Thursday, November 23, 2006

Casino Royale

Title: Casino Royale (2006)
Dir: Martin Campbell
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars

Much like the Batman franchise, a restart is exactly what James Bond needed. Sporting an old story and a new 007, Casino Royale is the best Bond film in years.

Royale begins with Bond (Daniel Craig) having just achieved 007 status. In his first mission, he takes on a man named LeChiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who is laundering money for terrorists. He also happens to be a compulsive gambler, so Bond challenges him in a poker game in an attempt to make LeChiffre gamble away the blood money and have to turn himself in to MI6 for protection. Helping Bond is a lady banker named Vesper Lind (Eva Green) so, ya know, sexy stuff ensues.

I loved 90% of this movie. There is a chunk of film toward the end that sucked. And I can pinpoint the exact moment where the film peaks. There is a really awesome scene, and then a half-hour of crap that includes a lot of bullshit, mushy stuff, and really horrible dialogue. But by the end, it came back strong. The whole film is loaded with fantastic action scenes, none of which had any obvious CGI. This movie utilized stunt actors only, and the results are just great.

And Daniel Craig rocked this role! The sandy hair and unconventional looks couldn't stop him from nailing the part, even better than some of his predecessors (I'm looking at you, Dalton). I'd say he is the best Bond since Sean Connery (you heard me). Craig's 007 is charming, dangerous, and occasionally vulnerable. In a word, perfect.

I also liked the character of Bond so much more in Royale. He does less martini-drinking and more ass-kicking, as a good 007 should! And the film nails Bond's classic one liners - witty, not cheesy - and it boasts a great new villain. As 007's nemesis, Danish actor Mikkelsen portrays more than a token Bond villain. Sure, he has the obligatory quirk (asthma inhaler) and creepy body part (bleeding eye), but LeChiffre is also desperate, compulsive, and all-around human. I only wish that he and Daniel Craig had more scenes together (namely, a hand-to-hand battle would've been nice).

I can see why people would roll their eyes at this movie without seeing it. At first, I didn't want to see it, either. But I highly recommend you put aside your doubts and just watch it. It's a great action film, and gives us hope that even the worst franchises can be reincarnated as something great.