Monday, November 20, 2006

Review of Casino Royale

A slight departure today, my good friend Nick L has written a definitive review of Casino Royale which I agree with on every level. All I would add is that the superb title sequence is reminiscent of the 60's introductions and the Bond song is not nearly as bad as some were predicting.
over to you Nick...

A review of Casino Royale (2006)

Over the course of 21 films and 40 years, each new cinematic visitation of secret agent 007 has been heralded with the proclamation that “Bond is Back’. Casino Royale, the latest film in the series, begs the question as to whether previously he was ever there at all, for Daniel Craig, the latest actor in the role, has made the part his own, even overshadowing the nonchalant, iconic brutality of Sean Connery’s 60s portrayal.Casino Royale is shorn of all the cinematic devices that have made such an unpalatable character the established family Boxing Day hero of yore. No overelaborate secret bases staffed by lackeys in hardhats and colour-co-ordinated boiler suits, no submersible sports cars, no campy exchanges or Carry On double entendres. Craig’s Bond has been hardboiled, all impurities burnt away, the audience captivated by his cold, merciless basilisk stare, injecting a genuine sense of drama into what had increasingly become a self-parodic, self-indulgent routine of ritual.

This is not to say the film is unrecognisable from what has gone before. The disapproving boss, Bond’s disregard for authority while remaining resolutely of the Establishment, the consumerist fetishism, the fast cars, the easy women, the exotic locales, the physically disfigured villains are all present and correct, but then again, they were in Ian Fleming’s original novels. Casino Royale transposes with surprising ease Fleming’s tropes of a Club-land infused 1950s to a post 9/11 environment of international terrorism, and the back to basics approach of the film makes this transition easier. It is easier to imagine Bond being set upon with a machete than being cut in half in an over-elaborate setup involving lasers that can punch holes in the moon or being fed to sharks in the secretarial pool underneath the villain’s lavish offices (transported there by trapdoor, naturally).In an era where we have all now become James Bond ourselves with our GPS tracking systems, iPods, minute digital cameras and laser-marker pens, the audience has now reached a parity with Bond in terms of his gadgets. Whereas in more recent entries in the franchise had led the filmmakers to stretch the techno-fetishism to breaking point (invisible car, anyone?), 007’s toys in the new film are believable to the extent that you would expect them to be most middle-aged man’s Christmas stocking by 2008. This allows the filmmakers to focus solely on the look, narrative and performances of the film, with one or two indulgent action scenes being dispensed with quite earlier on in the film (although deftly executed) so they can get on with telling what is, at its heart, a genuinely gripping thriller.

Martin Campbell, the director of Casino Royale who was also responsible for the post-Cold War riposte of the series Goldeneye, has accomplished what he has set out to do – make James Bond a credible twenty first century character who can hold his own against the faux ultra-realism of Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan.Ably supported by a great supporting cast (Eva Green is especially good as the best Bond girl since Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service over 30 years ago), Daniel Craig makes the film his own, with an intense performance coupled with a physicality that even Connery lacked. The action sequences recall the bare knuckle clashes of Raiders of the Lost Ark or more adult fare, and this helps the drama no end by making you believe that not only can Bond inflict serious physical damage on an opponent but that he too is vulnerable, easily wounded and at high risk of being snubbed out at any moment.The defining moment of Casino Royale is a quiet scene involving just Craig. Bond has just killed two men with his bare hands, he is literally drenched in blood, his face is lacerated, and he has returned to his luxurious hotel room, propping himself up against the sink in the bathroom, downing shots of whisky as he just stares at himself in sheer disbelief and barely contained horror at the realisation of what he is capable of. Previous Bond films would have tried to denude the brutality of a killing by having it done by gadget or by a mordant post-kill quip (“I think he got the point”). Casino Royale, however, like Bond, forces the audience to stare the film’s consequences in the face, and is more gripping and shocking as a result. Casino Royale, like its protagonist, is a killer.

Killer review (pun intended)


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