James Bond in Review-Casino Royale-Part One

This one will be a multi-part review, as I’ve got a lot to talk about the film and I don’t want to cram it all into one post.

 

Although “Die Another Day” was a critical success, critically it was heavily maligned, and many felt that the series had once again drifted too far from it’s cold war spy novel roots, like with Moonraker. So it was decided that they would actually go back to it’s roots-back to the very beginning-Casino Royale.

 

Casino Royale had actually been adapted twice-one, as a TV movie as part of the Climax! TV series in the 50’s, with Bond becoming an American spy:

and then again as a spoof movie, which although it featured many Bond alumni to that point (such as original Bond girl Ursula Andress), it was nonetheless, just a comedy unaffiliated with the regular Bond series.

 

Connery of course started with Dr.No, which ironically had Bond debut in a casino (In the novel he’s mostly still recovering from his injuries in “From Russia With Love”), although the game is particularly lower stakes, and Bond gets a lady friend from it (Sylvia Trench, who would reappear once more in “From Russia With Love”, sort of making her Bond’s semi-steady girlfriend at the time. It was intended to be a sort of running joke but was dumped early on.)

 

So a serious adaptation of Casino Royale didn’t exist for years…until now.

The producers, wanting to take the series in a new, semi-prequel direction, called Pierce Brosnan and pretty much let him go. His replacement came as a surprise to many-Daniel Craig, who had previously starred in films such as Munich and Layer Cake, but with his shorter, spikier hair, rugged looks, and demeanor-such as those in his other films-left many people skeptical that he could pull it off. However, as the film came closer to release, with more photos of Craig in action and previews being released, the skepticism started to melt away.

And when the film came out to rave reviews, not only were people applauding Craig, but many said it was one of the best Bond films ever made-and different from the years of excess which had troubled Brosnan’s era.

It’s apparent from the pre-credits scene right away, which is black and white, as Bond confronts a section chief about selling intelligence. The section chief-Dryden tries to kill Bond, but soon learns that he’s been outsmarted, as Bond has already emptied his weapon.

This is inter-cut with scenes showing Bond fighting Dryden’s contact, which is an extremely brutal fight in a bathroom. This isn’t your same old Bond fighting/shooting/using gadgets thing; this is one nasty bond-breaking, porcelain-shattering fight, which seems to end with Bond apparently drowning the guy in a sink.

We then get Bond taking out Dryden, with a dry quip about how Dryden-with a simple kill-is a much easier kill than the guy in the bathroom. Especially when it turns out the guy wasn’t really dead, and attempts to shoot Bond from behind. Bond, however, is fast on the draw, and we get a new gunbarrel. No tuxedo, no fancy walk, no white background. This isn’t quite the Bond you’re familiar with, and yet, as we’ll see, in some ways it still is-or will be. Casino Royale largely functions as a sort of ‘reboot’ or ‘prequel’. Although one vestige is kept from the previous films-Judi Dench as M-the film begins with Bond not yet a 00, which presents a slight continuity problem for those trying to tie the Craig films together with the rest of the series (Which becomes even more difficult with Skyfall and Spectre, which introduce more classic Bond supporting characters) as Bond’s already a seasoned agent when Judi Dench’s M is new in “Goldeneye”. It’s mainly because Martin Campbell was impressed with Judi’s M and wanted her to stick around, but otherwise this is pretty much a brand new take on Bond.

The titles then begin, with a lot of card-based imagery, along with many shots of Craig. For the first time in a while (ever?) the title sequence is mostly bereft of women, (with the exception of a Queen of hearts changing for a second into Eva Green’s Vesper). It’s a great sequence, showing Bond taking on numerous villains who explode into cards, both in hand to hand combat and with a gun that pretty much shoots hearts and spades.

 

The song “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell is a rock song which seems a bit unconventional for Bond (Although it’s far from alone-take “Live and Let Die” for example), but fits extremely with the tone of the film, and the lyrics, unlike “Die Another Day”-are relevant to the film’s plot, about Bond’s emotional state, the poker game that is the center of the film, and Bond and Vesper’s doomed relationship. It all ends with a pretty badass shot of Craig emerging from-and then being enveloped again-by darkness, and then the proper films begins.

 

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