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CASINO ROYALE by Martin Campbell

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Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is a banker for ‘freedom fighters’ all over the world. He speculates with the terrorist’s assets and offers access to the money anytime, anywhere in exchange. Le Chiffre speculates for a fall of an airline’s stock – more than 100 million dollars are at stake – and the bombing of a newly developed airplane shall ensure success. James Bond (Daniel Craig) – freshly promoted to 00 status after two kills – averts the bombing, and Le Chiffre is in trouble. His customers are not amused about him losing their money, and they are not the kind to flinch from chopping off hands or heads.
Le Chiffre intends to win back the money in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Although M (Judi Dench) is not particularly impressed with his previous performance, James Bond is considered the best card player in the service and is dispatched to participate in the game for the MI6. Accompanying him is Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from treasury who shall keep an eye on him and his stakes.
If James Bond wins the game, MI6 will protect Le Chiffre from his business partners in exchange for information – if he loses, the British government will have helped to finance international terrorism with 15 million pounds …

Bond Begins …. after the Bond franchise steered more and more into camp and self-parody in the last years just like the Batman movies before BATMAN BEGINS, the low point being the invisible car in DIE ANOTHER DAY, it was time for a “re-invention” of the series. And what better way than to go back to the first James Bond story by Ian Fleming – CASINO ROYALE – where a MI6 rookie earns his double-0 status and still has to find his distinct style. Gone is Miss Moneypenny, and gone are Q and his trademark gadgets which threatened to outperform Bond.
Also out after four Bond-films is Pierce Brosnan, and in is Daniel Craig, the sixth “official” James Bond, with the mission to create a more down-to-earth Bond and to leave the hilarity behind. It’s not the first attempt to go back to basics and show an edgier James bond, the latest being THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS and LICENCE TO KILL with the underrated Timothy Dalton.
But where Dalton failed, Daniel Craig succeeds with a vengeance. 007 has been, more often than not, not more than a walking stereotype, buried behind more or less hilarious gadgets, baddies and self-irony. Daniel Craig’s James Bond has more in common with Jasoun Bourne than with his predecessors. His Bond is not (yet) the distinguished gentleman-spy who likes his vodka-martini shaken, not stirred, never makes mistakes and never gets dirty. Instead he is very physical – he runs, jumps, brawls and bleeds, and he even falls in love with Eva Green’s Bond girl. Despite all the “James Blond”, “can’t drive” or “wears a life-vest” brouhaha when Craig was announced as new Bond, he is easily the best 007 since Sean Connery.
With all the discussions before the film came out, and with Craig appearing in almost any scene of CASINO ROYALE, he has to carry the responsibility for success or failure on his shoulders, supported by Eva Green (who is doing quite well as a Bond girl) and Mads Mikkelsen (OK but not outstanding as a Bond villain) but mainly by a good story and well-written script. And Craig delivers – the arguably best performance ever of a Bond-actor. He lets us see the man behind the super-spy, and we can see and understand how his rough and tough scrapper will evolve into the man known as 007.
There are just two minor let downs in CASINO ROYALE: the music, and the Return Of The King-style “fake ending” after which the film amazingly continues.
It will be hard to top CASINO ROYALE, because the most rewarding story (the becoming of 007) is now told, but with Daniel Craig on board, there is a good chance for the next Bond movie to be another great one.

Bartender: Shaken or stirred? James Bond: Do I look like I give a damn?

Casino Royale Movie Trailer

One Response to “CASINO ROYALE by Martin Campbell”

  1. itsvery Movie Review Blog - Independent Film Reviews » THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM by Paul Greengrass Says:

    […] Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still chasing – and being chased by – the CIA. He still wants to find out who he really is and what happened to him, and they still want him dead. If you have seen The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy you know the drill: much running and jumping, narrow escapes, close-quarter man-to-man combat, really wobbly camerawork (the “unsteady-cam”) and extreme close-up for 111 minutes – which does get a bit tiresome. Quiet moments are rare but superior to the non-stop action, for example when Bourne meets a journalist (Paddy Considine) at Waterloo Station (London). Here Bourne shows the true qualities of a secret agent – his enormous awareness. In a crowd of hundreds of people he is able to spot hostile agents within seconds, to assess the ever-changing situation while everybody is constantly moving, to remain invisible himself and to navigate a clueless journalist through the crowd. A masterful demonstration of concentration, attention and supremacy. And a piece of genius film-making. There is obviously more to Bourne than jumping and fighting, but we don’t see enough of that. And while there was his relationship with Marie (Franka Potente) in The Bourne Identity to relate to Bourne on an emotional basis (and to have some quieter moments between the action pieces), there is nothing like this in The Bourne Ultimatum, making both the character and the film emotionally poorer. And when the conclusion finally comes, it feels flat, too. So we learn Bourne’s real name is David Webb, but almost nothing about the man David Webb once was. All we learn is that he was eager to serve his country and that he volunteered for the Treadstone program where he was first broken and then turned into an agent/assassin with quite unpleasant behavior-modificating procedures. But who was David Webb the man? No clue there. Maybe not the nice, innocent guy who got in trouble devoid of guilt Bourne may have hoped he once was, because he volunteered with more than a vague hunch what he was getting himself into (as we learn in the brief flashbacks when Bourne’s memory returns). That’s a nice melancholic touch but not really satisfying. But then, nothing could be really satisfying – Bourne discovering he really was simply a nice guy would seem dull, and we surely wouldn’t want to find out that he was a jerk in his former life. Either way, the Bourne we know and love – the man on the ultimate and noble journey to find the truth and himself – is gone and replaced by something less heroic. Part of the appeal of The Bourne Identity was the freshness – Jason Bourne was the new James Bond when the original Bond had become a hackneyed joke with invisible cars. But five years later, the raw and brutish style introduced by The Bourne Identity has become the standard. Casino Royale owes a lot to Jason Bourne, but let’s face it – James has “out-bourned” Jason and is still (or again) the daddy! […]

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