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Casino Royale (2006)

17 February 2007 by Baldy 3 Comments

CASINO ROYALE


2006, dir. Francis Lawrence

144 min., Rated PG-13.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Caterina Murino, Judi Dench

Review by Baldy

I am a James Bond fan. Seriously. I have the James Bond edition of Monopoly. I had my Sean Connery imitation down before I was a teenager. I appreciated Connery, tolerated Moore, reveled in Lazenby, loved Dalton, and controlled my gag reflex with Brosnan. Yeah, that was me: I’m the guy who liked Timothy Dalton as James Bond. What was coming with this new Bond, the blonde one? Larry Munson talked about it on the radio, said he hated it. Said it didn’t even have Bond Music. Still, I was curious and had to check it out.

But first. . . PREVIEWS.

The Pursuit of Happyness – Another serious Will Smith movie. Curiously, though, the preview actually made me kind of interested. Smith plays a dad who is jobless and trying to raise his son, and he sets his sights on Wall Street. Hmmmm. . . rental.
The Good Shepherd – Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Robert DeNiro, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Joe Pesci, John Turturro. Who CARES what it’s about? Definitely go to see this on the big screen.
We Are Marshall – Based on a true story about the plane crash that killed the entire Marshall University football team, and the efforts to galvanize the community and re-create the team. It looks good, but it gives off the distinctive odor of the Post-Shakeup Team of Misfits Trying To Regain Lost Glory movie. Ummmm, rental.
Rocky Balboa – I’m on this like white on rice. I’ve heard that this was going to be a return to the magic of the first few Rocky movies, and I’ve heard a few things that make me hopeful. I am definitely going to see this on the big screen – where good boxing movies should be seen.
Spider-Man 3 – Yeah, I have to go. No choice. Sandman, Venom, Green Goblin, the symbiote. Big screen. It’s a moral imperative.

Okay, that’s done.

SPOILER ALERT
There. That’s the last time I’ll list that caveat. If you don’t want a spoiler, don’t read a freaking review. If you want it all to be new and a surprise, just go see a movie you’ve never heard of and know nothing about.

As I mentioned above, I am a Bond fan. What some people (the unwashed masses) don’t realize is that before the movies, there were books about Bond. I read them, the ones by Ian Fleming and John Gardner. For many, Bond is simply the Bond that they’ve seen played over and over again. They never wonder how Bond got the way that he is, why he behaves as he does. This movie is NOT a continuation of the long line of Bond films. I would call it a prequel, but it’s more than that. It’s the story of how James Bond, the icon, came to be.

The storyline sounds rather flat. Bond is a brand-new double O agent, and this is his first job in that capacity. There is a man known only as Le Chiffre (kind of like a European Cher or Prince or Divine) who manages money for some very bad, very dangerous people. British Secret Service wants him in their custody, or out of commission. Bond is sent to gamble against him, in hopes that Le Chiffre will take chances and possibly lose his clients’ money – which would force him to run for his life to anyone who can protect him. British Secret Service and the CIA both kick in to stake Bond.

That’s it. Doesn’t seem like much, does it? There’s more in the film than just the plot.

First off, the James Bond we see early in the film is nothing like the Bond we already know. He is young, hotheaded and makes rash decisions. He lets his temper get the best of him. He dresses in a fashion that would make Roger Moore spin in his grave (he is dead, isn’t he? Well, he ought to be). Unlike the Bond portrayed by older actors, this Bond is in peak physical condition. There is a foot chase early in the film, in which Bond is pursuing a bomber who also happens to be a free runner as a hobby. I swear, it must take 8 minutes for the chase to stop, and it was only slightly overdone.

In the same sequence, we see how Bond’s rashness gets the better of him. He chases the bomber into a foreign government building, creating a massive shooting gallery. Bond, with his pistol and hostage, is confronted by 20 men with assault rifles. He does not try to charm his way out, or reason. Instead, he shoots the hostage in cold blood and blows up the building. We then get to see M chew him a new asshole (which has a whole different dynamic, now that Dame Judi Dench is playing M). Did you ever notice how M always treated Bond as a loose cannon, or a vial of nitroglycerin? This movie shows us why.

What about James Blond? How does Daniel Craig measure up as Bond? Aside from a paucity of facial expressions, he does quite well. He’s not as tall as the previous Bonds, and he’s blond, but he does a good job of portraying the Bond that was created by Ian Fleming. He has the muscular body, the “hard, rather cruel lines” in his face, and the bristling attitude. Craig signed on for what was perhaps the most difficult Bond role for an actor. We see Bond facing death up close and personal, for the first few times in his life. We see him give his heart – reluctantly, then completely. She betrays him, and she dies. Craig did an admirable job of showing just how a passionate man can become cold, using women and not giving a rat’s ass about what happens to them. We see how an ambitious young agent can become so cavalier about taking lives, and how a relatively young man can become so completed jaded and suspicious about his fellow men. That’s asking a lot of an actor. I hate to say it, but Sean Connery could never have played Bond in this movie. As an actor, he’s just not up to it, even with 45 additional years on screen to aid him.

Finally, we see Bond broken. He is stripped naked, tied into a cane chair that has no seat, and has a heavy knot of rope repeatedly smashed into his balls. Over and over. Over and over. There is a brutality to this scene that cannot be seen anywhere else in Bond lore.

When I heard Larry Munson bashing the movie, his first complaint was that there wasn’t even any Bond Music. There is a good reason for that: HE’S NOT THAT BOND YET. This movie is about his becoming Bond. The movie has music – well done, inspiring music for action and drama. The whole movie is working towards a goal, which is to introduce you to the James Bond you know. Let me set a scene for you. Bond’s been through a lot of very bad things in this movie. Two women close to him have died badly. He has been beaten, tortured, shot at, chewed out, betrayed, played. He gets a message from his dead girlfriend, pointing him to the people who set this whole thing in motion. Cut to Europe, where a well-groomed fellow is pulling up to his villa in a nice car. As he walks to the villa, his mobile phone rings. He answers. Bond’s voice asks him is he is Mr. So-and-so. He says yes, and a shot immediately tears through his leg. This older man is terrified and crippled now, crawling on his belly towards the safety of his house. Bond Music begins to play as we see the man crawl to the foot of an impeccably-dressed, cold-faced James Bond. We finally get the line, “The name’s Bond. James Bond” as Bond puts a round in the man’s face. THAT’s what they were waiting for, people! It works, the way they did it.

Sorry. I got a little carried away, there.

Anyway, I would recommend this to anyone who loves Bond, or action, or just a well-made thriller. There is no Q. There are no gadgets. There is simply a very dark story, well told. I loved it.

3 Comments »

  • raplox1403073 said:

    raplox1403071

    raplox1403071

  • kirwar4face said:

    I agree with raplox: this looks as if it may be one of those rare movie adaptations that is better than the book.

  • Mike said:

    who doesnt love casino movies! omg im gona watch it again it was so worth the money!

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