December 05, 2006

Film review: Casino Royale

Casino Royale
3 out of 5 stars

Well a lot of people seem to be reviewing this movie, and without giving commenting permissions for me to put my thoughts forward, so here goes my take on the 21st Bond film.

Let me start out by stating that I am a big Bond fan. There are few Bond films I don’t really enjoy watching; the combination of gadgets, cars, action scenes and silly humour is a brilliant formula in my opinion, and like so many blokes there are many things about Bond and his lifestyle that I idolise. Many people have commented on how different Craig’s Bond is to previous and how much they liked it; I would agree entirely on the differences that have been made but oppose them just as much as others welcome them.

The first thing that irked me was right at the start of the film – the start should contain the James Bond theme (originally performed by the Monty Normal orchestra but revised many times) and this one didn’t. The intro was quite cool, if a little violent and graphic for a Bond film, but then the credits sequence was rubbish and totally a break from tradition in a bad way. Little things like this continued to niggle me throughout the film, die-hard Bond fan that I am.

One of my worries prior to seeing this film was that Craig was going to be too soft a Bond, too much a placement for the large female fanbase he seems to have and not enough tough-guy suave agent. I’ll admit readily that I was wrong to consider him too soft in the way that I thought; Craig’s Bond is actually a lot more thuggish than any previous and not any better for it. In many of the scenes he is cut, bruised and bleeding, and the fight scenes are equally far more graphic and don’t have a place in a Bond film. With this thuggishness comes a partial loss of the immense suaveness and coolness of the character, which is pretty glaring at times. Meanwhile, and this is by far and away my biggest criticism of the film, he has gone soft in other ways. The cool, suave, emotionally tough character we knew from previous Bond films has gone and been replaced by a man prone to the emotional trappings of women. His initial flirting/sparring with Lynd was pretty damned good and for a while I was relaxed, but right at the end he blows it all by supposedly giving up his job for her etc. What a sucker. Bond’s coldness and immunity to serious emotional damage was perhaps the most admirable thing I found about the character previously, and now they’ve ruined it in an attempt to ‘modernise’ him.

Lastly, the film wasn’t at all gadget-heavy. I admit that some of the gadgets have gone too over the top, and in some ways it was refreshing to see a more sensible Bond film on this score. The main thing he used however was a mobile phone, and pretty much just to call people. No remote-control for your car or 10,000 volt protection system built in, just a cellphone. How rubbish. The main car of the film, the stunningly good looking DBS with an exhaust note sent from God himself, features briefly for about 20 seconds in the main chase before being written off in one of the most horrific images I think I’ve ever seen on the big screen – again totally rubbish, at least they could have filmed a decent chase first. The product placement was also irritating, it was so glaringly obvious it really stuck out like a sore thumb.

The one thing I will say in this film’s defence is that it wasn’t meant to be like the other Bond films. The gadgets can be explained away by the fact that he was a junior agent, the emotional vulnerability showing how his hardness was formed in younger years. The film does also have a fair bit going for it in the excellent script in places – some of Bond’s banter with M and Lynd is amongst the best ever seen in a Bond film for example, and the bad guy plot is both believable and well-written. So, the makers have had their chance to do something non-Bondlike, and made a good non-Bond film out of it. But it’s not a Bond film yet is branded as such, so it only gets the three stars from me as the differences annoyed me so. Make sure the next one’s a proper Bond or there will be plenty of upset fans like me out there. Grrr.

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  1. In fact it’s by far the best Bond film and the intro sequence was fantastic. It’s the most faithful adaptation of Flemings’s work yet, what you enjoy as a Bond film isn’t Bond.

    05 Dec 2006, 23:45

  2. It might be closer to what the books were (I confess I’ve never read them), but it’s most certainly not what the previous films are, which is what most people think when you say the words “James Bond”

    05 Dec 2006, 23:59

  3. Lindsey

    I love how what you love Bond for, for the most part, is the reason why I dislike Bond so much! I find it hilarious, how the hell are we such good friends? Also, as I have no idea if this movie is in theaters or dvd (I’m assuming theaters) well… lol. I will certainly never watch it with you :) ‘The emotional trappings of women”? I read that two different ways… but maybe it’s just cause my brain is fried. If you meant it in “he’s emotional like women are” then don’t be so stupid because humans, all humans, have emotions. And if you meant it in “he fell for her mindgames” then yes that’s stupid of him but girls do that to when boys play headgames. But yes that is rather un-Bond like. Which way did you mean it? They’re probably just working on updating Bond since chauvanism isn’t quite so well-liked these days ;P But then, Bond IS a Chauvanist so he shouldn’t be changed. They just shouldn’t make any more Bond movies, there’s plenty enough as there is and when you overdo something they just turn sour! Which is why most sequels suck. Anyway!

