Casino Royale: Not a Bond Movie

Postby Mary67 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:12 am

Count_Lippe wrote:Kill Bond now!

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Re: Casino Royale: Not a Bond Movie

Postby Mary67 » Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:22 am

007 wrote:http://www.lancereviews.homestead.com/Archives_Casino_Royale.html


Listen up, folks: this will be, I promise you, the most honest review of Casino Royale you will read. There will be spoilers, but I will try my best to keep it to a minimum whenever possible.

The flat-out honesty part: From the instant I heard Daniel Craig was going to be the new Bond, I was full-out against it. I’d seen his performance in Layer Cake and wasn’t all that impressed. Also, being a fan of Pierce Brosnan’s from way back in the day, I thought it was cold-assed how Barbara Broccoli and crew gave him the heave-ho or—in the Queen’s English Vernacular—had him sacked.

So, the final questions remain: Did I enjoy Casino Royale? Answer: Yes…to a point. Is Daniel Craig the right choice for the new Bond? Answer: No. And yes, I honestly did put my prejudices aside so I could deliver a fair review. Is Casino Royale a good James Bond movie? Answer: It’s a good movie…but it is not a good James Bond movie.

For all of us familiar with the history of James Bond(and those few who are not), these are the required learnings on Mr. Bond’s pedigree: former comman-der in the British Navy, parents died in a climbing accident. Married once, heart broken when his wife was killed, making him cynical and guarded toward all relationships with the opposite sex. Although not born to privilege, he was given enough tutoring courtesy of Her Majesty’s Secret Service to pass as a sophisti-cated playboy when necessary, but able to switch to cold-blooded killer as per the requirements of his job. Likes his cars designed by Aston Martin, carries a Walther PPK(silencer optional) and prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred.

When Sony/EON decided to reboot the 40 plus year old franchise and tell the tale from creator Ian Fleming’s original novel “Casino Royale”, they went about it in an inappropriate manner by firing the man who initially made the suggestion to do such—Pierce Brosnan. Daniel Craig, for as much of a mocked man as he has been this past year in the press, is an okay actor…but he is the definitively wrong choice for James Bond. While the story tells how a figurative rough-hewn lump of coal becomes a hardened, sharp-edged diamond, Craig’s leading-man skills are cripplingly limited. He lacks the screen presence or even basic charisma needed to pull off such a legendary and world-renowned role. He also has a tendency to mumble critical lines of dialogue, as evidenced in several scenes within the film itself. In “Layer Cake”, he was out-acted in every scene he shared with veteran character actor Colm Meaney(“Miles O’Brien” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to you Trekkers). Even at his current age, Pierce Brosnan would have carried off each scene incomparably—especially the wry interplay between Bond and M (Dame Judi Dench). And as a quick aside on this point, I would like to point out that the claim by fellow critic Jack Matthews from the New York Daily News, that Craig is “The Best Bond Since Connery” is 100% outlandish. Mr. Matthews is old enough to know better. I will assume it wasn’t alcohol talking, but that he was writing a review at two in the morning and thought he wrote something else. Even a bad actor can shine in a good film, if the film is good enough. Keanu Reeves and the first “Matrix” are irrefutable proof of this.

But sorry…on to the movie. Casino Royale opens with a black-and-white prologue which shows Bond earning his 007 stripes by performing the requisite two kills. One is a henchman in a bathroom, the other his hirer, a double agent selling secrets to a foreign power. The dialogue interplay between Craig and the double agent is well-handled, and after the kill the opening credits truly begin, with Bond viewed through the well-known gun barrel. The opening titles are among the most uninspired ever witnessed in a Bond film, and the graphics appear to be just short of the riveting grandeur of Playstation One.

After the titles, we are in Nambutu, where Bond and a fellow agent are track-ing Obanno (Isaach de Bankole), a henchman for terrorists, carrying informa-tion which Bond and his colleague need to procure. Bond’s associate idiotically gives them away, gets himself killed, and the chase is on. A brief word on Mr. Bankole: he is a professional freerunner—an extreme sport wherein people make their living/get their kicks from running up ordinarily unscalable objects, buildings, fitting through all kinds of odd objects at amazing speeds all on foot. Mr. Obanno does a heart-pounding, eye-popping job here, and it is one of the few actual thrills in the movie. Mr. Craig’s stunt-double, Ben Cooke, gets a hell of a workout chasing him. And this is one of the major flaws in the film, due in part to the fact so much—perhaps too much—behind-the-scenes items make their way onto entertainment shows and the internet: when Cooke and other stunt-doubles are on film in place of the actors, it is painfully obvious. Cooke should’ve gotten a co-credit right beside Craig.

