Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and Mads Mikkelsen
WARNING: Mild Spoilers
James Bond attempts to stop a banker from funding terrorist activities. In the process, he hunts down his suspect, falls in love with a beautiful woman, and plays in a high-stakes poker tournament.
Bond movies have always been compared with the novels, which were gritty, low-tech, and generally involved taking on evil on a small scale. In Casino Royale, we see a distinct shift toward the novels and away from the glitzy gadgetry, world-threatening evil, and immaculate James Bond that became the norm for the series in its latter half.
In this movie, Bond bleeds, goes through shirts at a phenomenal rate, and gets brutally tortured. The villain—rather than attempting to procure a weapon of mass destruction to destroy the world, as is typical of the series— is intent on winning a poker tournament so he can avoid getting himself killed by angry insurgents to whom he owes money. The hi-tech gizmos range merely from a glove compartment defibrillator to cell phones. In short, this Bond movie is a strong departure from previous movies in the series.
Even James Bond himself is quite different from the self-assured, witty, larger-than-life hero we have come to expect from previous Bond movies. In Casino Royale, Bond is a brutal, arrogant, and tormented agent.
All this adds up to a movie that is more suspenseful, more gruesome, and more realistic than the fast-paced, light-hearted entertainment characteristic of previous Bond films.
However, while I applaud the director for taking risks with his vision of Bond, this movie stepped so far away from the traditions established in previous Bond movies that it no longer felt like a Bond movie. Partly because of the expectations that come with a Bond movie, I left the theater with mixed feelings about Casino Royale. I go to a Bond movie expecting to laugh, be entertained, and be thrilled. Instead, I felt my testicles crawling up into my stomach watching Bond get tortured.
Were that the only issue with this movie, I would likely to have been able to readjust my viewpoint and enjoy the movie. However, there were other dissatisfactions…
The pacing and structure of the movie are weak. The opening chase scene, where Bond chases a suspect through a Ugandan construction site, is arguably one of the finest chase scenes in action-movie history. The rest of the first half is loaded with thrills and action, the pace is brisk, and we have the makings of an excellent action movie. At the halfway point, I was honestly thinking that this could the best action movie I have ever seen. Then the interminable poker tournament starts (for a while it felt like I was watching ESPN), and the movie starts stalling. Following this is an unconvincing romance between Bond and Vesper Lynd, which stops the action completely. Lastly, the movie’s climax is mild in comparison to some of the earlier action scenes.
This movie lacked in other ways as well. I was disappointed with the Bond girls. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) was only slightly above average. The other two women were better, with Ivana Miicevic being the high point. Still, I expect more from the women in a Bond movie.
The acting was good to mixed, with Daniel Craig delivering a strong performance as the new Bond. …Although I thought the villain, Le Chiffre, was well played, his character struck me as unmemorable and weak. I was not impressed here as well. …The script was adequate. …The stunts in the Uganda chase scene were amazing. The movie is worth seeing for that first chase scene alone.
In conclusion, Casino Royale tries to be an action movie, suspense movie, and romance all in one. It also tries to take the Bond series in a new direction. While the action elements are often excellent, and the suspense is at times outstanding, the romance doesn’t work. Furthermore, the movie drifts too far away from established Bond elements, drags interminably at parts, and carries too many other flaws to be considered an outstanding addition to the series.
This is the longest Jamese Bond movie ever made.
Consistent Premise: 85
Body Count: 48
Time to First Dead Body: about 3 minutes
Special Effects: 32
Overall: 59 (Above Average)