Film Review: Casino Royale

In my view Casino Royale is arguably the most important James Bond film there has ever been. This really is the live or die moment for the franchise. The Pierce Brosnan era had sunk the franchise lower and lower. It struggled to let go of the past and through Brosnan’s uncomfortable miscasting and the even worse judgement in attempting to continue “Q Branch” with John Cleese had created a scenario where by the writing was seriously close to the wall.

And then along came one man, holding firmly in his grasp the nails and hammer to Bonds coffin. And before you jump to conclusions I am not talking about Daniel Craig. I am in fact, talking about Paul Greengrass. He was the man who took Doug Liman‘s massively successful The Bourne Identity and turned Jason Bourne into the spy to which you now had to complete. Essentially Liman raised the bar on the spy genre and then Paul Greengrass set it in stone and said this is 21st Century spying.

And I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have liked to have been in any of the 21st Bond, cast or crew’s, shows. Knowing that the recipe they’d always followed was now dead and out dated, and to make it worse, the title role was in the hands of someone new. The world was watching, waiting and anticipating failure. It was anticipating the end.

But this is Bond, and as 20 previous evil plots have discovered Britain’s most famous secret agent doesn’t die easily.

Casino Royale had everything against it and with it’s back up against the wall came out fighting and won. It is a cracking movie. Daniel Craig walks into the role and looks like he’s been there his whole life. People often talk about actors become type cast but this is a case of that being a good thing. Craig looks and acts tough, he looks and acts like a spy and unlike a lot of actors to take on the role, he can play both hands without falter. You believe the suave romantic as much as the aggression and death.

Credit must be given though to the production team. They knew that Bourne had completely redefined the genre and that they needed to modernise Bond to survive and Casino Royale is modernisation and regeneration done to almost absolute perfection. Drawing inspiration from one of Flemming’s strongest, yet most simplistic Bond novels but then setting it into the world in a way that never causes you to stop and question even the smallest of actions within it’s plot meaning that they can expel their energy and focus onto the fine details, the little nuances that take Casino Royale to that next level.

This is a rebirth in every sense. From Craig in the title role, to the world of espionage, to the gadgets, to the characters, this is a new beginning. It’s not until you watch Casino Royale a few times that you start to pick up on those little details, those little moment of brilliance embedded within not simply the plot but the film as a whole that reinforce this idea of renewal. From the way that M treats Bond not like a tool as previously but rather like a child who needs mothering; through Bond pushing the boundaries as he progresses deeper into his new position as 007, testing the limits of acceptability. Even down to the way music, arguably one of the franchises must iconic tools, is used. The main theme song’s title – You Know My Name – reinforces this. It’s telling you this isn’t going to be what you expect.

And it’s Chris Cornell’s theme that arguably places the biggest, unsighted role in Casino Royale. Throughout the film, the key bed, the key track, is not the famous and instantly recognisable “Bond Theme” but rather the base to Cornell’s theme. Played by the orchestra it’s grows in length as the film advances and Bond transforms into his role. In fact, it’s not until the final moment of the film and the cut to the credits that we ever hear John Barry’s famous notes. It’s saying without you even realising the connection from old to new, the rebirth of Bond, isn’t complete until the story is told.

I adore Casino Royale, it’s my 2nd favourite Bond film of all time, I think it’s subtly brilliant in virtually every way but I do have one major and one minor problem with it. Firstly, it heralded the start of the “product placement” era in a horribly noticeable way. Every logo is clearly on display and feels almost pushed into focus. Let alone the celebrity cameo. And secondly, it’s long, it’s really long, and it feels it’s length as it progresses into and then out of the middle section.

Oh, and I’ll leave you with an pub quiz trivia fact for you all… Casino Royale was the first ever Bond film in which the opening credit titles don’t feature a naked women! It really was the birth of a new Bond.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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