What do they call a Quater Pounder with cheese in France? A Royale with cheese.
Hot damn! Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, James Bond! What a wild way to pick up the mantel of 007. Some people have said Thunderball is the greatest Bond film ever. Some people argue that Casino Royale is. To me, it’s a matter of eras. Unlike some films like Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope that stand the test of time because they aren’t necessarily timestamped, I feel most James Bond flicks feel like products of their times. Thunderball was and still is awesome sauce. But for me, Casino Royale is where it’s at.
Directed by GoldenEye (My review) veteran Martin Campbell and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and The Last Kiss‘ Paul Haggis, Casino Royale strips Bond down back to his origins as a 007 agent. This Bond is flawed and emotional. He has barriers that come crumbling down around him for what might be he undoing. His relationship with M (Judi Dench) is already strained as he jumps into the world of high stakes poker to uncover money laundering terrorists and their associates. He does all this will very little gadgets. This Bond is rough around the edges and can’t keep his shirt clean.
– The simplicity of the film. Bond plays poker. Kicks ass. Gets action. Even sees a little ball work.
– Daniel Craig. It took three films for him to be fully comfortable in that damned suit. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t rock that bow-tie at all in Casino Royale. He was rough and witty. Bringing back some of the edge Bond had in the Flemming books that had been lost on Brosnan, yet embracing the martinis as puns.
– The lack of toys. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Bond gadgets. But this film would have been hurt by an excess. Poker is simple. So should be Bond’s toys. It was a nice touch having a mini-crash-kit in the glove compartment of his Aston Martin DBS.
– Vesper. Probably the most fitting Bond girl ever: looks, brains, wit and evil.
– The minimal use of CGI. Something I felt had plague the Bond films leading up to Casino Royale what they had too many computer generated effects. What made this film feel more real was the use of the practical effects and somewhat toned down action. You know because a giant lazer from space is pretty over the top, fellas.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
– The Score. This is where Casino Royale loses BIG points with me. Most of the music in the film felt over the top and tried to dictate the mood of the scene when the scene was strong enough on it’s on. Something it’s Quantum of Solace rectified. There was even a scene where Bond was sized-up by Vesper for a suit that had music I would hear in The Ugly Truth.
Casino Royale is seen as a reboot for the now 50 year-old franchise. Revitalized by the difference and rooted performance of the entire ensemble; Casino Royale is a non-stop nail biting film about a freakin’ poker game. That alone is a testament to how well this film is made. It’s a movie about playing poker and it’s loved. Good job Campbell. Casino Royale is Verified Awesome!
BONUS: If you take up watching Quantum of Solace MOMENTS after Casino Royale, I find that it comes off as stronger film. Still heavily flawed, but better. Character motivations can be derived from Casino Royale.