Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Casino Royale

I own all the Bond flicks, even the craptastic remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again. I've seen them all dozens of times, and my faves are GoldfingerThe Spy Who Loved MeMoonrakerFor Your Eyes OnlyLicense to Kill, and Goldeneye. So when this "reinvention" of the character was announced with Daniel Craig in the lead I was skeptical. Why revamp the series when the last film, Die Another Day, was a huge hit regardless of its quality? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Well, I'm glad they did. It's so damned good it reminded me what made these movies so much fun in the first place. Not the gadgets, not the women, not the action... it's the character of James Bond himself. Gone are the gadgets, one-night stands and stupid one-liners. This is a whole new Bond.
Here we get to see Bond on his first mission just after being promoted to Double-O status. He's out to stop a banker, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), from winning a multi-million dollar Poker Tournament in Montenegro. If he fails, he will have helped this criminal fund terrorism all over the world. What's unexpected is that we see Bond fall in love for the first time. Vesper Lynd (the stunningly beautiful Eva Green) is Bond's link to the British government's money that he will need to enter the tournament. Much action ensues.

What I like best is the fact that Bond is presented as a "Blunt Instrument". He's a cold hearted killer that does what he's told by any means necessary. He does have a rebellious streak in him too, which I thought was pretty cool as well. But the best thing is that Bond is presented as a human being this time around. He constantly gets the shit kicked out of him over the course of the movie and he always has scars and whatnot left over, unlike in previous films where he'd get into a brutal fist fight and come out without a scratch and barely out of breath. He also has a very decent emotional arc that works to give explanations as to why he is the way he is in the other films, especially in his attitudes toward women.
Daniel Craig was given free reign to create this character from the ground up and he did a bang up job. Eva Green was great as well as the love interest with a brain and a sharp wit on top of her good looks (she looks even better without make-up!). Mads Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre as more than just a villain. He's actually sympathetic to a degree when we see that he's being terrorized himself by unsavory folks at one point. But the way that both Mikkelsen and Craig play off each other during that horrific torture scene really goes a long way to show off how great this cast is.
There isn't really much action, but what is there is fantastic. Well choreographed fight scenes that don't follow the current Hollywood trend of being photographed so damned close to the actors that you can't see what's going on. We get to see every brutal punch, kick and gunshot in its entirety. The opening Parkour scene is a stunner, as is the airport chase.
Director Martin Campbell, who also rebooted the franchise back in the mid-90s with Goldeneye, has delivered his best work ever. This is a mature and adult oriented adventure flick that doesn't pander to the kiddies despite its PG-13 rating. It's harsh and violent, much like License to Kill.

My only complaints were that the film runs about 10 minutes too long and the opening theme song, "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell, is a bit of a letdown. Other than that you get the best Bond film ever made that features a first for the series in its open ending that will lead directly into the next film (which is already in pre-production). Personally, I can't wait!

5 out of 5

*written 11/17/06

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