Written by Films

Casino Royale

So finally the new Bond is with us – Daniel Craig. Frankly, after the last film, the only possible way was going to be up.
Recently we’ve had The Bourne Identity and more specifically, The Bourne Supremacy where the realism was heightened and the visceral thrill of something perhaps not working out returned to the cinema. At the time of its release, many commentators were hoping that Paul Greengrass would helm the next Bond. But instead we get Martin Campbell. He previously directed Goldeneye, and that was a deserving return to form of the series when it introduced Pierce Brosnan as Bond. I must admit, however, I was a little worried that he wouldn’t be the right man for the job, and that they really did need some new blood.
Fortunately, I was wrong to worry. This is the man, after all, who previously directed the quite wonderful Edge of Darkness – which still holds its own.
Eon Productions and the Broccoli family have seen the way films are going and aren’t going to be left behind. So this time out, we get real violence, with Bond blooded and bruised after brutal fight scenes (well, brutal enough to warrant a 12A certificate). There’s no Q with John Cleese hamming it up. Gadgets are few and far between, and are spectacularly un-sensational. His Aston Martin is not able to make itself invisible; indeed the only special features it seems to have are compartments to hold silenced pistols and emergency medical kits.
In Daniel Craig, we have a strong, tough, “real” Bond. He gets hurt, but he doles out pain too. Craig first came to attention in the astonishing Our Friends in the North where he played Geordie, and his star has been in the ascendant ever since. In many respects he reminds you of Connery, although the film is much more reminiscent of From Russia With Love (possibly my favourite Bond film thus far).
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen plays the villain, but this isn’t a normal Bond film in the sense that he’s not out to take over the world; he’s simply a banker for terrorists. He doesn’t even have an enormous lair, perhaps hidden away on a south-east Asian island.
The music’s an improvement on last time too. Actually, that’s a little unfair on composer David Arnold, who’s now been with the series since Goldeneye. I remember when that film came out, and I really wasn’t sure, but I’ve warmed to him. The title song is streets ahead of Madonna’s nonsense from last time out. Can anyone hum that now? And indeed the opening titles, while quintessentially “Bondian” take on a 21st century tone. Sorry. No silhouettes of scantily clad women this time out. It’s just a shame that we had to wait until the closing moments to hear Monty Norman’s fine Bond theme. This was obviously because only at the film’s conclusion did Bond really attain his mantle as the fearless “00” operator that he is: dispassionate and cold-blooded.
The action scenes remain strong with the standout sequence being a long “free running” chase between Bond and an African villain. The stunts are fine, and there are only a couple of back-projected scenes that stand out to let the side down.
I’m not so sure about the opening black and white montage. I have no problem with the acting or the scene itself. However, the black and white process feels like it’s a post production thing, and it doesn’t look as good as it should. Perhaps they should have actually shot those scenes on real black and white film?
It’s a shame that the game played in the Casino Royale itself was not Baccarat, as it was in Fleming’s novel, but Texas Hold ‘Em poker which somehow feels a little base. Yes, the audience is more keenly able to follow the rules of poker and understand who’s winning, but a good script could get around this. It felt as cheap as it did when in a previous Bond, Brosnan was seen drinking Smirnoff rather than a more expensive brand. Speaking of which, would Sony perhaps like to layoff quite so much obvious product placement next time? And it was really cheap to have a character ask Bond if he was wearing a Rolex to hear him say that no, it’s an Omega. Come on. Perhaps he’d like to let us know which Saville Row tailor he uses, and his favourite brand of aftershave too?
The only piece of the film that didn’t really hang together was the way Bond got through a potential life-threatening situation to himself in the middle of the competition. Somehow, he was back at the table within an hour – just a bit too remarkable.
The supporting performances are fine with Eva Green playing Vespar Lynd with great aplomb. I noticed in the closing credits that she was supplied with a dialogue coach. As she’s French, but has spent time in England, that’s understandable. But her accent was still a little curious, and not dissimilar to that that she had in The Dreamers.
Judi Dench had much more to do as M than she’s always had in these films. Well I guess that if you’ve got an actress of her calibre in your cast, it’s a shame not use her. Caterina Murino plays a sultry Solange, and Felix Leiter reappears in the guise of Jeffrey Wright.
So overall, Casino Royale’s a great return to form for the series, and hopes should be high for the next. After all, as the end credits said here, and always say, “James Bond Will Return.”