Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale” (2006) Casino_Royale_2_-_UK_cinema_poster

Okay, so I am sure that everybody has already seen this revamp of the Bond franchise, but I thought I would add my own thoughts about it.  I haven’t made it out to the theatre to see anything recently – we all know that financially, times are tough these days.  So, I thought I might revisit a truly grand film!

What do we all know of Ian Fleming’s character of James Bond?  He wears a tuxedo, beats up the bad guys while quipping smarmy one-liners, drives exotic sports cars, has gadgets galore, and of course – he gets the ladies.  Yet, in EVERY Bond film, we only see Bond doing what he does.  We never get a glimpse inside the man.  We never are allowed an insight to the man who participates in all of these far-flung adventures.

Which of course, brings me to my next question: why is Agent 007 always involved in the most extreme missions?  Whether he is stopping a satellite from blowing up London or stopping a real estate venture that includes the destruction of the most of California or (Heaven help us) going into outer space to confront some nut intent on destroying the world, Bond is right in the middle of it all.  It would be fair to say that according to many of these stories, James Bond saves the entire world at least 10 times over.  No matter how big of a fan you are, after a while we all have to say “COME ON!”

So, the smarmy, misogynistic British spy is an action hero of the past.  That’s my estimation of him, anyway.  If you go back and watch “Dr. No”, it’s enjoyable but the experience is very dated these days.  If you watch “A View to a Kill”, you may just cringe at just how horrible it really was.  “The Living Daylights” is atrocious at best.  “Goldeneye” was a nice return for Bond, but by the time they presented us with Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist (really?) Bond had once-more become laughable.

Another franchise arrived on the scene to show us what a really intriguing spy movie looked like.  I refer to “the Bourne Identity”, “the Bourne Supremacy”, and “the Bourne Ultimatum”.  Jason Bourne, the title character is clever, but not a genius.  He has no gadgets of any kind.  While he did get the girl, it was but a single girl over all three films.  Ingenious, I think.  Regardless, it was a trilogy of action-packed and seemingly very plausible spy stories.

The arrival of Jason Bourne (kudos to Matt Damon for showing us his versatility) eclipsed Bond.  The public spoke and the consensus was: Bond is over.

However in 2006, some brilliant writers named Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis took the original novel by Fleming and brought us back to the origins of Bond.  They gave us reality not gimmicks.  They gave us a plausible story that didn’t include the world ending if Bond failed.  In a word, they made James Bond “real”.  Without question, this is the best Bond flick of them all.  In fact, after seeing “Casino Royale” you will likely be regretting ever watching the others.

Casino Royale” is superior to all other Bond films in EVERY way.  Daniel Craig takes over as Bond, and he’s rather perfect for how the writers have envisioned him.  He’s not smarmy at all.  In fact, he doesn’t seem to be comfortable in a tuxedo.  He is primarily a hit man, an assassin.  Yet, Bond is more than that.  He’s smart, as in extremely clever and often thinking just a little ahead of his opponents.  This however makes him a little cocky, and you know what?  It works.  Bond isn’t a very nice spy.  He doesn’t judo-chop anybody in the neck and drop them in one hit.  He’s brutal, savage, and tends to be lethal.  He doesn’t even blink when he kills someone.  While other actors may have done this as Bond, Craig actually gives you a performance that causes you to be a little afraid of the man.  You aren’t quite certain if Craig wouldn’t do that for real.  Now THAT is acting!

Craig comes off with a style all his own in this film.  His Bond seems obsessive.  He gets a mission, which he screws up, and then decides to fix that by going after the “real” target of his original mission.  In a sense, he goes rogue or solo.  He’s cunning, but more than anything else – he will not stop what he’s doing until he has somehow won back the approval of his superiors.  Wait: has Bond EVER acted like that?  I don’t think so.  What’s more, Bond screwed up – and that NEVER happened in other Bond films!

As for the ladies who may have been put off by the misogynist attitudes of Bond, you can relax.  I see Bond now as using 1 (count them, that’s one as in SINGLE) woman to get information in that “fashion” – and he never even sleeps with her!  Moreover, Craig is exploited in this film.  The director must have felt it was necessary to show him off because they do so quite frequently.  Sorry, fellas, but you won’t see any mostly naked women cavorting about in this film.  This isn’t like the old Bond films, which had plenty of that.

The opening of every Bond film is often a visual cornucopia of cool imagery, but this one was memorable.  I know, a tad bizarre of a thing to comment on right?  Truly, you should really watch it!  I have no idea who came up with it, but it was eye-catching in all the best ways!  As a bonus, the theme song for the film was very good too.

The acting of this film is so much better than any other Bond film that there simply is no comparison.  The plot is engaging and there is no hint of something COMPLETELY outlandish in it.  Why is Bond being chosen to be in this high stakes poker game?  The answer is simple.  He is apparently the most qualified player within MI6.  There you go.  No mystery to it whatsoever.

Oh, and did I mention the fact that there are almost no gadgets in this movie?  That’s right, folks, Bond doesn’t get the rocket-firing cufflinks or any other such silliness.  It’s really just Bond being Bond.  Hit men don’t use a laser from their wristwatch to cut down their targets.  Hard to believe, I know.  That fact alone makes the film – and especially the action – so much more enjoyable.  He does get an exotic sports car, but only for like 5 minutes.  Right before that, he was driving a Ford Focus.  Can you imagine???  James Bond is driving a compact car!  CLEARLY this is not the same old Bond.

In summary, the very best element about “Casino Royale” is the characters.  Bond is not what you envisioned.  He doesn’t come off as too humorous.  He’s complicated.  So too is his love interest (yes, his LOVE interest) played wonderfully by Eva Green (you may remember her from “Kingdom of Heaven”).  Judi Dench is once more marvelous as M, but this time around she seems like a real person.  She’s married???  Heck, even the villains have more personality.  The rather ugly Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen) isn’t some pompous slime that doesn’t get his hands dirty – he tortures people!  Jesper Christensen plays the mysterious Mr. White, and he is a delight!  The character is just begging to be examined more!  (For fans of Mr. White, do not fret.  You can catch much more of him in the next Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”.)  Jeffrey Wright as a CIA ally at the poker table was a nice touch, though Giancarlo Gianini had far too short of a role. (That’s okay; he returns in “Quantum of Solace” as well.)

This is just simply the best Bond film ever.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

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