Bond chases Obanno through a Nambutu embassy, being sure to beat up plenty of innocent guards just doing their job as he goes. At the end of it all, he manages to acquire what he needs, which leads him to a confrontation with M, who is upset that both he and MI6 have made headlines due to his shenani-gans. Bond appears to go on vacation, but in reality—and at first unbeknownst to M—he is actually tracking down Obanno’s cohorts, apparently(but never explained) to redeem himself.

Here is another flaw in the movie’s storytelling premise: instead of showing us how James became Bond, why not start from a different point in the story—why did he bother to go through the transformation at all. In order to be noticed and considered for the position of a double-oh agent, he must have possessed some qualities which made him stand out from others in his breed. Casino Royale never gives us a hint as to what these qualities might have been. For that matter, why would he even want to be a double-oh when, as Bond himself tells M in one scene, “From what I understand, double-ohs have a very short life expectancy, so your problem should be short-lived.” Possessing this information and still going after such a job speaks volumes about what kind of psyche one would have to have in order to willingly pursue a job like this. Is the man, James, an exemplary patriot or does he have a death-wish? Casino Royale never even attempts to answer this question.

Soon enough, Bond acquires information which leads him to Le Chiffre(Mads Mikkelsen), a banker/information provider of sort for terrorists. Once paid, he acquires whatever information is necessary for terrorists to get their job done. Le Chiffre has a gambling problem though, and part of it is that he tends to gamble with his clients’ money. He’s an odds-player, and when he wins, he wins big…yet this time, he manages to lose more than $1 million of his latest client’s funds by betting on a terrorist incident which Bond manages to prevent. The scene itself, at an airport, is overblown and overdone, with very little actual logic to it. And believe it or not, once you see it, you’ll recognize quite a lot of it is ripped off from the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Indiana Jones is fighting with a Nazi while driving a truck. I was quite surprised that director Martin Campbell, the man who not so very long ago reinvigorated the Bond franchise with “Goldeneye” had stooped so low.

To recoup his losses, Le Chiffre manages to organize a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale hotel. M arranges for Bond to be in the game, and in order to keep the $15 million dollars(strangely, the money is referred to as actual dollars rather than pounds, which would make more sense since these are British agents we’re talking about) safe, banker Vesper Lynd(Eva Green) is sent to accompany him. The two take a sort-of half-hearted liking to each other, in that traditional movie cliché of having two characters deliver not-quite insults and overanalyze each other upon meeting. A quick word on Ms. Green: her acting skills are comparable to Daniel Craig’s, which is to say that her skills don’t exactly set the world on fire. As much of a hit as Craig took for his looks(and yes, I do remember delivering a few body-blows myself in an article not too long ago), a better-looking co-star could have been chosen. For instance Caterina Murino who plays Solange in an earlier scene, a married woman whom Bond easily seduces to attain information. With two impossibly un-dynamic leads, it’s no wonder that once the love story is introduced two-thirds into the movie, that the audience has a hard time believing it, and the movie comes to a screeching halt. Honestly, Casino Royale actually is a fairly enjoyable film for the first hour, hour-and-a-half. But as soon as the love story starts, the ride stops.

Anyway…the high-stakes poker game seems as if it will have an unfavorable outcome when Bond loses the $15 million at first. But then U.S. agent Felix Leiter(the always enjoyable Jeffrey Wright) bails him out by offering the cash for Bond to deal himself back in(“America—f**k yeah!”). It's very tell-ing of the generational gap which exists between the first Bond film “Dr. No” and today, that there wasn’t a stir or thrill coursing through the theater when Leiter —easily one of the more well-known secondary Bond characters—introduces himself. Of course, given that Leiter doesn’t have much to do except offer Bond a quick loan, it’s almost forgivable.

