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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Terrorism > Cards > Casino Royale (2006/Theatrical Film Review)

Casino Royale (2006/Theatrical Film Review)

 

Stars: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Martin Campbell

Critic's rating: 4 out of 10

 

Review by Chuck O'Leary

 

Although box office has remained strong worldwide, even some of the most ardent fans of the James Bond series felt the series reached a creative low with the last two films starring Pierce Brosnan as 007, 1999's The World Is Not Enough and 2002's Die Another Day.  For me, though, the slump goes back to 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, but that one seemed to go over better with Bond aficionados.

 

The last film I liked in the series was the first of the Brosnan Bonds, 1995's Goldeneye, which happens to be the last film original Bond producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli had any input on (although uncredited) in any shape or form.  But after Cubby died in 1996, the quality of the series headed south quickly despite remaining highly profitable.  Cubby was clearly the major creative force behind the Bond franchise who made it work.

 

All the subsequent Bond films after Cubby's death have been produced by his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, and his daughter, Barbara Broccoli, who both collaborated on several of the films with their father dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s.  But with Cubby gone, the magic is gone as well.

 

Casino Royale was Ian Fleming's first 007 novel published in England back in 1953 and it was previously made into a god-awful 1967 all-star comedy spoof that went through five directors and 10 (not all credited) screenwriters, but also featured a great musical score by Burt Bacharach.  There is even an earlier TV version from 1954 (when the book was published in the U.S.) where actor Barry Nelson (the man who hands the keys to the Overlook Hotel to Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) plays “Jimmy Bond” and Peter Lorre plays the villain.

 

Not counting the '67 comedy version of Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again, the new serious interpretation of Casino Royale is the 21st "official" James Bond film produced by EON Productions, the company Cubby co-founded with his production partner, Harry Saltzman, who left the series in 1975.

 

After the lackluster previous three Bond entries starring Brosnan, I had high hopes for the new Casino Royale because it was being billed as a "grittier" Bond film, and the last two times Bond "returned to basics," it resulted in what are possibly my two favorites of the entire series, 1989's Licence to Kill and 1981's For Your Eyes Only.  Furthermore, Casino Royale had Martin Campbell returning to direct, and in my estimation, his first Bond film, Goldeneye, was the last enjoyable entry in the series.

 

Campbell's Casino Royale is indeed grittier, but unfortunately, it's only marginally better than the last three.  Unlike Licence to Kill and For Your Eyes Only, I think filmmakers got a little too down to earth for their own good this time, and, in turn, squeezed out a lot what's fun about these movies.  Licence to Kill and For Your Eyes Only had just the right balance of grit, wit and spectacular action.  The latest Bond, however, is overlong (its 144 minutes makes it the longest Bond to date), often sluggish and lacking in the kind of big, exciting action we've come to expect in Bond movies.

 

But on the plus side, Casino Royale contains no digital effects, which is refreshing after the previous two Bonds became overwhelmed with digital effects.

 

For those who thought Timothy Dalton's demeanor was too serious as Bond (I thought Dalton was just right for the role), Dalton is practically Roger Moore as compared to the latest Bond, blond-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Infamous), who plays the role with a stone-faced intensity more reminiscent of Charles Bronson.  Craig, though, isn't the problem.  The problem is that he's the centerpiece of an inconsistently paced film that goes on way too long and doesn't have enough action or suspense.

 

Furthermore, the latest Bond theme song, "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell, may very well be the most instantly forgettable in series history.

 

Since this is based on Fleming's first Bond novel, Casino Royale, like Batman Begins, is a return to the origins of the character in an attempt to revitalize a creaky franchise.  In the film, Craig's Bond has just recently been made a double 00 agent by his superior M (Judi Dench) and 007’s first assignment is to neutralize a money launderer for terrorists named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).  Bond's mission takes him from Uganda to the Bahamas to Miami to the Balkan States to Venice as he tracks the one-eyed, asthmatic, and, of course, sadistic Le Chiffre.

 

After joining forces with a fellow British agent (and eventual love interest) named Vesper Lynd (Eva Green of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers), Bond and Le Chiffre finally come face to face during an international poker game where the British government stakes Bond in an attempt to bankrupt Le Chiffre by having Bond beat him at the gambling table.  This is also where Bond first meets his future long term CIA friend and contact Felix Leiter (played here by Jeffrey Wright) and gets introduced to what will become his signature drink, a martini, shaken not stirred.

 

It not until the very end that we first hear 007 utter his famous, "Bond, James Bond" line, and not until the end credits that we hear Bond's famous theme music.

 

Casino Royale has a couple of decent chase sequences, and Craig does have a strong screen presence, but just like the Cornell's theme song, most of what happens is instantly forgettable and nothing we haven't seen before.

 

From the results of EON’s last four Bond films, this is clearly a worn-out franchise ready to be put out to pasture.  The man with the license to kill has become the man with the license to bore.


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