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Casino Royale (Bond)
Directed by Martin Campbell with Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Mads Mikkelsen, color, 144 minutes, 2006

Part of title sequence

Part of Title Sequence

By Carter B. Horsley

In 1953, Ian Fleming wrote his first book featuring James Bond, British secret agent OO7.  It was called Casino Royale.

It was next adapted for an episode on Climax!, a television program that featured Barry Nelson as Bond as an Americn agent and Peter Lorre as the villain, Le Chiffre.

In 1967, it was made into a comedic movie that starred David Niven as the suave spy and featured Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr and Ursala Andress.

This 2006 remake was the 21st in the Bond series of movies and the first to feature Daniel Craig.  It is also the best because of its spectacular chase sequence early in the film and its even more spectacular collapse of a palazzo in Venice that kills Bond's love interest.

The crane sequence

The crane fight in the chase sequence

In his November 17, 2016 review at gq.com, Scott Meslow provided the following commentary:

"...Looking back a decade later, Casino Royale is somehow even better than the massive, much-needed breath of fresh air it felt like on the day it was released."

"It's a shame that we got two weird, off-brand adaptations of Fleming's very first James Bond novel before it ever turned up in the series proper—but the truth is that Casino Royale wouldn't have worked for most of the actors who played Bond before Daniel Craig anyway. The story is too small and too dark and too gutting. Connery might have been able to pull it off before Goldfinger, which shifted the franchise into a lighter, pulpier direction. And if Timothy Dalton's darker take on Bond had caught on with mainstream audiences (and contract negotiations hadn't gotten in the way), Casino Royale might have been exactly the story he was suited to star in.

"There was, to be fair, one long-shot chance that an older Bond actor could have taken Casino Royale on. Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in directing a subversive, black-and-white version of Casino Royale, but bailed when he learned MGM planned to replace Pierce Brosnan, whose contract was in flux after starring in four 007 movies.

"The decision to reboot the franchise and start fresh with Casino Royale was bolder than it might seem today. Die Another Day, Brosnan's final turn—often written off as a flop today—was actually the highest-grossing James Bond movie of all time. The decision to reboot the franchise was a kind of preemptive strike—a recognition that that Jack Bauers and Jason Bournes of the world were starting to make James Bond look a little creaky. Today, the idea of a dark and gritty reboot has correctly become a much-derided cliche, but after surfing down a glacier and fencing against Madonna, Bond was desperately in need of a dark and gritty reboot.

"Ian Fleming's original novel provided the basic framework: a short, grim story about a secret agent who neither saves the world nor gets the girl. The 2006 adaptation of Casino Royale retains a single holdover from the Brosnan movies: Judi Dench's M—presumably because Casino Royale's creative brain trust correctly intuited that no actor in the world was better suited to the role.

"But M was the only familiar face in this very, very different take on 007. The bold departures from the franchise's long history began with the leading man, Daniel Craig, who was instantly deemed too blonde and uncouth by a bevy of outraged fans. (Amazingly, the original anti-Craig fansite DanielCraigIsNotBond.com is still extant. 'THIS IS NOT A DANIEL CRAIG HATE SITE,' the site explains today....

 Eva Green and Daniel Craig

Eva Green and Daniel Craig

"In appearance and style, Craig was certainly an unconventional choice for the role....His Bond—steely, precise, intelligent, and controlled, with a bitter, seething core that sometimes tips over into outright cruelty—channels the best of Fleming's work and brings it squarely into the 21st century.

"Casino Royale's cast was filled out with a slew of up-and-coming talents: Eva Green as the guarded, alluring Vesper Lynd, played with such deft complexity that it should have put the catch-all term 'Bond Girl' to bed for good; Mads Mikkelsen as the chillingly amoral Le Chiffre, dripping sweat and blood as his arrogance spirals into self-destructiveness; and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, Bond's laconic, soft-spoken CIA ally....

 Eva kisses Daniel

Eva kisses Daniel

"The screenplay for Casino Royale follows the basic structure laid out by Fleming: James Bond is assigned to play cards against Le Chiffre—an international criminal whose bankroll is running low—in a high-stakes game at the Casino Royale. If Bond wins, he'll have toppled a villain who might be persuaded to rat on more villains; if he loses, the British government will have directly financed terrorism. Over the course of the mission, Bond reluctantly but helplessly falls in love with his ally, Vesper—and after defeating Le Chiffre (and surviving a grueling round of torture that pushes the PG-13 rating to its absolute limit), discovers that Vesper is a double agent who has been blackmailed into betraying him all along....

"This was not the James Bond audiences had grown accustomed to over the previous decades of movies. There was still plenty of action—including an all-time great chase sequence that saw Bond parkour-ing all over a construction site in pursuit of a suspect—but the tone was smarter and more elegiac....