    06 Dec 2006, 00:23

  4. Lindsey, it’s a prequel.

    06 Dec 2006, 00:25

  5. Lindsey, I meant it the second way that you interpreted it. I agree that they shouldn’t try to update Bond into something he isn’t, but I don’t see why they shouldn’t continue making Bond movies. The Sean Connery originals were some of the best, but some of Brosnan’s films were right up there with the best of them; Goldeneye in particular was fantastic. If they were turning into bad films (The World Is Not Enough, the penultimate Brosnan film, was waning, and even I admit that Die Another Day was a poor Bond film, although I find bits of it quite entertaining still as a generic action movie). But I think there is still the potential to make great Bond movies without changing the character, and I wish they would do this.

    06 Dec 2006, 12:48

  6. Completely agree with Andy, Chris – I’m afraid you’ve entirely missed the point of Casino Royale and why, despite the disappointing lack of car chases, it has an extremely strong claim to be the best Bond film ever.

    The traditional theme tune was omitted from the start of the film 100% intentionally – it only comes in at the very end of the film, after Bond has been changed by his experiences. The credits sequence was in exactly the same style as a lot of previous Bond films – see Goldeneye, for example, but so so many of them used silhouettes and revolving stylised graphics around a single theme.

    The film was a prequel rather than a modernisation, intended to show/explain the genesis of Bond’s character as an unflappable, ruthless and cold-blooded secret agent, as per the books. The Moore/Brosnan tongue-in-cheek, isn’t-this-amusing Bond was a complete distortion and I’m delighted Craig is different.

    Thank God they’ve ditched the gadgets to the extent they have (NB not entirely, although I didn’t like the defibrilator idea all that much) – it was just getting stupid with invisible cars and the like.

    This was a great Bond, and I’m already looking forward to the next one, which is meant to pick up the storyline just where this one finished.

    06 Dec 2006, 18:12

  7. Adam Hughes

    I agree with the gadgets. I always loved the bits of going along Q’s lab (and John Cleese as R? Brilliant) and seeing the rocket launching leg and inflating telephone box. And as far as I was concerned, if Bond was sent on a mission without so much as a grappel-hook belt capable of liftingg 5000lbs, a fully functioning microwave oven condensed down into his cufflings and something, somewhere that fires a laser then he should turn bad! And the car didn’t have so much as deployable armour plating or submersible version, bah!

    Other than that, a good film. Although it still has the problem of Bond being shot to shit throught the stone pillar, let alone the planks of wood. But oh well, he is Bond after all….

    06 Dec 2006, 18:22

  8. It might well have been a good adaptation of the book – I don’t dispute this. But, and I’ve yet to read a comment that disagrees with this, it was different from all the other Bond films. When there are 20 films already in the series, what a “Bond film” is about is pretty well set, and this was very different as everyone has pointed out. As I said in my final paragraph, it was a good film, but it wasn’t a Bond film. And I believe I also said that I could forgive the film much of it’s differences if it was a one-off prequel set up kind of thing. I’m just rather concerned that it won’t be, and this new Bond is here for good. Although we’ll have to wait a while to find out.

    06 Dec 2006, 20:46

  9. I could forgive the film much of it’s differences if it was a one-off prequel set up kind of thing.

    Isn’t tsi exactly what it was? And as the last of the Fleming novels to be turned into a screenplay (admittedly there is potential for those novels of which the titles were used in film but the plot was substituted for another, to be faithfully produced, although this seems unlikely) it is likely that the next Bond film will return to the stale formulaic product-placement vehicle that the last few films were.

    06 Dec 2006, 21:04

  10. It’s not really that likely, the whole point of doing a reboot is so that things can be done properly. Batman Begins was done right, Superman Returns was done right (basically Superman 3 and 4 never happened) and now Casino Royale was done right. Obviously everyone is waiting for the sequels to these to be done right, but we know that at the very least it’s the intention now.

    06 Dec 2006, 21:18

  11. I still see the humour in this bond, Simon. It’s just infinitely more subtle than it used to be: chortles “Now the whole world’s gonna know you’ve done scratched my balls.”

    07 Dec 2006, 18:09

  12. The entire cinema laughed loads at that line when I saw it. Class.

    07 Dec 2006, 18:42

  13. As one of the biggest Bond fans around I was totally disappointed with this film n so agree completely with Chris. Considerin it as just a film, it was great but as a Bond film, everything was wrong, from the lack of the classic bond theme tune and absence of Q and gadgets to the violent methods of eliminatin the bad guys (Bond is meant to be suave and if he doesnt use a gadget to kill them then a simple bullet does the trick! He is not meant to end up covered in blood with cuts n grazes) and also Bond always ends up with the girl (expect for in OHMSS where she also dies – but up until now that was THE worst Bond film!)
    It just didnt follow any of the simple rules that a Bond film needs to follow.
    One of the only positive comments I have to make about this film is that Daniel Craig wasn’t all as bad as he was made out to be and I quite liked the fact he was a lot stronger physically than previous Bonds. And ok he was pretty easy on the eye but that cud never make up for the fact that this is a terrible James Bond film!

