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James Bond is Back: Casino Royale December 1, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews.
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I’ve never been a big James Bond fan, but Casino Royale is positively the best Bond film to have come out in years. While faithful on the whole to the franchise’s legacy, this latest Bond film does enough with the tried and tested formula to bring 007 front and center in the new milennium. And it works.

For all intents and purposes, Casino Royale is a reboot of the 007 franchise. Past Bond films have followed the secret agent in his prime or later; this one, however, follows a James Bond newly promoted to “Double-O” status: brash, arrogant and therefore very, very dangerous. More importantly, the plot elements have also received a facelift apropos of this post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. Yes, Bond is off to save the world again, hot on the heels of a dangerous financier of terrorist activity. But to bring him in, 007 has to bankrupt his target in a secretive high-stakes game of poker (hence, the movie’s title).

What could be more hip than that?

While the action and suspense in the film are just about par for the course, what makes Casino Royale actually quite good is the fact that it brings out those qualities that make Bond the quintessential secret agent. The movie is about charm and finesse and sophistication; in short, everything that 007 should have in spades. In my opinion, the more recent Bond films (as much as I think Pierce Brosnan fit the bill perfectly) have lost sight of this, with stories that make it harder for the audience to suspend their disbelief and easier for them to roll their eyes after one ridiculous plot twist after another.

For this reason, much of the credit must go to Daniel Craig. By way of comparison, Daniel Craig’s James Bond is one part Jason Bourne and another part Ethan Hunt – and, yes, that’s a good thing. Like past Bonds, Craig manages to inject his own brand of charm into 007. But he succeeds in also making the audience believe that James Bond is actually quite dangerous; ruthless, even. Perhaps solely because of his ability to carry the role, the movie acquired an air of severity lacking from the more recent 007 offerings.

And then there’s Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. Two words: absolutely stunning.

If there are any complaints to be had about the movie, two would come to mind. The first is that unlike in previous installments, there are fewer gadgets featured in the film. For the most part, this is a good thing: I think any rational person would have to concede that the more recent Bond films had become a trifle ridiculous in the spy technology category. Yet at the same time, there’s nothing more painful than to teased by 007’s Aston Martin for a good portion of the movie only to have the car in play for the shortest and most insignificant amount of time.

The second by-way-of-letdown from the movie involves a short section towards the end that I cannot help but refer to as “frolic on the seashore.” Those who’ve seen the film will know what I mean. While the entire sequence did fit (sort of) in the grand scheme of the story, it was undeniably the only blemish on an otherwise well crafted script.

Nonetheless, Casino Royale is a 007 installment whose time has come. It injects new life into one of the most successful movie franchises in history. In the process, it makes everything old about James Bond new again.

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1. Summer Viewing ‘07 « BRAIN DRAIN - September 4, 2007

[…] that really brings the trilogy around full circle. I think it’s great that there’s a resurgence of these secret agent-type movies in a manner that makes sense in a post-Cold War […]


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