Casino Royale (2006) is the fantastic reboot of the Bond franchise.
James Bond, a freshly recruited agent for British intelligence, tracks a bomb through terrorists while trying to find the man behind it all. He finally confronts him at a poker game
When this movie came out, I was hesitantly excited. Bond was back after four years, and Martin Campbell the director of Goldeneye resumed the helm. Goldeneye was my first Bond in theaters and is still considered one of the best. There was a lot of controversy about Daniel Craig around the premiere, but I like to give people a chance before insulting them (most of the time). However, the two prior Bond films, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day,
were both over the top near parodies. Thus, I went into Casino with low expectations. It is awesome as everyone now knows. The film did extremely well critically and commercially as well as revitalizing a dead franchise.
James Bond is a rookie who struggles with his first kill before easily accomplishing his second. The final steps of the evolution into the agent from the previous films. he even gets his signature 1964 Aston Martin in a poker game. He goes between cold killer and suave lover with remarkable ease. He's a man who believes in his cause and has everything to prove. All this is revealed in the first chase scene where he faces a superior physical opponent and must use brains and brawn to outwit him. This Bond is genuinely funny without the reliance on one liners that the series and action films in general. A smart slick Bond for the new millennium.
Solange is the minor bond girl (aka the one who dies). She is married
to one of the links in the bombing chain that Bond is investigating. Shesuccumbs to Bond's charms and aides him, paying the price for her
encounter with Bond. The damage that Bond leaves behind is one of the big themes in this film, and Solange is the human casualty in the chain.
M is Bond's boss. She's the only hold over from the last several Bond films and a welcome one. She has some issues with Bond's methods, but they gradually develop the trust from later films.
Rene Mathis is Bond's contact and provides humor throughout and explanations during the poker game. His character is a great addition, but his explanations get a bit out of hand. Pointing out Le Chiffre's tell for a second time and saying Bond's going all in before he does it are lovely little notes from the studio that tell the audience that they're idiots. Fortunately, aside from the forced explanation, he is very funny.
Le Chiffre isn't the most intimating villain. He's a criminal accountant who rigs bets, cries blood and has asthma. His stand out scene is the torture scene. This is straight from the novel and perhaps the most brutal Bond scene to date, yet it manages to be funny. His ferocity comes from his desperation and he is one of the few foes to actually get to Bond.
Right from the get go we are treated to the awesome "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell as our opening tune. Unlike previous Bond entries, there aren't any naked girls, just a stylized bond taking out baddies with poker symbolism. The sets are gorgeous from the intimidating construction set that Bond smashes through to the Montenegro hotels that Bond charms his way through. What's not to love?
In the End
The ending is heartfelt and traumatic. Normally, Bond has sex with a girl as credits roll, but this film has class hearkening back to On Her Majesty's Secret Service. We see the final layers of Bond's emotions removed and have him go into the end credits with his catch phrase and theme. The perfect end to a fantastic movie.
There are some corny lines and redundancies, but this is action done right. Some people took issue with a lack of Q and his gadgets, but they clearly hadn't watched any early Bond, especially Dr. No, the first Bond film, and the novels. The gambling scenes can be a little slow, but they have some nice action breaks and didn't get muddled in the rules of the game. This film takes all the right stuff from its predecessors and leaves the rest. It combines amazing action scenes, a smart plot, and interesting characters into a great Bond for the new generation and is the best Bond film to date.
Next time: Overconfidence leads to the reboot's first misstep.