Sunday, 28 October 2012

Casino Royale (2006)

After watching the previous twenty films, this one is a hard thing to write about. Why? Simply because I really shouldn’t judge it on anything that’s come before it. The film is based on Fleming’s first James Bond book and is rightly so the choice of story to not only launch a new actor, but the producers have deliberately drawn a line in the sand. This Bond is the start of a new canon, for it is a reboot. This is BOND BEGINS!

So, with that in mind, what do we have?  James Bond, a highly trained naval commander, has just made 00 status at MI6. His first mission is to must stop a man called Le Chiffre, a banker to the worlds terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro.

With the pre-titles sequence, we know we are watching something very, very different. Shot in black and white, styled like a noir cold war thriller from the Sixties. Daniel Craig is introduced with two assassinations, one brutal fight in a men’s public toilet and the second a quick simple kill. The gun barrel is kind of here!

The film opens with a very impressive stunt sequence; so not everything is new. The producers still use current trends within the Bond film franchise. This time in 2006 Parkour or Free Running was at its height within popular culture and watched mostly on YouTube. The film casts one of the main pioneers of this extreme sport, Sebastien Foucan. He plays a bomb maker that 007 chases down on foot, which leads to an awe-inspiring foot chase through a building site, jumping from high rise crane to crane and to a shoot out at an embassy. A very fresh action scene, but undenably Bondian.

Daneil Craig was a shock casting to fans and at the time it gave to negative press coverage, claiming him to be Bland Bond or Blonde Bond? Yes, I agree physically he doesn’t look like a traditional 007, that being tall, dark and handsome. But after a few minutes watching him as the character, you soon realise why he’s Bond, especially within this rebooted new franchise. They have taken Bond into a modern setting, foregoing the gentleman spy making his way round to megalomaniacs and fellow gentlemen spies from other nationalities. The world we live in is not the 1950s or 1960s, the world we live in is very complex and so are our enemies. This James Bond is a very believable 007, a orphan, Oxford University graduate who joined the navy, a career seaman reached the rank of Commander, would definitely spent time with the SBS regiment, before being recruited by MI6 for black ops. We find him at the start of his 00 promotion and Daniel Craig plays this part perfectly. He owns this Bond, he is a stone cold brutal killer, a highly educated man who can fit in a crowd and disappear just as fast. Ladies and gentleman, Bond is back… or more importantly, Bond has re-begun.

With the rebirth of an icon and also managing to deliver believable Bondian action scenes that thankfully don’t rely on CGI to complete them (see Die Another Day), they manage to get so much wrong, After the Parkour action, we have a fantastic chase/fight across runways of an airport, this brings us an hour into the film and we are introduced to Vesper a HM Treasury Agent, played by Eva Green. She accompanies Bond to the poker match at the casino.

Suddenly we are treated to the most expensive filmed re=enactment of Channel 4’s Late Night Poker! To make a card game exciting for a movie audience is a hard task, which this film proves– even with various distractions away from the game, from fights on stairways and Bond being poisoned. No matter what the script has for us it just never makes the poker scenes punch. However, what happens away from the poker table is interesting, not just the action – more importantly this new franchise, bravely and rightfully shows the effects upon our heroes. They are human, they feel, not everything can be repressed; no man is a robot. A scene where Bond cleans himself up after killing two men in the stairway while Vesper watched is just electrifying. No words are spoken, Bond cleans himself up and it’s just with a look and body movement that Craig delivers exactly what he’s feeling. Taking life is never easy and he didn’t want Vesper to see that side of him.            

Mads Mikkelsen plays the villain. What’s interesting is he is not a top dog, not a conventional villain. However, because of his involvement with various organized crime and terrorist organisations, he is at the top of Bond’s watch list. It’s the information Bond wants from this accountant, who is desperate to replace money he’s ‘borrowed’ from these various unsavoury people and gambled it away. Le Cheffre makes an interesting villain, a man very much desperate, on the edge and very sinister.

The relationship between Vesper and Bond is a complex affair, but completely central to the story. They start as bickering work colleagues, more importantly it’s obviously flirtatious. They smoulder on screen, the chemistry is undeniable – this is why Bond hated her having to see what he can do, especially when he killed the men in the stairway. When Bond is captured and tortured, but survives and spends time recuperating in hospital. Vesper visits him. It’s here in the earliest start of his 00 status that Bond wonders if this is the life for him, he has fallen in love with her. His shield has fallen, he talks of leaving the service, this is the real thing for 007. So, when her betrayal is revealed it is that much more heart wrenching for us the viewer. Finding out that the person you love and trust the most in the world can destroy a man. Or in Bond’s case make a man, the man we know him to be.

The film does everything it should do, for some it didn’t have enough action or Bondian moments –well it shouldn’t, because he’s not there yet. He’s not fully that man yet, that’s to come – but first he must get revenge. Even if she betrayed him and he says he’s glad “.the bitch is dead”. We the audience and M know different. Alas, this is merely Part 1 of this story and for once in the franchises history the story continues directly on, straight after Bond pays Mr White a visit!

One of the best Bond films ever and one of the greatest re-boots ever!

Rating: 5 out of 5


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