Casino Royale (2006)

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Martin Campbell directs Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen in this 007 adventure that sees a newly promoted Bond finding his feet at a poker game against a banker for international terrorists. 

Four decades in and we got the first ever genuine Bond reboot, rewinding our superspy back to heartlessly capable rookie status, and using Fleming’s debut novel for a remarkably faithful adaptation. The second hour dispenses with explosions and gadgets for an often line for line run through of the great airport thriller that started it all. Adaptations this loyal are an anomaly to the Eon franchise, the producers traditionally being  more comfortable ignoring the source literature completely and sticking a Bondian sounding title onto their own tried and tested plot formula. Well done on them for taking so many risks here, opening the character up to include some emotional growth (Craig’s baseline is cad and killer – an interpretation that would make your lovelier Moores, Daltons and Brosnans wince with unease) and allowing the action to ebb and flow as the plot requires. It is a rare family blockbuster that is more often than not defined by brutality over spectacle. The big showstoppers are still grandly heart quickening but it is the low level, high stakes attacks on Craig’s sculptured body that attract the most attention. Nude torture, poisoning, fighting his cold survival instincts in the face of romantic betrayal. This often feels like the Passion of the Bond. We are also well out of fantasyland. The invisible cars and ice palaces of Brosnan’s undeserved career killer yield to silk dresses you can buy (give or take a month’s salary), grotesque exhibitions you can visit, and airport chases that pay some homage to the tight security these institutions actually have. There are series highpoints dotted throughout like cherries in a fruitcake. Eva Green excels as the most convincingly detailed and human of the Bond girls. More than a match for Bond, more than mere eye candy for us. Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name is an utter banger of a Bond theme. I dance around the house pointing an imaginary Walther  PPK whenever it shuffles onto my iTunes playlist. The black and white prologue is a noirish masterwork, a desaturated reintroduction to this gritty new take on James himself. It is not perfect though. The minute long Ford Mondeo advert makes Bond seem like a regional salesman. And it interrupts just moments after you’ve accepted Craig in the role too. Ouch! The poker tournament’s script allows ways too much hand holding exposition from characters who would be better served being witty or threatening. And Craig himself…. a little too superior to become as loved as previous incarnations. You can feel his grimace during the silly stuff… but the young generations love the silly stuff, so get over yourself Mr Serious Actor Who Took The Payday. All in all though, this is a premium action adventure and in my controversial opinion it perfectly lays the path for the bruising and brilliant, and the even better… Quantum of Solace.

9

 

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