Directed by Martin Campbell.
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. Based on
the novel by Ian Fleming.
Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench.
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 11/20/06
The roller coaster that is Bond flicks over
the last 25 years is highly debatable; bottoming out with films like
"License to Kill" (dogshit) and
World is Not Enough" (STILL can't figure out who thought Denise
Richards was a good casting move), the series went strong to the rim
with highlights like "Octopussy", "Goldeneye" and
Day". "Goldeneye" was the best of the Brosnan Bond flicks,
so it was good news to hear that director Martin Campbell would
return to direct the rookie offering for star Daniel Craig for the
new run of flicks.
Continuing the brief run of "Die Another
Day" to give us a slightly rougher Bond character (loved that Bond
went through capture and extended torture for about a year in that
last flick), "Casino Royale" gets away almost totally from the
ridiculous run-and-gun Bond to give us the base for the character's
training and first few missions as if this is taking place sometime
in Bond's past...even though the timeframe is certainly the present
day. James Bond (Craig, from
and "Munich", both
great rentals) moves into "double-oh" status during the film's
intro, and summarily receives his first assignment: track down a
criminal known to be working with a larger weapons/terrorist
syndicate, a syndicate that may or may not be run by Le Chiffre (Mads
"King Arthur"). After tracking down leads that seem to
point to Le Chiffre as a major player on the black market, it is
discovered that this Chiffre is having some cash flow issues, so to
help him build up the cash for a major score, he is hosting an
underground poker tournament in Montenegro where he invites nine
rich guys to play a $10 million buy-in poker tourney, winner takes
all. All the while, we get to know this new Bond, who has all
the makings of the world's greatest super-spy.
As he was in most of his previous movies
that I've seen (including a smaller part in
Perdition"), Craig is fantastic. And, certainly, he's the
most buff Bond so far thanks to getting to play this part at a
younger age; the work in this film looks physical, and it works to
establish the character as someone who believably beats down some of
his oppressors. (I still laugh when I watch Roger Moore throw
punches; don't you?) The film's money sequence, as Bond chases
the initial criminal from snake fight to construction site through a
ridiculous stunt sequence of small spaces to a shootout at an
embassy, is one of the best in the series, but then action is
replaced with exotic settings and more personal scenes as we are
supposed to learn more about how this Bond guy thinks...I was
surprised to find that "Casino Royale" really doesn't have many of
the blowout action sequences that highlight Bond films, but it was a
pleasant surprise. How many "storm the castle" sequences can
you really have? No scenes of Bond running around getting shot
at by hundreds of well-armed but hapless and unskilled terrorists,
no crazy second-in-command fight scenes (in fact, I think Le Chiffre
doesn't even have a second-in-command guy in this film, a
shock onto itself), no bad, funny deaths when it comes to important
characters. It's interesting--Bond spends more time behind
cover in this film while getting shot at than maybe all of the first
20 films put together.
"Casino Royale" is a great film, for many of
the reasons that I was hoping for; it is definitely NOT your dad's
Bond film, which is good, because I think the Brosnan run ended on a
solid but fantastic note...it was almost as if "Casino Royale"
should have been called "Bond 21: Reality", because save for a
couple of gadgets in the new Aston Martin vehicle in this movie, the
tone of the film is certainly more geared towards what a real spy
might carry around--a silenced gun, a cell phone, and his training.
Q is nowhere to be found. Jetpacks? Nada.
Exploding chewing gum? Nope. No Moneypenny. Bond
seems to not understand that women have both their good and their
bad sides yet, and he learns the hard way in this one.
It mostly works. The film is really
long--I'm ready to venture that it's the longest film in the series,
at just under 150 minutes--and this length hurts a tad, mainly in
the middle, when we focus on Bond playing poker. And, badass
actor Jeffrey Wright is mainly squandered as the newest Felix Leiter
(the CIA counterpart to the Brit's Bond, who appears in almost every
Bond movie); because this character is normally so useless, I'm not
sure why Wright accepted this part or when he did, why the part is
so badly underwritten. And, while Eva Green is quite easy on
the eyes, she was a better performer in
"The Dreamers" and
as Vesper Lynd, was nothing to write home about.
But, I'm excited to see how long Craig stays
in this part and the road that this style is leading towards is
quite impressive. Bond needed a kick in the ass towards lower
key and this film seems to achieve that. Hopefully, the next
movie won't revert to form and feature Bond killing over three
thousand Iraqi terrorists while sunning himself on a yacht and
sampling the goods of two hotties with very unsubtle sexually-themed
names. Although that would be pretty funny.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard