James Bond – Casino Royale (2006) REVIEW

James Bond – Casino Royale (2006) REVIEW
Director: Martin Campbell
Producer: Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Paul Haggis
Based on: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench

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This moment turned everyone into a Bond fan and Craig lover

This moment turned everyone into a Bond fan and Craig lover

After the release of The World Is Not Enough in 1999, EON productions acquired the rights to the very first James Bond novel by Ian Fleming, Casino Royale. For many years, the film rights were held by other companies and various serials and films were made based on the characters. In 1954 a Casino Royale TV episode was released staring an American James Bond nicknamed Jimmy. This was well before the EON 007 films had come around, and Ian Fleming was personally shopping his novels around. Then in 1967, a parody on the now existing 007 films was released also called Casino Royale, this time staring Peter Sellers. It was a disaster of a movie and EON Productions had been trying ever since to retain the rights.

In 1999, Sony Pictures who at that stage held the film rights to Casino Royale, decided to hand them over to MGM, owner of EON, in exchange for the film rights to Spider-Man. Sony would eventually go on to release various Spider-Man films to great box office success, while EON Productions held off on the Casino Royale story for a while. Instead they released Die Another Day in 2002.

Shortly after the release of Die Another Day, EON began work on adapting Casino Royale as the next Bond picture. Pulp Fiction director, Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in bringing Casino Royale to life with Pierce Brosnan staring and set during the 1960’s. Of course, this was never entertained by producers, who in early 2004 already had writers Purvis and Wade working on the script. Paul Haggis would later contribute to the script by fleshing out the ending a little more, with a change of setting and placement of characters.

A different spin on the gun barrel sequence

A different spin on the gun barrel sequence

After the heavy CGI reliance on stunts in previous 007 films, producers knew a major changes was required in the new film and set about doing as many stunts as possible for real. French free-runner, Sebastien Foucan, was brought on board as the show off his unusual stunt work in the form of free-running. A style of movement use the quickest means possible to arrive at a location. The entire sequence in which Sebastien preforms his own stunts is breath taking which minimal CGI used.

When Pierce Brosnan signed onto the role, he had a 4 picture deal that concluded with Die Another Day. He was 49 at the time of release, and was looking a little long in the tooth. Brosnan, like Roger Moore before him, knew that he was getting a little too old for the role, but since no one had told him of a recasting for the lead, he believed himself to continue being Bond for another film. While filming After The Sunset, Brosnan was contacted by producers Barbara and Michael, who informed him his contract with 007 was up and 1would be recast. Months later it became public knowledge and news then shifted onto the next James Bond actor.

Many young actors were considered, Henry Cavill (Superman) being thought of as too young, while others like Sam Worthington being thought of for the role. And thank god he wasn’t chosen. However after months of potential casting and leaks, it was officially announced that Daniel Craig had won the role of James Bond 007. There was plenty of drama and a lot of backlash over the casting choice, but as director and actor said, wait until the movie and then judge. Soon after, others joined the cast with Eva Green playing Vesper Lynd and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre rounding out the main cast.

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Daniel Craig as James Bond

The plot of Casino Royale is so simple. James Bond becomes a double O agent and is sent after a man named Le Chiffre, who is a genius poker player and also banker to many of the worlds terrorists. After a money making scheme goes belly up, Le Chiffre tries his luck at Casino Royale where Bond is tasked with bankrupting the man, and making him desperate enough to turn and work with MI6.

Unfortunately plans don’t always go as planned, and with 007 being the best poker player as well as reckless, the woman he has come to love, Vesper Lynd, is put at risk while Bond realises that in his line of work allies will betray you.

Le Chiffre turns desperate and captures Bond torturing him into handing over his winnings, while the organisation Le Chiffre works for assassinates him in cold blood. Bond eventually discovers that Vesper had been working for this mysterious organisation and dies as the walls literally crumble down around 007.

Learning his lessons, Bond tracks down the ‘head’ of the mysterious organisation and puts a bullet in his leg as credits roll the familiar Bond theme song is heard for the very first time in the rebooted continuity.

Brilliant. Just absolutely brilliant. Watching Casino Royale for this review over and over again was a blessing. The Brosnan era of Bond films was a little tough to get through, especially those second and fourth films, and before moving on, I had to cleanse my palate with Twilight. Yes, Twilight. Bag me if you want, but there is something strangely pleasing about that film. But we’re not here to discuss my guilty pleasure, we’re talking Casino Royale, and how a return to the source material and reboot to the franchise was a money spinner for EON Productions and the fresh take on the Bond formula everyone needed.

The final moment, when Craig proved himself as 007 for the new generation

The final moment, when Craig proved himself as 007 for the new generation

Coming off Die Another Day, clearly you could see the 007 formula had become stale, repetitive and boring. Producers had gotten stagnant in their ways clinging to something people had seen for 40 years and were ready to move on from.

So in came the reboot, a fresh new face in the form of Daniel Craig, and a return to the novels where a large portion of the film draws its story from. When GoldenEye was released back in 1995, critics and fans praised director Martin Campbell for his fresh, yet classical take on the character. He humanised Bond and updated the movie for a current generation. 11 years later, he returned to the franchise to solidify himself as the go to director to relaunch the character.

Martin Campbell had been offered to return after GoldenEye, but he declined. I can only imagine a truck load of cash was backed onto his driveway begging him to return, and frankly whatever it was, I don’t care. Martin Campbell proves that with time, a good script and passion, James Bond can be not just a good 007 film, but a good film in general.

Script work was handled by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade who took the original Casino Royale novel and fleshed it out even more. As mentioned last month, they are fans of the source material and clearly paid great respect to what Ian Fleming had done so many years before. When it came time for the ending though, Paul Haggis was brought in to give a little polish and change Vesper’s location. He wanted her present during the climatic battle and so delayed her fate just a little to really give the emotional impact her death deserved. Later on, it was revealed that Haggis was also responsible for a script polishing in general adding some touch ups to the film where needed.

Rebooting Bond wasn’t done lightly. It has been difficult to determine when exactly the decision was made to start fresh, but clearly it was well planned, thought out and executed with respect. A complete change to the Bond formula is in place here with Q, Moneypenny and all the usual gadgets erased from the film. This is a barebones 007 adventure with gritty violence and a Bond that isn’t afraid to hug the bottle throughout.

This Bond is new to it all and very much wet behind the ears, but still comes into the film with a wealth of experience. The best part is, having Daniel Craig as the new 007 for a whole new generation as well as rebooting with him gives the producers clearance to really go in new directions.

The familiar gun barrel sequence is gone instead replaced by a new sequence played as part of the film itself. The credits now play over the top of Daniel Craig having his 007 status instated and going about his business for MI6. Not a single women is seen except for the face of Vesper Lynd. Daniel Arnold (returning) uses the ‘You Know My Name’ theme song as a way of giving the audience a precursor to the classic James Bond theme which is heard only once toward the end. Gadgets are gone replaced by amazing hand to hand fight scenes and thankfully the stunts return in Casino Royale in al their glory.

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Daniel Craig had a tough time after being cast as secret agent 007. Headlines were referring to him as James Blond with others claiming Craig didn’t suit the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ description of Bond. Promotional images released after the casting had Craig holding a silenced handgun, and some people claimed he still wasn’t suited for the role.

Needless to say, those people quickly changed their tune once the movie was released. Personally, I remember reading an interview with Daniel Craig weeks before release and him shutting the haters down by telling them to watch the film and make a judgement afterwards. Thankfully I never got into the early production articles because after Die Another Day, I was all burned out on James Bond.

Yes, I was excited for a reboot to the franchise, but I couldn’t see them returning to form with a good film. I was wrong, and Daniel Craig sold this film for me after watching a trailer.

His performance was praised as a true return to form, taking Bond back to the novels with his dark and gritty take on the character. Timothy Dalton did the same thing in the late 1980’s, but with Casino Royale, Craig gets a lot more to work with. He also has better co-stars than the recent films before. Hell, as a whole the acting in Casino Royale is better than any of the recent entries in the franchise.

