DVD Release Date: March 13, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: November 17, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity)
Run Time: 144 min.
Director: Martin Campbell
Actors: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelson, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Sebastien Foucan, and Simon Abkarian.
Da da da daaaaaaa… Yup, James Bond is back, and he’s busier than ever thwarting evil for the British government and the world. In the newest Bond release, “Casino Royale,” evil thwarting still involves wild chases, exotic cars, beautiful women, and squaring off with the bad guys through physical and mental superiority. But this time it’s real instead of comic bookish.
The killings are overt and brutal, and (with one exception) there are no handy gadgets to save our hero in the nick of time. Bond endures torture, bloodshed, and pain on the outside and shows an uncharacteristic vulnerability on the inside when it comes to women. Yes, it’s the new Bond – gritty and real – but is that what we really want?
In “Casino Royale,” Bond (Daniel Craig) has just been awarded his “00” status, and “M” (Judi Dench) sends him to Madagascar to spy on Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan), a world renowned terrorist. His spying turns into an extended-but-amazing chase scene with some Matrix-style building jumping and chilling killings. Not satisfied, the egotistical, independent-minded Bond decides to conduct an additional side investigation and track down the rest of the terrorist cell. So he flies to the Bahamas and finds Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), a criminal tied in with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), a creepy banker who holds the purse for a number of terrorist groups. Through a heartless rendezvous with Dimitrios’s wife, Solange (Caterina Murino), Bond finds that Le Chiffre is heading to Casino Royale in Montenegro to win big in a poker game with some high rolling players from around the world.
Knowing that Bond won’t be denied, M assigns 007 to play against Le Chiffre and prevent him from winning the money he needs to support his terrorists and keep his shaky organization afloat. M also assigns the young, businesslike, girl-next-door Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to the case as Bond’s banker and unofficial babysitter. The problem is that Bond begins falling for her (always a danger for a hero), and together they encounter danger and even torture while navigating some life-and-death decisions. Bond must quickly decide whom he can trust. Besides evil bankers and terrorist henchmen, there is Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), the British field agent, who may be a double, Felix (Jeffrey Wright), the American CIA agent, and Bond’s new love interest, Vesper. Only through a clever, multi-day poker game – and the decisions made during the breaks in the game – will Bond be able to sort out the truth and spoil Le Chiffre’s terror network.
“Casino Royale” is a good story with some clever twists. And though the movie is too long (144 minutes) and the action is often too drawn-out with its prolonged chase scenes and gruesome killings, there are many white-knuckle, heart-stopping moments. The producers spared no expense with the action sequences, some of which involve exotic car flipping, dangling on precarious cranes, leaping between floors on a construction site, and exploding floating buildings. The acting is commendable, with Daniel Craig doing a fine job as the rugged-but-real, newly commissioned British spy and Judi Dench playing the perfect “M.”
We do miss some of the elements that other Bond films were so famous for, however. In “Casino Royale,” there is no “Q” with his clever gadgets, and there is only one life-saving gadget in Bond’s new car. There are no Bond girls in the opening sequence, which seems less memorable than the others, and this time, the violence seems not so cute and campy, but real and gruesome and torturous at times. Bond lets his heart attach to a woman (has that ever happened in a Bond film?), and he really gets bruised, bloody, beaten, and scarred – physically and emotionally.
For those of us used to the over-the-top cheesy confidence of the former Bond films, “Casino Royale”'s realness might be a bit much to handle. In the older films, the bad guys and henchmen were caricatures such as Odd Job, Jaws, Goldfinger, and Dr. No, and they used tools like giant lasers, space shuttles, or scary gadgets to start wars. The old Bonds were left in rooms to face the danger of sharks or lasers that could saw them in half, but this time the bad guy personally tortures Bond, rather than coolly watching from a distance. It’s too much at times, and many will miss the old tone of tongue-in-cheek humor and lighter pranks.
The movie’s worldview is basically biblical in its extolling of bravery and diligence in overcoming evil, but the tools used are overweening violence and adultery, which dilute the message. Despite some terrific Hollywood action sequences, a solid story, and admirable acting from the stars, the gritty realness will likely be off-putting to die-hard Bond fans used to the old style and will make the movie un-recommendable for younger audiences.