Thursday, July 19, 2007

James Bond 007: Casino Royale

Taking into account that I'm not the biggest Bond fan in the world, I was still skeptical to see a blond hair, blue-eyed 007 in the early trailers. Daniel Craig is a great actor, don't get me wrong. I loved him in Layer Cake. But...Bond?! Fast forward a few months; shoot, a few days ago, and I was still skeptical. However, after having read this quote from an AICN review, I immediately perked up.

"Many people are going to say that this film is a direct reaction to the success of THE BOURNE IDENTITY and the sequel, and that’s probably a part of it, but I think the film that is the more direct influence here is BATMAN BEGINS. Watching CASINO ROYALE, you don’t just see one movie unfold. You also suddenly see a real series ahead, a series that you’re eager to be part of."

I understood what it took to reinvent Batman with Batman Begins. Put into the proper context, I now understood what Casino Royale meant to the Bond franchise. This was a launching point, a reinvention, a fresh start. Believe me, after the last couple of Bond bombs, this is a sight for sore eyes.

The basic premise of Casino Royale is that James Bond is a new recruit for MI6 and after earning his double oh status, is sent off to the Bahamas on a mission. Bond is reckless, arrogant, and generally doesn't care what happens as long as he completes the mission. He is stripped of his gadgets and given the bare minimum to work with. This produces a dark and gritty Bond who gets beat up, tortured, and put through the paces all the while delivering action that is-in-your-face reality. There are no quick cuts during the fight scenes and we see every drop hit with a driving impact.

Daniel Craig makes all of this work with an intensity that drives the movie forward instead of being dragged along. Gone are the campy humor and ridiculous stunts. Here, everything feels real (even the humor). For instance, the opening chase sequence is all on foot and lasts for about 10 minutes. Never did I feel like I was pulled out of the film. I was engaged and didn't think "well, that would never happen." Basically, you're not going to see Bond driving through an ice castle or hooking up with a girl named Christmas.

Speaking of girls, I was glad to see they went with Eva Green, the blue-eyed beauty from Kingdom of Heaven. Let's just say that if you ever get bored with the story, then you'll have something to look at for two and a half hours. She doesn't feel overly pretentious or self-aware of her role as a leading lady for James Bond. Just as well, Judi Dench pulls in a masterful performance as our favorite ball buster.

If you want to see a reimagining of things to come in the Bond series, then go see this movie. You will not be disappointed. Casino Royale is the best Bond film that I have seen.

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