Eva Green makes Vesper Lynd such a human character it’s not even funny. Her change from a strong independent woman in the early stages to a woman with deep conflicted issues is real. You actually buy her struggle with what she wants and what’s she has to do.

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd

Going in, I had no idea of Vesper’s fate. I had never picked up a Bond novel and all I was aware of was that Casino Royale was the first. So with that in mind, seeing the reveal that Vesper was actually the mole working against Bond, it blew me away. Even worse was when she intentionally shut herself in the elevator effectively sealing her fate. I don’t think I’ve seen a more haunting death on-screen than that of Vesper. It was such an emotional sequence and the aftermath of Bond refusing to accept it while breaking open the cage, gets me every time.

Next to Tracy, Vesper is the only Bond girl which matches Bond. On top of that, Eva Green oozes sex putting to shame others with looks but zero talent. Eva has gone onto so many more films after the Bond franchise proving she has talent.

At odds with 007 throughout the film is Le Chiffre as played by Mads Mikkelsen, who I fear is over looked when it comes to villains in the franchise. What’s not to like about this guy? He’s a slimy banker with a knack for playing cards. Has a bleeding eye which although medically explained, adds to his villainess. And finally Mads Mikkelsen brings such desperation to the performance, you can’t help but hate and love him at the same time.

Mad Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre

Mad Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre

Very briefly I’d like to mention the poker scenes in Casino Royale. They could’ve let the film down if not for the actors involved, and Mads is one of the major draws. Sitting across from Craig he doesn’t do much but react to cards, and he has such a shit eating grin, you just want to punch this guy out. During the torture scenes, Le Chiffre has the upper hand and revels in that fact. Its wonderful to see the actor and character having such a fun time, yet as soon as his life is at risk, all that washes away. It’s a wonderful moment and one I’m always fond of.

Others here include Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini as Rene Mathis, Bond’s contact in Montenegro who reminds me of Kerim Bey. Friendly, and charming from the get go, yet leaves his character open to being a traitor until the next film reveals otherwise. We have CIA agent, Felix Leiter played from Jeffrey Wright. The first appearance of the character since Licence To Kill, and a welcome addition to the rebooted continuity. Jesper Christensen as mysterious Mr. White and finally, Judi Dench returning as M. Although playing the same character, she’s written a little differently so it makes sense to just keep the same actor. She’s tough, calculating and wants the job done. This is an M that isn’t too fond of Bond, almost regretting his Double 0 status, but understanding he’s perfect for the job. Dench humanises her character and provides the maternal figure Bond needs here, and throughout the rest of her run with the series.

Casino Royale deserves absolute praise for the casting, with not a single weak link in the chain. This is a winning hand and one that should be celebrated proving the James Bond franchise is back in full form again.

A beautiful moment

A beautiful moment

I remember the day Casino Royale was released. I picked up a friend of mine and we made our way to the cinemas taking our seats and nervously awaiting the film to begin. Instantly, the absence of a gun barrel sequence caught us off guard, however at the same time, we were both engrossed. Coming out of Casino Royale, I was perplexed by the brilliance I had seen. I know I enjoyed it, but how much exactly?

Returning six more times solidified my feelings for Casino Royale and Daniel Craig as James Bond. I was not only sold on the actor and film, but it had bumped previous favourite, GoldenEye off my top spot. Casino Royale had taken the lead. Everything on offer was top notch, with producers clearly believing in not only the character, but the franchise again. A reboot didn’t hinder the series, it merely propelled it into new directions.

For the record, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is my top choice for favourite Bond film, but Casino Royale sits comfortably behind.

James Bond will return in Quantum Of Solace

4 comments

  1. Great write up!

    I must admit I didn’t know Henry Cavill was up for the role but I would have liked to have seen that. Though, if he took Bond he may not have been Superman so it all works out in the end. Very glad it wasn’t Worthington.

    I look forward to the ultimate list.

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