Monday, November 20, 2006

Blond, James Bond - Casino Royale - Movie Review

I’m a little shocked that Casino Royale wasn’t the number one movie this past opening weekend. Finally an action blockbuster that I felt completely deserved to be seen, and a bunch of dancing penguins beats out James Bond (though I hear Happy Feet is actually quite good since it’s from the makers of Babe)?

So let me first preface this by saying that I’m not a huge Bond fan but I enjoy them and watch them because… well, basically cause everyone else seems to, so I go along and lose myself in the ridiculousness of it all, and then forget about the movie as soon as I walk back onto the street. I also thought Pierce Brosnan was quite good as Bond, at least until now. Now looking back, and after seeing Casino Royale, Brosnan’s take seems a bit cheesy and shmarmy and almost cartoonish in comparison to Daniel Craig, the newest and 6th Bond on the big screen. Maybe Brosnan should have been Royale with Cheese.

I also understand the respect for Sean Conery’s original James Bond and while I know I saw them as a kid on TV or video, I really don’t remember much of any of them. Again, good popcorn fun but generally forgettable in my mind, but since Sean is the original, it’s hard not to set the bar to him.

Casino Royale, and to its major credit, Daniel Craig, is more than just a worthy successor as it rebuilds the franchise using old and new styles combined. It feels modern yet classic all at the same time. It’s gritty, dark, and emotional (now when have you said that word associated with any recent Bond films?) and by far the best Bond film in my lifetime at least (I was born in the late 70’s if you’re trying to track that down). The action sequences were actually exciting (I usually don’t care about big fierce bombs or shoot outs) and actually seemed grounded and plausible, even though they were still over-the-top and exciting to watch. The film is front-loaded with action that leads us into the $150million high stakes game of poker at the Casino Royale in Montenegro, an attempt to bankrupt terrorist accountant Le Chiffre (played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, a name itself that could be a Bond baddie).

There’s the requisite Bond girl (this time French actress Eva Green), and of course Dame Judi Dench as M, who is actually given credible lines to say this time around. The Aston Martin is beautiful and Jeffrey Wright’s appearance is a welcome gesture (though they could have given Tsai Chin (the mother in The Joy Luck Club) a few lines).

Casino Royale runs a bit too long and Daniel Craig doesn’t say the famous line “Bond, James Bond” right away, but when he finally does, it is quite warranted (also good was the ordering of his infamous Martini’s). Daniel Craig, who looks rugged sometimes, old and ragedy others, and devilishly boyish handsome the rest of the times (I say it’s cause of his haircut, the few strands sticking up out back throws some youth back into his lived-in face), suits into the tuxes well, and bleeds and dirties up the rest of the time quite sexily too. He’s as real as the fictional James Bond can get, and just the psychotic we need on our side against evils like Le Chiffre (or more).

9/10 or A-

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