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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Terrorism > James Bond > Casino Royale (DVD-Video + Blu-ray/James Bond)

Casino Royale (2006/DVD-Video + Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B-/B+     Sound: B/A-     Extras: B-     Film: B-

 

 

It is funny how people react to success of late.  Before he even had a chance to be seen, there was actually a strange, bizarre, goofy campaign against new James Bond Daniel Craig to play the role.  Whole websites were set up trying to get producers to drop him, fans to reject him and the public to skip him in any Bond film.  Then there was the article asking if we needed James Bond.  So in the face of that nonsense, the third version of Casino Royale is released as the 21st James Bond film in the official series and it becomes the most critically successful Bond since For Your Eyes Only (1981) and one of the biggest hits the series ever had.  So how did things go so right?

 

For one thing, the producers finally broke their own rule that assumed the public no longer wanted to see Bond in dark thrillers but instead in flashy, overblown productions and the last two Brosnan Bonds sadly seemed to confirm this.  However, they were the two worst, most over-the-top films in the series and it was time for the series to start over again.  Getting to finally do this from the very beginning with a great book never made correctly did not hurt either.

 

The first version was a live TV show on CBS in 1954 with a filmed kinescope record surviving.  It is interesting and was not a hit in its time.  Then there is the spoofy big budget 1967 feature film that did business, but had much, much less to do with the book and much more to do with the late 1960s counterculture.  It was a moderate hit.

 

The new version introduces Craig, an already impressive actor, as a tougher, more believable, more modern and more blatantly masculine Bond than political correctness has allowed for since Moore left the role.  It was time for Bond to get dirty again and where Licence To Kill (1989) showed the boldness, daringness and willingness to go there (the film had mixed box office), it took all this time for the audience to catch up.

 

Going back to the beginning literally (as Quentin Tarantino was interested in doing when it seemed the book was in play for this remake) could have been done, but that would have been too contrived and five actors ago.  Instead, by-passing The Cold War that put Bond (and creator/author Ian Fleming) on the map, Bond arrives post-9/11 (a key reason people responded to this film) as a new rookie spy who could get things done with the new technological and terroristic threats facing us and one of the reasons he succeeds simply is because of how human and for real he is.

 

That combination is a winner and Craig hit the nail on the head doing that scene after scene thanks to director Martin Campbell, whose Goldeneye revived the series and launched Brosnan in 1995.  It was the first post-Cold War Bond and was a pleasant hit.  Campbell comes up with a new style and approach, using few digital effects and taking the long way to deal with the original book in an updated screenplay by the Neil Purvis/Robert Wade team (who many fell like this critic nearly killed the series, no matter how nice they reportedly are) with a rewrite by red hot Paul Haggis.  Unfortunately, the script throws out too much of the original book and is not always consistent on its own, but Craig is so good, his performance plows over the shortcomings along with Stuart Baird’s, A.C.E.,  editing.

 

This is also the longest Bond at 144 minutes and with the script dumping the ingenious card playing Fleming wrote out and changing the game itself to something simpler, it takes a great point of the book and turns it into a plot point that the character’s are more concerned with than the audience who just wants to see if Bond can stop the funding of terrorism.  A few scenes ring false, but the film has more hits than misses.

 

Eva Green is interesting as the ambiguous Vesper Lynd, Mads Mikkelsen is a revised Le Chiffre (more serious and to take us away from icons who played him like Peter Lorre and A comic Orson Welles) and Jeffrey Wright is CIA agent and future Bond confidant Felix Leiter.  With no “Q” or Miss Moneypenny around, Judi Dench gets in her best Work as “M” since Tomorrow Never Dies and seems to have a refreshing new feel for it.  The casting also works to the film’s advantage.

 

However, to echo my colleague, the Broccoli/Saltzman touch is missing here, but I would argue that the Broccoli Family has a chance to build up a Bond era with a new kind of panache and richness worthy of the classics and if they make the next few films as seriously and as grounded in this new reality and the Fleming spirit, this series could really shine again.  Of course, Craig is a must to keep, who is good for six-to-seven more Bonds at least.

 

Unlike recent Bonds, this new Casino Royale is the first one in a long time to have the backing of a major studio in major form.  While MGM/UA in the early 1980s had their act together, the company drifted into mini-major status as it went top being simply MGM again, but Sony/Columbia backed this with outstanding marketing and though the budget was not pumped up like the last few Brosnan Bonds, the fact it made more money than they did means it was far more profitable.

 

I hope the makers resist the temptation to go to outer space (especially literally) because there is plenty of untouched material in the Fleming books and with more original ideas, they could make a more consistent film next time out.  That’s what fans are expecting and until then, this will be one of the most-watched commercial hits of the last few years.  Will the playback quality of these new disc versions further that?