"Casino Royale is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime movie you can only make with a franchise as old as this one, because so much of the joy comes in how it riffs on our knowledge of everything that came before. Some moments lay it on a little thick—like when Bond snarls that he doesn't give a damn whether his martini is shaken or stirred. But others—like Le Chiffre casually mocking villains who resort to 'elaborate tortures' before beating Bond's exposed genitals with a rope, or the brilliant decision to withhold Monty Norman's immortal 'James Bond Theme' until the closing credits—speak to the care with which every seemingly unquestionable aspect of 007 was considered in the effort to make him feel relevant again....

"The next film, Quantum of Solace, was a valiant attempt at a direct sequel that ended up being inferior in every conceivable way. The movie after that, Skyfall, is a crowd-pleaser with a truly memorable villain and the clever reintroductions of Moneypenny and Q—but it's still a step away from Casino Royale's smaller, darker Bond and toward the excesses of the Roger Moore era. And last year's Spectre—which featured Bond's arch-nemesis Blofeld for the first time in more than thirty years—was a flat-out disaster, saddling Bond with a love interest who was so unconvincing, in part, because Casino Royale had done such a remarkable job of selling Vesper as the one love of Bond's life.

"In his review, Roger Ebert maintained that 'Daniel Craig makes a superb Bond: Leaner, more taciturn, less sex-obsessed, able to be hurt in body and soul, not giving a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred. That doesn't make him the 'best' Bond, because I've long since given up playing that pointless ranking game; Sean Connery was first to plant the flag, and that's that. But Daniel Craig is bloody damned great as Bond, in a movie that creates a new reality for the character."

 Eva Green about to get dressed for the casino

Eva Green about to get dressed for the casino

"I never thought I would see a Bond movie where I cared, actually cared, about the people. But I care about Bond, and about Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), even though I know that (here it comes) a Martini Vesper is shaken, not stirred. Vesper Lynd, however, is definitely stirring, as she was in Bertolucci's wonderful "The Dreamers."...

"I learn from IMDb that the special credit for the 'free running' scenes of Sabastian Foucan refers to the sensational opening Madagascar foot chase in which Foucan practices parkour, or the ability to run at walls and angles and bounce off them to climb or change direction...."

Mads Mikkelsen

Mads Mikkelsen

A movie review by James Berardinelli at reelviews.com observed that "When Pierce Brosnan took over the role of James Bond for Goldeneye, much was made about how the franchise was being 'modernized.' In reality, the only apparent changes were cosmetic. Brosnan's 007 was easily connected to the character previously played by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton. With the ascension of Daniel Craig to the gun, tux, martini, and license to kill, seismic changes have occurred. This is no longer the James Bond we know from the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. Welcome to the new world of MI6's most storied agent.

"The purpose of Casino Royale is to 're-boot' the franchise. Craig isn't succeeding Brosnan; he's re-inventing the role. As far as this movie is concerned, nothing in the previous 20 entries has happened. This is Bond's 'origin' story and the only thin bit of continuity is Judi Dench's return as Madam M. Forget everything you think you know about 007. For years now, the Bond formula has been drowning in a sea of rip-offs and pretenders, each more over-the-top than its predecessor. In order to retain a market niche, the Bond franchise had to strike out in a different direction - something less cartoonish and closer to the Ian Fleming source novels....

"It has been a long time since Bond has been this human. Not since On Her Majesty's Secret Service - the last time he fell in love - have we seen this side of the super agent. It's s curious thing to see Bond develop deep feelings for Vesper. We're used to him treating women like disposable commodities....This aspect of the movie is one reason why Casino Royale is a cut above anything we have gotten from the Bondmakers in decades.

Caterina Murino

Bond girl Caterina Murino

"The plot is oddly constructed, and plays out in three clearly defined acts. The first is the most like a traditional Bond film, with James hopping from country to country, engaging in a meaningless romance (with Caterina Murino)....

"For Daniel Craig, this is a triumphant debut. Not since early Connery have we seen a Bond this magnetic. Craig manages to show us both the human and the inhuman sides of Bond, and the portrayal is free of fatuousness. This Bond isn't beyond uttering the occasional quip, but when he does so, there's not a lot of humor in the delivery....While there's always a certain sadness associated with waving goodbye to a departing actor, Craig's performance makes us ask "Pierce Who?"

 Eva Green

Eva Green

Eva Green and Giancarlo Gianinni

Eva Green and Giancarlo Gianinni

In his October 26, 2008 review at Blu-ray.com, Greg Maltz wrote "The spy from 60 years ago is now brought firmly within the new millennium with cell phones, laptops, satellite surveillance and a plot revolving around the funding of terrorism. The film shows Blu-ray discs used to backup video surveillance at a security office, along with Ericsson phones and VAIO computers. At times, it seems like an extended Sony ad, but Sony's product placements are all in the flow of the story. Bond is simultaneously revved up with dizzying foot chases and brutal hand-to-hand combat scenes while being stripped down, with none of the gadgets, fancy torture devices or silly frills of the earlier films. After the credits roll, the opening chase scene featuring free-runner Sebastien Foucan, playing a bomb-maker, is hands-down the most ballsy, physically demanding action sequence in any 007 feature. One might expect the rest of the movie to be a letdown after that, but it isn't. The airport chase scene and brutal adventures in Venice, Italy prove every bit as riveting, while the epic scenes and vistas in the Bahamas and Montenegro are as gorgeous as any earlier James Bond film, and the psychology behind the card games make for good spectator sport. Even the villain of Casino Royale is better than the pretentious bad-guys from previous Bond movies. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is sinister by virtue of his business securing terrorist funds, his bleeding eye, cool demeanor and gambling skills."