Bond wins the game of course, and is immediately kidnapped and tortured by Le Chiffre, who naturally wants his money back(I’d kidnap and torture some-one too, if they had taken that much of my money. Don’t look at me like that—you know you’d do it, too). Bond is stripped naked and his family jewels are whacked with knotted rope. There’s been a lot of hype in the press about how brutal this scene is, and let me tell you now, it isn’t. It’s actually one of the tamest torture scenes in the history of film, there are intentional laughs in it, and you’d find more reasons to squirm in your seat if you were forced to sit through one viewing of a “Barney the Dinosaur” video.

A strange thing happens at the end of this torture scene which I won’t reveal to you, just in case you choose to see this movie. It starts a major tilting of the plot, helps to set the love story in motion and begins a downward spiral of the movie’s entire internal logic. Trust me, nearly everything which happens due to the way the torture scene ends will leave you scratching your head about certain suddenly illogical plot points as you leave the theater. There are also several loose threads at the end, which is a cardinal rule no-no in a 007 film. Bond gets the bad guys, gets the girl in the end, case closed.

I know the new trend in films(especially intended or established series) is to leave the ending wide open so you’ll know a sequel is coming…it’s the Pavlovian way of training audiences to set aside money for down the road, so that like good little Borg drones, we’ll all march to the theater 2-3 years hence and dutifully turn over our hard-earned bucks to Big Brother studios. But this is one drone who’s slipped a digital track, ripped out his implants and refuses to conform to the collective consciousness that infests and infects the hive mind. Yes, Casino Royale was a decent movie...but it simply was not, on any level except within referencing the character’s name, a James Bond movie. And while I was able to set aside my misgivings in order to view Daniel Craig in a fair and balanced light, ultimately I find him to be sadly miscast. As long as he is Bond(and if Barbara Broccoli remains at the reins, he will be), I honestly do not see myself ever going to the theater to watch a James Bond movie again.


okay review. He doesn't d**n the movie. He should.
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Postby Capt. Sir Dominic Flandry » Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:22 pm

Craig’s leading-man skills are cripplingly limited. He lacks the screen presence or even basic charisma needed to pull off such a legendary and world-renowned role. He also has a tendency to mumble critical lines of dialogue, as evidenced in several scenes within the film itself


I'm pleased someone else noticed.
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Postby Felix Leiter » Thu Aug 30, 2007 6:20 pm

This was the general attitude of the people I saw CR with. Entertaining in places but not a Bond film.
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Postby Commander 0077 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 6:40 am

Mary67 wrote:
Count_Lippe wrote:Kill Bond now!

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One of my favorite quotes and certainly my favorite chair :?
You move very well for a dead man, Mr Bond
Kill him!
Kill Bond! Now!
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Postby Terry » Sun Sep 02, 2007 4:52 pm

Felix Leiter wrote:This was the general attitude of the people I saw CR with. Entertaining in places but not a Bond film.



That's a fair way to put it.
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Postby james stock » Sun Sep 02, 2007 5:07 pm

Terry wrote:
Felix Leiter wrote:This was the general attitude of the people I saw CR with. Entertaining in places but not a Bond film.



That's a fair way to put it.


I too think that, not bondian enough and Craig just does not cut it.

maybe someday the real James Bond will once again hit the silver screen until then he is MIA :(
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Postby English Agent » Sun Sep 02, 2007 5:26 pm

james stock wrote:
Terry wrote:
Felix Leiter wrote:This was the general attitude of the people I saw CR with. Entertaining in places but not a Bond film.



That's a fair way to put it.


I too think that, not bondian enough and Craig just does not cut it.

maybe someday the real James Bond will once again hit the silver screen until then he is MIA :(


What does Bondian enough mean, to you?

So where is this supposed real James Bond to be found?
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Postby carl stromberg » Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:32 pm

james stock wrote:
Terry wrote:
Felix Leiter wrote:This was the general attitude of the people I saw CR with. Entertaining in places but not a Bond film.



That's a fair way to put it.


I too think that, not bondian enough and Craig just does not cut it.

maybe someday the real James Bond will once again hit the silver screen until then he is MIA :(


Let's hope so James!
Bring back Bond!
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