 

 

 

The film is the first Bond ever shot in Super 35mm and though it has some good visual moments, you can tell this is not the series at its Panavision best.  Except for the first three Sean Connery and first two Roger Moore Bonds, all have been shot in real anamorphic Panavision.  Phil Meheux, B.S.C., was responsible for one of those scope Bonds in Goldeneye, the first Pierce Brosnan Bond, but the makers decided to finally go this way and it just worked.

 

There is the black and white opening, but it is the kind of grayish commercial black and white that has no deep silver content and is a brief flashback pre-title and the shortest pre-title to date.  At least the biggest action sequence does not happen in the beginning.

 

After a new advanced digital credits sequence by Daniel Kleinman, who has been creating these for the series since Goldeneye and first used Bond as a reference point for the classic Pat Benatar Music Video for Sex As A Weapon.  Going from that video to the Brosnan credits to this are a lesson in themselves in how video graphics have grown over the last quarter-century.  These are smooth and different from all previous Bond credits, most notably the absence of the female nudes.

 

When it goes to full color, Meheux continues the dark overtones and as in the black and white footage, a motif of slightly hot whites permeates the film throughout.  Though Super 35 has this tendency, he is purposely pushing it in subtle ways for what we could say is a paradoxical means:  that the film takes place in 2006, yet still comes with a heart and soul from the 1953 book.  The silver screen with a little less silver throughout and not trying to be Film Noir, yet is interested in conjuring the detective and police films of the time with their “official” anti-Noir quasi-documentary approach; a pre-spy filmmaking look for a man who is about to become the secret agent.

 

In both formats, the limits of this are shown, ones that would be less of a problem if this were real scope or flat 1.85 shooting.  Detail can be a problem at times in ways that even with some digital enhancements, are noticeable and distracting in both formats.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD cannot handle all the detail and style that the 35mm print had, but the 1080p digital High Definition image is a major improvement and in the Video White, the blown-out look looks less like an old Music Video.  Video Black is also better and because the film has the luxury of the room of a 50GB Blu-ray, there are still more than enough great moments, shots and high quality HD moments that this will be a major picture demo for years.

 

Then there is the sound.  For years, the Bond films in the series were monophonic.  Ironically, the 1967 Casino Royale was the first to offer multi-channel sound when Columbia made 70mm blow-ups with 6-track magnetic stereo, something the actual series did not do until 1979’s Moonraker!

 

Both had five of the six channels behind the screen.  The series eventually started using Dolby noise reduction beginning with 35mm prints (only) on Moonraker and 70mm 4.1 magnetic Dolby on 1983’s Octopussy.  For Goldeneye, Bond finally went 5.1 for good and it put the series back on the map.  The films back to the early days always had sound with character (Goldfinger (1964) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971) received Oscar nominations over their sound) and the producers often pushed sound beyond the great music in ways they do not always get credit for.  They have lagged at times, but not for long.

 

This new Casino Royale has the best sound design since Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and puts the series back on track sonically.  Even more than the picture, the sound design is very impressive and while both discs offer Dolby Digital 5.1, the Blu-ray’s PCM 5.1 mix is as exciting as the DTS 12” LaserDiscs and DTS DVDs of Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies for all-around sonic impact.  Sure, this is a grittier thriller and one can criticize the David Arnold score for being more John Barry than it should be, but this is so much better than most action films of the last five years that this PCM will be a home theater standard for a very long time even if it is only 16 bit/48kHz.

 

Extras are the same on both versions, including the Music Video for the talented Chris Cornell’s theme song You Know My Name, which is somewhat ambitious but very unmemorable.  After just listening to it, no one seems to know the lyrics, let alone anyone’s name.  Oh, well.  You also get two new featurettes shot in HD and viewable that way exclusively on Blu-ray:  Becoming Bond and James Bond: For Real.  Offering much more than expected, it shows the amazing hard work that went into the production and is up there with all the great extras everyone is enjoying on the Ultimate Edition Bond sets.

 

Finally, there is the great featurette Bond Girls Are Forever, one a special DVD offered at “an electronics chain store” to promote Bond DVDs.  We actually reviewed it and you can find that review at:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/143/Bond+Girls+Are+Forever+(Documentary

 

 

We have also looked at this Bond before via our theatrical film critic who liked it less than this critic did and we offer than review link below with all four original Ultimate Edition Bond DVD sets.  That is 40 DVDs, of the first 20 films and here are the links to all of these fine sets:

 

Casino Royale (2006 Theatrical Film Review)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4600/Casino+Royale+(2006/Theatrical

 

James Bond Ultimate Collection Volume One

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4785/James+Bond+Ultimate

 

James Bond Ultimate Collection Volume Two

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/5056/James+Bond

 

James Bond Ultimate Collection Volume Three

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4708/James+Bond+Ultimate

 

James Bond Ultimate Collection Volume Four

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4709/James+Bond+Ultimate

 

James Bond Ultimate Collector’s Set (42 discs from all four box sets above + the 2006 Casino Royale DVD set)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/5930/James+Bond+–+Ultimate+Collector

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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