The collapse of the palazzo

The collapse of the palazzo

"'Death in Venice' clocks in at 23 minutes and boasts interviews with Daniel Craig and Eva Green during the film's production. The documentary covers the final sequence featuring the collapsing building scene. 'Death in Venice' is fascinating because the power of the scene is almost unrivaled as a demo sequence in the Blu-ray library. The scene was very challenging in production, as one might imagine, and the documentary provides important information about it....

"Casino Royale reboots James Bond into a thick plot of terrorist brokerage crime, high-stakes gambling and of course international espionage. In the midst of it, we come to know the new 007 and his brand of action, brutality and loyalty. His relationship with Vesper Lynd shows him to be capable of love, but fundamentally distrustful of anyone--and that probably includes his own boss, M (Judy Dench). The new brand of violence and less sociable psychology of Bond highlight a welcome change. Previous incarnations of 007 were at their best when they emulated the wit and charm that made Sean Connery's Bond so popular. But he was not the scrappy, blue eyed Bond from Ian Fleming's spy thrillers."

In a November 17, 2006 review for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote that

"The latest James Bond vehicle — call him Bond, Bond 6.0 — finds the British spy leaner, meaner and a whole lot darker. Now played by an attractive bit of blond rough named Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan having been permanently kicked to the kerb, Her Majesty’s favorite bad boy arrives on screens with the usual complement of cool toys, smooth rides, bosomy women and high expectations. He shoots, he scores, in bed and out, taking down the bad and the beautiful as he strides purposefully into the 21st century.

"It’s about time. The likable Mr. Brosnan was always more persuasive playing Bond as a metaphoric rather than an actual lady-killer, with the sort of polished affect and blow-dried good looks that these days tend to work better either on television or against the grain....

"Every generation gets the Bond it deserves if not necessarily desires, and with his creased face and uneasy smile, Mr. Craig fits these grim times well. As if to underscore the idea that this new Bond marks a decisive break with the contemporary iterations, Casino Royale opens with a black-and-white sequence that finds the spy making his first government-sanctioned kills. The inky blood soon gives way to full-blown color, but not until Bond has killed one man with his hands after a violent struggle and fatally shot a second....

"In time Mr. Connery’s conception of the character softened, as did the series itself, and both Roger Moore and Mr. Brosnan portrayed the spy as something of a gentleman playboy. That probably helps explain why some Bond fanatics have objected so violently to Mr. Craig, who fits Fleming’s description of the character as appearing 'ironical, brutal and cold' better than any actor since Mr. Connery....

Casino Royale doesn’t play as dirty as the Bourne films, but the whole thing moves far lower to the ground than any of the newer Bond flicks....If Mr. Campbell and his team haven’t reinvented the Bond film with this 21st edition, they have shaken (and stirred) it a little, chipping away some of the ritualized gentility that turned it into a waxworks. They have also surrounded Mr. Craig with estimable supporting players, including the French actress Eva Green, whose talent is actually larger than her breasts."

In his November 17, 2006 review for The New York Sun, John Devore noted that "The story of Casino Royale is deceptively simple; Bond is sent to stop the villain, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker and money launderer for the world's terrorists, from winning a high-stakes game of poker. If Le Chiffre wins the millions, the bad guys win. It's up to Bond to mess up the game, any way he can. Unlike in past 'Bond' flicks, there is no plot for world domination, just an elegantly uncomplicated battle of wills. Though these scenes don't arrive until the second half of the film, they are more tense and exciting than any of the video game-style shoot-em-ups that marked the Brosnan era....

"Mr. Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre doesn't cackle or twirl a moustache, even during the requisite death-trap scene, and the character is disturbingly sympathetic. Considering the average "Bond" villain has a robot hand or a pet alligator, Le Chiffre is a refreshing and deserving antagonist. The only character from the last four films to return is Bond's superior, M, played again by Dame Judi Dench. She's given a bit more to do in this flick, and her 'M' treats Bond like the freshly shampooed, prize-fighting pit-bull he is.

"Oh, and the famous Bond women? As a doomed conquest, Caterina Murino is as charming as she is gorgeous. But it's Eva Green, as Bond's cold-hearted baby sitter, Vesper Lynd, who steals every scene she's in. She's the Bond girl you want to take home to mom and then introduce to every single person you've ever met...."

One of the Blu-ray's extras is a long feature about the collapse of the palazzo in Venice.  It was not an easy or cheap trick and this extra is awesome.



This film is ranked 24th in Carter B. Horsley's Top 500 Sound Films

Click here to order the Blue-ray version from amazon.com

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