promoted to Double-0 status, James Bond sets out on his first
assignment. It takes him to Madagascar, the Bahamas and eventually
Montenegro to face Le Chiffre, a ruthless financier under
threat from his terrorist clientele, who is attempting to
recoup his funds in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino
Royale. M places Bond under the watchful eye of Treasury official
Vesper Lynd. At first sceptical of what value Vesper can provide,
Bond's interest in her deepens as they brave danger together.
Le Chiffre's cunning and cruelty come to bear on them both
in a way Bond could never imagine...
last time the Bond franchise was re-launched, eleven years
previously with GoldenEye,
I found the result to be a little wishy-washy for my palate.
It sat on the fence in terms of its depiction of Bond. Is
007 a fully rounded character or some kind of superhero? Is
his womanising deplorable or enviable? The makers of GoldenEye,
including its director Martin Campbell, seemed to want to
hedge their bets and have things both ways.
Bond is being re-booted again, following a hiatus of four
years. Once again, Campbell has been commissioned to helm
the debut of the new Bond, this time played by Daniel Craig.
This is a much more confident production than GoldenEye
was, and a far riskier venture, though I still detect an air
movie is being hailed as a return to 007's roots, an adaptation
of Ian Fleming's very first novel. The franchise is being
reset to year one, depicting a Bond only recently promoted
to Double-0 status and still decidedly rough around the edges.
Casino Royale starts off in black and white, without
the famous gun-barrel sequence in its customary position.
In this film we see 007 don a tailored dinner jacket for the
first time - and with some reluctance - and he doesn't care
whether his vodka martini is shaken or stirred. There's no
Moneypenny or Q, and very few gadgets in evidence: just a
cutting-edge mobile phone and an Aston Martin equipped with
a computerised glove compartment. The humour is there, but
this time it is dry and dark rather than cheeky or cheesy.
And there's no hi-tech villain's base to get blown up at the
would talk about the baddies having more realistic, down-to-earth
goals than your standard Bond foes and consequently posing
a more believable menace, but in fact this isn't so radical
for the series. For example, Franz Sanchez in Licence
to Kill was a powerful drugs baron, while Elliot
Carver in Tomorrow
Never Dies was a ruthless media mogul.
production team shy away from going the whole hog in terms
of their adaptation of Fleming's first book. The film is set
in or close to the present day rather than the 1950s. This
isn't, therefore, the origin story of the character we have
been watching on our screens for the last 40-odd years but
rather some newer version of him. Exciting action sequences
are still very much in evidence, particularly during the first
half of the movie, the plot of which is entirely original.
The second half is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel,
even down to the structural flaw of an ending that is hampered
by an overlong and badly placed romantic interlude.
contrary to the "year one" ethos is the presence of Judi Dench
as M. With every other recurring character from the series
either recast or removed, I am forced to wonder why the role
of M was not also recast. She doesn't seem to be playing the
exact same character - her M used to be disparaging of the
Cold War (and Bond as a relic of it), but now she says she
misses those simpler times, and her language is coarser than
we are used to - so why keep the same actress? Don't get me
wrong, I think Dame Judi is great, but her participation muddies
the waters in a way that could prove confusing to casual viewers,
making it unclear whether this film is a fresh start or the
continuation of a series.
On the other hand, her presence could be taken as evidence
of a long-held fan theory that there has been more
than one spy called James Bond. Her promotion of
the agent in this movie could represent the initiation of
only the latest in a long line of agents (one for every actor
who has played him) to operate under the code name of James
Bond. It would certainly explain how he suddenly got younger
between 1985 and 1987!
the standout performances are those of Craig and Dench, Eva
Green more than holds her own as the aloof, understatedly
sexy Vesper, though it is possible to detect a trace of her
French accent even though her character is supposed to be
British. Mads Mikkelsen rather underplays his role as Le Chiffre,
though there's no denying the chilling quality he exudes.
However, as an asthma sufferer, I must express my annoyance
as yet another screen character fails to use an inhaler correctly!
Le Chiffre will have gained little benefit from his reliever
because he never holds his breath after taking it. Oh well,
at least he doesn't spray it into his open mouth like a breath
freshener, as I've seen some people do!
I'm whinging, this two-disc so-called "collector's edition"
contains fewer special features than most of the previous
single-disc Bond DVDs. There is less than two hours' worth
of features here, including the making-of documentaries Becoming
Bond and James Bond: For Real, both narrated by
Rob Brydon (whose voice-overs I cannot take seriously after
his work on Flight
of the Conchords!). Meanwhile, Maryam d'Abo
(still one of the loveliest Bond ladies of them all) presents
the retrospective Bond Girls Are Forever. Plus there's
the music video to Chris Cornell's excellent theme song, "You
Know My Name". But no deleted scenes and not even an audio
commentary. Anyone care to bet that there'll be an "Ultimate
Edition" at some point in the not-too-distant future?
my above reservations, I do like Casino Royale a lot.
As a fan of the Timothy Dalton Bond films, I appreciate the
efforts of Campbell, Craig, and screenwriters Neal Purvis,
Robert Wade and Paul Haggis to make 007 more human and the
franchise less fantastical. Here, as in Licence to Kill,
we see Bond getting injured in a gritty and realistic way.
I can only hope that the success of this movie will lead to
a widespread reappraisal of the woefully undervalued Dalton
the meantime, the Daniel doubters (myself among them) have
largely been silenced by the merits of Bond's latest adventure,
the most daring in years. A right Royale treat.