Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Judi Dench
Directed by Martin Campbell, based on the novel ‘Casino Royale’ by Ian Fleming
IMDB Rating: 8.0
James Bond, as much a British institution as the Queen, Tea and whatever else you foreigners associate with us nowadays. Casino Royale signalled a changing of the guard, but still holds that magic that has kept it going all these years.
Disclaimer: As a young 20-year-old, you must forgive me when I say that my memory of Bond before Daniel Craig is sketchy at best. I can’t say whether he’s the best Bond there has been, or if this film is one of the best Bonds ever, because these films are older than I am!
This film starts off very slowly – and not just because of the trademark 3-minute opening credit scene, which is awesome for the first minute then leaves you impatiently waiting for the actual movie to restart! The beginning seems very dragged out, and that feeling does resurface occasionally as the film goes on, leaving you to wonder whether there’s actually enough material in this film to support its 144 minute run-time. However, when the film gets going – in no short-part down to Green’s Vesper Lynd – it is a joy to watch. Again, I can’t compare too much to other Bond films, but it feels like for the majority of Casino Royale the action-violence almost takes a back seat, and instead becomes this quiet, tension-filled, artistic film on the riches of Monte Carlo that is beautiful in itself.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning – Ian Flemming has created an excellent, captivating character in James Bond. He fits that ‘guys want to be him, girls want to be with him’ bracket that everyone making this type of film should be aiming for, but can’t because it would be copying James Bond. He has almost created a monopoly of the espionage genre, coming under pressure from Mission Impossible, and more recently Kingsman, but still being seen as number one! Also, Casino Royale has to have one of the coolest non-super powered bad-guys ever. I mean, a posh maths genius that cries blood out of his glass eye!? Genius.
As I mentioned earlier, it is the appearance of Eva Green as Vesper Lynd that not only saves the first half of the film, but almost makes Casino Royale! It does help that she was given such a pivotal character, but I thought she delivered an excellent performance – not necessarily real, but captivating, and in Bond films that’s definitely more important. Daniel Craig, in his first film as James Bond, definitely sells himself as the enigmatic spy, and now looks like a very good choice to lead the franchise for many years.
The directing by Martin Campbell – who also directed GoldenEye – was very good. He frequently used landscape shots to create a very beautiful film, without making you feel like he’s dragging out the relatively small amount of content this film has (that comes when fight scenes last 10 minutes, and it takes 30 seconds for someone to walk to a car, which I don’t believe is his fault). The only criticism I can think of is that I would have liked to have seen better fight/chase/action scenes than we did here, as many of Bonds fights seemed very laboured. However, Martin Campbell has created some beautiful scenes here, scenes I remembered from when I saw this in the cinema as a 12-year-old*! The crying in the shower scene – apparently shot in one take – was a particular highlight, and goes down in my book as one of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever seen.
Overall, I still love this film. In my mind, this is what James Bond is all about! This is a beautifully shot, one-line packed, tension-filled, soft-porn ridden, captivating film that doesn’t seem to have aged 9 years later.
*How were 12 year olds allowed to see this!? In the UK I remember this was a 12A, meaning children under 12 COULD watch this when accompanied by an adult. Looking past all the violence and terror this film could put into a young kid, some scenes in this film are basically soft-pornography, and watching it back I kept thinking ‘how was this a 12!?’ Maybe I’m overreacting, as far as I remember I loved seeing this film on the big screen as a little kid!