Casino Royale (2006)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino
Directed by: Martin Campbell
There’s been a lot of talk about where Casino Royale fits, quality-wise, within the pantheon of Bond films, with most claiming it to be a return to form and amongst the very best in the history of the franchise. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to this here, as I’ve never been a big enough James Bond fan to judge. I watched the movies growing up, but don’t really remember which is which. For me, it was more about getting a taste of the adult world that I didn’t really understand, so I didn’t follow along too much past the cool gadgets and elaborate death traps. I saw all the Pierce Brosnan films as teen/young adult, but didn’t really view them critically enough to speak on them either, other than to say that they kept getting more and more disposable as they continued.
So I won’t bother trying to make statements on how Casino Royale stacks up against other films in the franchise it is attempting to reboot, and instead make statements about the film itself as a separate entity. And by itself, it’s one hell of a movie.
It has everything you’d expect from a big action spy movie, along with all the standard Bond themes, but delivers them with a maturity and grit that you haven’t seen from the franchise, or Bond copycats, in quite some time. Daniel Craig is electric in the role, giving 007 a sense of menace behind his smirk and outward confidence that makes the character work. His greatest strength, his supreme confidence, is also his biggest flaw, in that his tremendous ego can stand in the way of accomplishing his mission. It’s a great touch for the character, presenting a less-than-perfect James Bond as he tries to find his way in his new role as a double-0 (for those who don’t know, if there is anyone who doesn’t, Casino Royale starts the franchise over again, and is not a continuation from earlier films, a la Batman Begins).
I enjoyed the movie immensely, delivering the creative, high-octane adventures of the Mission: Impossible series while providing some headier moments like the Bourne series. However, the movie, while a winner, isn’t flawless. My biggest problem with the movie came around the two-thirds mark. What had up until that point been a brilliantly-paced thriller shifted gears somewhat ungracefully, slamming on the breaks to reveal the softer side of Bond. I understand what the movie was trying to do with the character in this portion of the movie, showing him fall in love and open up to the fantastic new Bond girl (Eva Green). But the scenes with them together interrupted the flow of the movie too much, coming off what was a near climax then cooling the excitement down to a crawl. The character development was necessary, and the ultimate climax was well done, but the execution was flawed. I couldn’t help but think the whole time “yeah, this is nice and all, but can we get back to the movie soon?”, and I’m not usually an impatient man.
Still, it was otherwise a fantastic adventure, easily one of the best of its genre in years. Had the franchise continued in the direction it was heading, its possible that I wouldn’t have even bothered seeing the next installment. With this exciting new direction, I now look forward to the next installment almost as much as the next Batman or Spider-Man installments.