaiting for Skyfall.

@Chris-It would be nice for Martin Campbell to come back and helm a Bond film but I don't know. After what he did with Green Lantern, I'm not so sure.

Chip Lary said...

I thought this was definitely an entertaining movie, but at the same time, it was definitely not a James Bond movie. No, I don't need to see cars that turn into submarines or anything like that. What I need to see is a Bond that's a little bit smarter than everyone else and little bit ahead of everyone else. Bond isn't a master of Parkour, nor is he a brawler. He outthinks his opponents. Daniel Craig isn't playing James Bond; he's playing Jason Bourne. And that's fine because it is still entertaining. It's just not James Bond.

thevoid99 said...

@Chip-Well, that's what I like about Daniel Craig. He makes Bond more human but also it plays to the fact that he's a Bond that is just trying to learn the ropes of what he's doing.