Published on December 11th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie6
Casino Royale Film Review: A Glorious Re-Invention of James Bond
Casino Royale Film Review
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, and Jesper Christensen.
Here is Yellow Magpie’s Casino Royale film review.
Casino Royale marks a stern departure from the typical James Bond films. Often criticised for being unrealistic and cartoon-like, James Bond films have of late been upstaged by the ultra-sophisticated realism of The Bourne films at the Box Office. It would be a mistake to view Casino Royale as a return to form, instead it is best understood as a complete break from tradition.
‘Terrorists are not anarchists trying to strike at capitalism, they are amoral entrepreneurs.‘
For a start the plot seems plausible. Instead of terrorists trying to bring about a new world order, economics and cash are at the heart of their motivations. Terrorists are not anarchists trying to strike at capitalism, they are amoral entrepreneurs. People who will do anything to gain society’s mostly widely used system of evaluation – money.
In this blurred world, Le Chiffre, a banker played by Mads Mikkelsen, has a pivotal role acting as go-between for the terrorists and the legitimate world of capitalism. His methods are simple, Le Chiffre invests money and the criminal underworld plants bombs to cause share prices to plummet giving the so-called ‘terrorists’ a huge windfall.
However, the reality of the plot gets stretched as Le Chiffre loses money and is forced to play a high stakes Texas Hold’em poker tournament. Bond, of course, must prevent him from winning at all costs. Along the course 007 is paired with Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, who becomes an atypical love interest.
Of course it makes perfect sense for the makers of Bond to include the ever-increasingly popular Hold’em. Although this comes at a price as much of cinema-goers would not be familiar with the game. To provide clarity they introduce what appears to be a cipher in the form of Renee Mathis, played by Giancarlo Giannini, to explain to Vesper the rules of the game. It is very unlikely that a savvy operator, such as Vesper, would not already know the rules to such a high stake game. However, this is a forgivable and necessary offence.
‘Every action, every deed and every word that Bond utters is designed to bring him benefit.‘
Daniel Craig plays Bond as a swaggering egoist. While previous incarnations of Bond have paid lip-service to the notion of 007 as being a do-what-he-likes character, Casino Royale is the real deal – pun intended. Every action, every deed and every word that Bond utters is designed to bring him benefit.
So what the viewer sees is a man bordering on psychopathy who only tentatively cares about ‘Queen and Country’. This makes fascinating viewing and offers the only credible characterisation of Bond. The most important aspect of this is that James Bond is no longer the pleasure-seeker of previous films.
Pretty girls are no longer a happy pursuit in the mould of previous camp incarnations. They are now a means to an end, Bond uses them as pawns to either proceed to where he wants to go or to extract information. Although this was also the case to a certain degree with other Bonds, Daniel Craig is all-business and very little games. When he gets what he wants woman are dropped quickly. One could argue that women therefore are more objectified than previously. From a straight reading of the film you would be right.
‘Rising out of the water, reminiscent of Ursula Andrews in Dr. No, it is James Bond who has replaced the female sex symbol with his muscular torso and skimpy swimming attire.‘
However, this is not the case as Bond has also become a sex object. Rising out of the water, reminiscent of Ursula Andrews in Dr. No, it is James Bond who has replaced the female sex symbol with his muscular torso and skimpy swimming attire. Casino Royale has become a level playing field for both men and woman.
Another crucial difference is that women are no longer puppets but rather intelligent rounded people. A woman who Bond goads into revealing information willingly parts with what Bond needs. She fully understands who Bond is and the world that she has entered. This was never the case previously.
The acting in Casino Royale is superb. It is difficult to point out any weaknesses. Craig is mesmeric as the twisted and tortured Bond. From his posturing and machismo, to his understanding of who Bond is and what makes him tic, James Bond has never been in the hands of a better actor. Arguably the best part of Craig’s portrayal is his ability to show Bond as a man with inherent contradictions, a person at war with himself. This comes to a head in a torture scene where Bond’s inner turmoil reaches the surface and his psyche starts to crack.
The difference between the current incumbent and Pierce Brosnan can be explained in one sentence. Whereas Brosnan is a capable actor, he is given to populism and worrying too much of what the audience will think, Craig is a formalist method actor who cares only about his James Bond making sense or not. His is also helped in no small part by his co-star.
Eva Green gives a stunning performance as Bond’s love interest. Vesper proves more than a match for Bond. Her quick wit and Bond’s inability to read her gives her a depth that few other film characters match. Even when the film ends the audience is not really any the wiser about her personality and who she is.
‘This Bond is a very different animal indeed.’
There is also something strange about the relationship between Bond and Vesper. It is almost as if both characters are playing the role of a ‘happy couple’ trying desperately to fit that image. One could put this down to bad acting or just poor scripting. Nevertheless, this is unlikely going by the calibre of the actors and the writing throughout the film.
What is probably more certain is that both characters have an inability to love due to unknown reasons and despite their best efforts at trying to be a ‘normal’ couple this is a world that they have long since left behind. Bond echoes this sentiment when he states: ‘Whatever is left of me. Whatever I am. I am yours.’
The rest of the cast give good solid displays. Judi Dench excels once more as M, the complex, highly intelligent head who, despite all appearances, cares deeply about agents and Bond. Unusually, for a Bond film everyone acts their part aptly and no one has to be carried by others. There are no models making distracting cameos or pretty girls who appear to forgotten the ability to think.
This Bond is a very different animal indeed. Yes the motifs are there. Yes, it is still James Bond and the film is stuffed with breath-taking action scenes with great driving sequences that are more spectacular than ever. There are plenty of attractive women and there are the token Bond villains. All familiar territory.
Except now there are reasons and consequences – cause and effect has replaced mindless action and violence. In the world of Casino Royale, prices have to be paid and not everyone lives in the happily-ever-after world. Step aside, Jason Bourne, Bond is back from retirement and this time he knows who he is and it isn’t at all pleasant.
A highly recommended film for Bond and non-Bond fans alike.
You can purchase Casino Royal from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Casino Royal here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Casino Royal from here.
For Germany: Casino Royal.
For France: Casino Royal.