You’re going to read it around 900 times in the next few days but I’m contractually obligated to put it here too: Bond is back. Sorry, but now that I’ve gotten that out of the way I can get you into the good stuff. Oh wait, one more housekeeping matter, the plot. Bond becomes a new 007 and finds himself hot on the trail of criminal masterminds and evil schemes. Plot? C’mon, it’s 007, you’re not going for the plot are you? Moving on…
Casino Royale stands at an epic two hours and twenty minutes which is one of the few problems it has. It’s probably heavy about 15 minutes but as soon as you start to get a little bored the script flips or the action again gets pushed up to full throttle so it’s only a tiny annoyance. The other minor detail I wasn’t thrilled with was the usage of the Bond girls as a whole. They seem to have been toned down and put in the wrong places. Caterina Murino is the classic Bond gal, sultry and spicy, but she’s not used nearly enough. Eva Green is the main Bond Lady but she doesn’t seem fully up to the task. I can see redefining Bond but let’s leave the sexy in too, okay? That’s a 007 trademark and losing it is the height of kooky talk.
Those are the extent of my issues though and they’re nothing compared to what I enjoyed about Casino Royale. Daniel Craig deserves some type of hardware for breathing life into a stagnant franchise but everyone knows that big budget commercial films like this don’t ever get the nominations. Regardless, Craig’s Bond portrayal is completely different than what we’ve seen in the last decade and it’s also outstanding. He’s a tough psychotic style of man that derives humor from derangement and not from cheesiness. Craig is always more concerned with getting the job done which makes the past few preening 007’s seem pale by comparison. The idea that Bond doesn’t need to impress you, that he might in fact kill you because it’s easier for him personally… well, this an idea with merit.
I’ve already touched on this a little but the comedy is way upgraded here too. No longer are we forced to endure punch lines like “He must have lost his head,” instead we get the nasty musings of a stone cold killer. This is a dramatic difference that fast forwards Bond back into our current century. Previous Bond movies somehow got lost in the nostalgia of the franchise instead of concentrating on making entertaining movies. Casino Royale also features healthy doses of gambling, and although a few of those excess minutes are laced in with the card playing it’s a nice diversion from a heavy action film. And yeah, if you’re looking for action Casino Royale will clench that thirst in a most fulfilling manner. You’ll be shaken and stirred and perhaps feel a little dizzy too.
I don’t think Casino Royale has retaken its spot on top of the action franchise world but now it’s at least in the conversation again. If they’d delivered a bad Bond movie here (with the benefit of the buzz from casting a new 007) it would have been the death knell. Casino Royale deserves to capture the public’s imagination and viewing dollars. The new 007 has been rejuvenated in the same manner as Batman Begins was last year which is a very good thing indeed. Bond is back to being worthy of water cooler conversation, take the time to enjoy it. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the biggest movie of the winter, a gift from a newly restored grand old tradition.