Reviewed by: Taran Gingery
|Featuring:||Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Wright|
|Producer:||Anthony Waye, Callum McDougall, Barbara Broccoli|
|Distributor:||Sony Pictures Releasing|
When Sean Connery left the role of James Bond forever in 1971, he left some very empty shoes to fill. Roger Moore tried to fill them and was only a moderate success. Timothy Dalton also tried and failed miserably. Then along came Pierce Brosnan and blew audiences away with his performance, becoming the second most popular Bond ever. I thought he was spot on with the humor and charm that is James Bond. Thus, along with hundreds of other Bond fans, I was apprehensive when Brosnan quit and Daniel Craig, last seen in Spielberg’s “Munich,” was hired. A blond bond! Who could stand for that? So, I didn’t know what to expect as I went sat down in the theater and the lights began to dim for “Casino Royale.”
The story of one of Bond’s first missions, even though it’s taking place after 9/11, the plot opens with Bond keeping a close eye on terrorist actions in Madagascar. But things go terribly wrong, and Bond finds himself investigating separate from MI6. His investigations lead to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world’s terrorists, who happens to be holding a very high stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. “M” (Judi Dench), who was counting on Bond to investigate on his own anyway, places Bond in the game, certain that he will win, which will stop the organization altogether, and puts Bond in the care of the beautiful Vesper Lynd (Eva Greene) to make sure that everything goes according to plan.
Of course, this is only the general main plot, and the screenwriters have managed to place several subplots and mad-cap action sequences that lead to and follow the great poker game. That said, if you decide to see “Casino Royale,” it is a must-see on the big screen. The stunts, especially in the opening sequences in Madagascar, are astounding, and several other chase scenes are equally impressive, especially one involving an airplane.
The poker game itself manages to be just as intense as the action sequences. The script is incredibly smart, and, at times, hilarious (watch for the joke on the famous “shaken, not stirred” line) and keeps the plot moving in all the right places. The locations, as usual, are exotic, and the musical score keeps up with the action, although the famous Bond theme is strangely absent.
Although there are plenty of action sequences and eye candy in “Casino Royale,” the heart of this film is Daniel Craig’s performances as Bond. On the outside, Bond wears the mask of the cold, effective killer. But after he meets Vesper, we get to see a very different Bond. Their relationship is not wholly based on sex, like the so many Bond girls in past films. They are attracted to each other physically, true, but they don’t hop into bed immediately, and only gradually do they grow to respect and love each other. We see this especially in the second half of the film, when Bond constantly risks everything to protect Vesper and is willing to give up the life of 007 to be with her. One of the most moving scenes in the film happens when Bond steps completely out of character and actually comforts someone.
The moviemakers have essentially given Bond a soul, and Craig portrays these mixed feelings flawlessly, mixing a calm sense of humor with a strong sense of emotion to give birth to a new sort of Bond. The other actors hold up equally well. Greene is as beautiful and effective as Vesper as she was in “Kingdom of Heaven,” Mikkelsen makes a good turn as the cruel, yet fiendishly clever, villain, and Dench is charismatic as always as ‘M’.
Morally, however, the film stumbles in most of the same places as any other Bond film. Bond is a womanizer, and although he eventually beds only Vesper in this film, he does make out passionately with a married woman, although it’s him who leaves before it goes any further. The sex scenes with Vesper are not explicit, and the scenes usually end before they actually start, although they do feature brief side nudity on Vesper’s part. Various characters also wear clothes that reveal lots of cleavage, especially during the poker game. One thing I appreciated, there are no more silhouettes of nude women in the opening credits. As far as profanity goes, most of it is fairly moderate swearing, but there is some taking of the Lord’s name in vain.
The violence, however, pushes the PG-13 rating to the edge. “Casino Royale” is only be for adults and older teenagers. It is very violent, from the opening scene, that features Bond brutally beating up a bad guy in a bathroom and finally drowning him, to the closing scene. In between are various gun battles and fights in which Bond punches and kicks villains, often leaving them, and himself, bloody. A few characters get gun shots to the chest, head, legs, with mildly bloody results (most of the time, the impact is off screen). Elsewhere, a guy gets a nail to the eye (not bloody). A character is strapped nude to a chair (we only see side shots of him) and tortured by being hit in the groin repeatedly with some sort of rope. Bond is poisoned and nearly dies, in a very intense sequence. A character dies on screen while drowning underwater. There is also a lot of property damage, from explosions of cars to the collapse of an entire building. Also, instead of naked women, we get silhouettes of Bond beating up and shooting bad guys, although usually they explode into red playing cards, instead of blood.
Thus, we only see the new, softer, emotional Bond in-between the cold, calculating, brutal Bond with the license to kill. If they only could’ve mixed the two better. Instead, we only see the nice Bond when he is with Vesper, and when he isn’t, he is just Bond, James Bond. This film shows that Bond does have a heart. Vesper asks him once if he ever feels regret about killing people, and he remarks that he wouldn’t be very good at his job if he was. This is true, but I might like him a little better if he showed that heart more often.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.