Casino Royale

Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre
Judi Dench as M
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis
Caterina Murino as Solange
Simon Abkarian as Alex Dimitrios
Isaach De Bankolé as Steven Obanno
Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Ivana Milicevic as Valenka
Tobias Menzies as Villiers
Claudio Santamaria as Carlos
Sebastien Foucan as Mollaka
Malcolm Sinclair as Dryden

Summary:
More realistic characters, a more realistic story, and some fantastic action sequences make “Casino Royale” a successful re-launch of the James Bond series.

Story:
Shortly after obtaining his 007 ‘license to kill’ status, James Bond finds himself in the middle of an international incident when he kills an unarmed bomber on embassy grounds. Despite drawing the wrath of his superiors, he continues to track the known associates of the bomber. His investigation leads him to Le Chiffre, an infamous banker for international terrorists. Bond and the British Secret Service discover that Le Chiffre will be playing in a high stakes card game at Casino Royale. Seeing an opportunity to disrupt Le Chiffre’s operations, Bond enters the game with millions on the line. But will Bond’s enormous ego and his attraction to fellow operative Vesper Lynd keep him from winning the game?

“Casino Royale” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.

What Worked:
This is kind of the “Batman Begins” of the James Bond franchise. Rather than creating another overblown, over-hyped, unoriginal entry into the franchise, they go back to the origin story of the character and tell a tale that’s more grounded in reality. In the end the formula works just like it did for Batman and the result is a film that feels original, exciting, and quite entertaining. I can’t say how it compares to the original Ian Fleming novel or the other film incarnations of “Casino Royale,” but this one was very well done.

A lot of hype was made about casting Daniel Craig as James Bond. In fact, my mom even saw him on TV the other day and said, “He’s ugly!” But the fact is that after seeing the film, I thought he did a great job. Craig was quite different than his predecessors, but in a good way. He simply fits the literary character of James Bond better. He was tough, stylish, and more realistic than many of the other move Bonds. And that’s something that’s notable about all the characters in the film – they’re all more realistic characters. Eva Green and Caterina Murino are Bond Babes that are beautiful, but not goddess-like, Barbie doll beautiful as we’ve come to expect from the movies. They’re the kind of beautiful woman you’d pass on the street, not necessarily on a magazine cover. The result is that they’re all the more attractive. Speaking of Eva Green, she has perfect chemistry with Craig. Their verbal flirting and sparring is filled with romantic tension and is a lot sexier than many of the other shallow Bond relationships.

The action in “Casino Royale” is also spectacular. It opens with a chase through a construction site that would do Jackie Chan proud. The chase defies logic and physics, but it certainly makes you hold your breath. It’s one of the best action sequences of this year. A truck chase later in the film is quite reminiscent of the one in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but it’s still able to add its own touch here and there. Later in the film comes a brutal fight in a stairway that is exciting while simultaneously painting a better picture of Bond and the fact that he’s a trained killer. The aftermath with Eva Green is unique and touching for a Bond film.

As for the opening credits and theme song (both James Bond trademarks), they’re OK for this movie. The song is forgettable, but the opening graphics are pretty cool and feature playing card images. I think it’s the first opening Bond credits without silhouettes of naked women.

What Didn’t Work:
The third quarter of “Casino Royale” really drags on at times. Some of the card playing really slows the pacing of the movie down, especially if you don’t know how to play the game. The ending is also a bit disjointed and rushed. I can’t get into details, but I’ll say that a lot happens to Bond’s character in a short few minutes. You could have almost filled a whole move with those final scenes.

There’s also a torture scene where Le Chiffre hits Bond in the balls over and over with a rope. It had to have been one of the most awkward torture scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cringe.

The Bottom Line:
Martin Campbell achieves yet another great re-launch of the Bond series. He did it with “GoldenEye” and he’s done it again with “Casino Royale.” It’s well worth checking out.

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