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Casino Royale — Definitely Not Your Father’s Bond; More Like Your Grandfather’s

Friday, November 17, 2006
by

Casino Royale

Dir: Martin Campbell

When it was first announced that Daniel Craig would be taking over as Bond, I was neither passionately for nor passionately against it, as the rest of the Bond fans of the world quickly drew their lines in the sand. This was mainly because, at that point (like a lot of people), I had no idea who Daniel Craig was. Sure, my first choice to replace Pierce Brosnan was Clive Owen, but, when that didn’t happen, I didn’t have a hissy-fit just because the new guy was blond. I was willing to give him a chance.

Then I saw Munich and I knew right away what an inspired — and right — choice casting Craig was. Then I saw the trailer and did have a hissy-fit — but one of sheer anticipation and ‘I-just-can’t-wait-for-November-17th’ (um, well, it wasn’t ‘hissy,’ because that doesn’t sound very good — let’s say a refined, manly bout of anticipation).

And Craig delivers everything you could ever want from James Bond, plus a few things you probably wouldn’t expect. This is by far one of — if not the — best Bond movies ever.

When I say ‘your grandfather’s Bond’ what I mean is it truly is a return to Ian Fleming’s original vision — a Bond done by the book, you could say. The Bond of Casino Royale is brutal, sometimes sloppy, sometimes wrong, but finally very human. He messes stuff up and has to hatch foolish plans on the fly, and he needs help to bail him out of some situations. Same goes for his nemesis Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who not only has Bond on his tail but a bunch of other bad guys he’s managed to piss off. Needless to say, there enough twists in the film to keep you riveted to your seat until the last moment.

While there was an effort made to keep the cool technology that is part of the Bond franchise’s appeal from swamping the human element, to compensate they upped the human element to almost supernatural porportions. So while Bond going into space strains credibility, Bond climbing and jumping around on construction cranes does so almost as much. The only difference is that by the end of Casino Royale, he can’t even stand up — when did that ever happen in a Bond film? — and it’s that element of realism that sucks you in and wins you over.

One thing I did find strange was the retention of Judi Dench as M. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great M; it’s just that it was made explicit when she took over the role in Goldeneye that she was Robert Brown’s replacement (who took over from long-time M Bernard Lee) — that she was actually a new M, not just the same M played by a different actor as is done with Bond himself. So, as this is also explicitly Bond’s first mission, having her there doesn’t really make sense. They either should have cast someone to act as a young Bernard Lee, or else they should have used someone who would have been Lee’s ‘predecessor,’ and then bring Dench back for ‘Bond 22‘ when we will, I assume, be back to the ‘current’ timeline (or maybe not, as indicated on IMDb — although, you can never trust IMDb this early in the game). There are other references in the film which place it squarely in the present, which bugs me a little bit, again given that it’s his first mission; I know it may seem strange to be complaining about the temporal continuity of the James Bond franchise, but, well, I just did.

But these are small qualms. This is not just an excellent Bond film, but an excellent film overall. And it reminds us once again why Bond is simply the best cinematic spy there is.

Martinis anyone? 03971semaj

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, November 26, 2006 6:06 pm

    For those of you paying attention, I purposely inserted a red herring somewhere into this review, just in case anyone (graeme) got over-anxious and read this before seeing the movie.

    But . . . where . . . is it?

  2. Monday, November 27, 2006 5:04 am

    Wow, just like an episode of Astroboy.

  3. James17930 permalink
    Monday, November 27, 2006 11:30 am

    Astroboy was an inspiration to us all. Especially the hair.

  4. Friday, December 1, 2006 10:10 am

    Kickass.

  5. Saturday, December 16, 2006 11:07 pm

    Just watched Casino Royale this afternoon. (Has it been a month already?) Definitely breathed life into a franchise which had seemed to be hanging around way past its expiry date. The on-foot chase early on in the movie was a nice touch—never hurts to hit the ground running in an action film. We have the likes of Ong-Bak and Banlieue 13 (not to mention every other Jackie Chan film) to thank for that scene’s inspiration.)

    I agree with you about Judi Dench, as I’m sure pretty much everyone does. I’m guessing there were contractual obligations, or it was a bit of retcon. However, Dench and Craig seemed to work the M/Bond chemistry very well. I’m just glad they didn’t throw John Cleese in the mix, that definitely would have been pushing it.

    Not sure I caught your red herring, James, unless you meant the typo in Fleming.

  6. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, December 17, 2006 11:53 am

    Typo? I see no typo.

    (or maybe this was a bit of retcon too . . .)

    Shall I reveal the herring?

  7. Sunday, December 17, 2006 2:11 pm

    Clever bit of sleight-of-mouse, James. Yes, reveal your red flemming.

  8. James17930 permalink
    Sunday, December 17, 2006 4:54 pm

    Before I do — anyone found it?

  9. Thursday, December 21, 2006 11:11 am

    Well, this sucker just came out in Korea, and I sure dug the hell out of it. It’s a different beast from the Brosnan Bonds; and I can’t really speak too much of the other Bonds, only having seen a few of them. But where the Brosnans were absurdly unrealistic in their action scenes, this one’s just pretty darn unrealistic in its action scenes — but they managed to make them feel kind of plausible. They almost belong to separate subgenres of action movie.

    I’ve got no problem whatsoever with keeping Judi Dench, or the 9/11 reference. The timeline thing isn’t an issue for me because I never felt that these movies held any continuity between them. Maybe a few of the older ones actually connected, but as far as I can tell, rearrange the Brosnans in any order you want, it’ll make no difference. They’re separate beasts, like the various versions of Batman.

    And red herring — I don’t see it. Is it the “barely able to stand by the end” thing? Because even though he was down and out for a while, at the actual end, he was back on his feet.

    Unless it’s your misspelling of “trailer.”

  10. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:25 pm

    What misspelling of trailer? Man, you and Drew are weird.

    But . . . Yes! We have a winner. Congrats. That way if anyone read this before seeing it, they might think that part was the end, and not be prepared for the intrigue to follow.

    Well played.

  11. Anonymous permalink
    Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:18 pm

    …unless they read the comments as well.

    I figured you must have meant that. But I didn’t want to risk making a mistake, ruining a 27 year perfect track record.

  12. Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:20 pm

    [that Anonymous above was me…don’t know why I wasn’t logged in…]

  13. Friday, December 22, 2006 9:14 pm

    And I claim that Anonymous poster was ME. Prove otherwise.

  14. Saturday, December 23, 2006 10:55 am

    I liked having Judi Dench as M, cause she’s just so good in the role. I couldn’t care less about continuity in Bond movies, I mean, Blofeld was played by at least four different actors, in four consecutive films, so it don’t bother me at all.

  15. James17930 permalink
    Saturday, December 23, 2006 2:55 pm

    You’re a Blofeld.

  16. Saturday, December 23, 2006 8:10 pm

    Pull out your IP logs, Beal.

  17. Monday, December 25, 2006 12:00 am

    Shut your filthy mouth.

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