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Casino Royale | Review

Stirred and excessively Shaken

Franchise rebirth proves that Brosnan looked the part, but Daniel Craig is the part.

Out are deliberate product placements, endless supply of gizmos and a taken for granted one dimensional main character that is tainted by silly plots and overuse of CGI. In comes a darker, more edgier and less charismatic principle player, complex character development, and a man’s man in bulky actor Daniel Craig taking a couple in the face and a couple in the _____ (use your imagination). Ian Fleming would be proud of how producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson’s high stakes gamble will pay off as it will add more of a creditable cachet to what was known as an unimaginative, tired franchise. Die-hard Bond fans will either be perplexed or in denial that this secret agent is no longer invincible.

Actioneer director Martin Campbell makes a Casino Royale that is bold and cold blooded, a jarring bathroom black and white sequence that explores the notion of the “00”, a vertigo chase sequence that defies physics and a fab car flipping over sequence are where the hardcore fans will find the familiar gear but a fully clothed shower sequence where Bond emotional supports his shell-shocked love interest is something that demonstrates that Bond is potentially a more rounded human being who also happens to be a secret agent.

Greed is what led the 007 creators to worry more about the merchandising of cars and expensive wristwatches than a gusty storyline (don’t worry they haven’t eradicated such luxury items – however, the product placements don’t clumsily leave an imprint of a given scene). Now greed plays an integral part of the revised plotline – based on 60’s Ian Fleming’s first novel, the three-way screenplay collaboration by Bond regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and by newbie Paul Haggis optimizes most of the darkness found in the original template and the three set pieces of the hero, the female love interest and the villain all result in characters that distinguish themselves from former the Bond film model. Craig’s Bond is a clever boy scout like the Connery and Moores before him, but recent roles in Layer Cake, Mother and Enduring Love demonstrated the physical and emotionally toughness that Craig brings to the Bond figure – plus he actually works out, doesn’t have a hairy chest as a welcome mattress and does burn in the sun. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is naturally a nice piece of eye candy but she doesn’t come across as the girl that needs to be “saved”. Mads Mikkelsen bleeding eye Le Chiffre is also appealing because his bigger worries are not the players in front of him, nor the not so secret agent’s presence but perhaps the angry mafia waiting for payback – plus he doesn’t want to dominate the world – he just wants to be filthy rich.

There is an odd appeal to this screenplay, its almost has a orgasm before the act of sex quality – the film’s final stop lacks a traditional climax, almost as if it loses it caffeinatedness towards the final act, of course it is the scenes in between the card play that keeps the viewer in top gear. Actually, the Texas hold’em card game is rather tedious and predictable and more improbable than the film’s initial crazy chase sequence. Perhaps why this is the best 007 film in decades is because there is an evident sense that the character’s personally development will continue from one film to the next – instead of the other 21 films beforehand, here the Ian Fleming creation might actually progress, live and learn from one mission to the next thus exploring the character as he explores himself. He is an orphan after all.

Rating 3 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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