    10 Dec 2006, 01:14

  14. Sig, I think it’s an excellent addition to the franchise, which really needed a nice gritty film after the awfulness of Die Another Day, and the slight tedium of The World Is Not Enough. Shame we didn’t get to see more of Bronsnan though, he was class. No matter.

    Clearly though, this film has wisely taken a lot of inspiration from the Bourne films, which is a very good move. It’s nice, albiet unusual, to have a Bond film with a story – and stunts – that you could conceiveably believe could happen. For example, this is typified bythe demise of the DBS – no perfect bisection of the car by a helicopter weilding a large set of circular saws here. Just a nice bit of driver error and a very dramatic, bodywork-shedding multiple barrel roll, a la the WRC. We’ll ignore the fact that no car should barrel roll from that type of manoeuvre though…unless the DBS has some SERIOUS handling flaws….:s

    However, no doubt thought that Craig is not the best Bond. He does, however, give an excellent portrayal of what you would think Bond could have been like when he started out, which is the whole point of the film. A bit too violent, not really at ease with himself, not quite smooth enough, and a touch naive. I’ve not yet read the book, so I don’t know if it’s accurate, but I can believe that it is.

    They could also do with a new Q as. Not a ‘new Q’ as attempted by John Cleese, but a new guy to play Q…someone who can make the character his own, steal their scenes in, and play it for the next 40 years or so. I think a young guy with a bit of existing cult appeal would do the job nicely, I’d go for David Tennant myself. It will be interesting to see what they do with that, but the gadgets have to return soon.

    Don’t worry though, I’m sure this approach to making Bond films will wear off soon, and they’ll be back to the way we know and love them. However, for the longevity of the series, this new approach is a good thing, and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think it will be for that long, and it will be interesting to see how the Craig Bong develops in the meantime.

    10 Dec 2006, 17:52

  15. Matt

    I thought it was best bond flim also.

    12 Dec 2006, 10:25

  16. Alicia

    Yes, me too, although he’s a bit too muscular for my taste.

    13 Dec 2006, 07:11

  17. Terence.

    Oh dear, there appears to have been some breakthrough commenting by Alicia.Tut tut.

    13 Dec 2006, 23:16

  18. steven

    the james bond movie was rubbish,there should Q in it,seeing the casino game was boring,plus it need more shooting.this james bondmovie is rubbish even than on her majesty secret service.i am a bond fan and this one has to be 2/10

    20 Dec 2006, 18:00

  19. kieran

    CS is the first bond film ever that I was bored with within 30 minutes of watching it. If I wanted to see a blood and grazes shoot em up I’d dig out my Die Hard collection. The intro bored me to tears, the fight in the bathroom looked like a regular saturday night in the bar toilets in basildon essex, and the scene in the sea with the white horse on the beach was a cross between baywatch and the waltons YAWN!! Craig looks like a digital character not that disimilar to the characters in the computer game Counter Strike.

    Back to the original format please and Craig although eye candy for the women was rubbish, Sean Connery and Pearce Brosnan wipe the floor with this bloke.

    17 Feb 2007, 00:00

  20. Adam Mullen

    There hasn’t been an original bond film for quite a while, this oh-so-amazing Bond formula which everyone seems to love is just directors remaking Goldfinger. Main thing that impressed me about this film is CONVERSATION, about the most talking you got in Die Another Day was Halle Berry making some pun about thrusting, dear god this franchise needed an overhaul, and although this isnt my fave Bond film (kinda joint between Goldeneye and From Russia with Love) it had enough wit, emotion and unadulterated violence to please everyone. Only thing I didn’t like was the way they killed off le Chiffre, the first bad guy to have weaknesses and personality, or do people want to explain to me just how Spectre is able to build giant lasers in space without anyone noticing? Hope the next villain is half as cool!

    01 Mar 2007, 19:50

  21. julie

    I saw it for the first time on DVD, made about halfway through before giving up and going to bed! Now that has never happened to me before. I can see loads of good in it from a purely cinema point of view but the fact is that DC is an unattractive thug with a great body. I read years ago that Ian Fleming never thought Sean Connery was anything like the Bond he had envisaged and DC seems to fit the same mould. I thought the fact that Bond was such a cold blooded killer was always in direct contrast to the debonair educated man the world saw? The scene where he and the girl are sitting on the floor of the shower could have been memorable and sexy – until he started sucking her fingers! I suppose as I’ve paid for it I might have another go but I’m not holding out much hope….

    21 Mar 2007, 13:11

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