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FILM: Casino Royale


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#1 Stefancos

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 07:20 PM

Casino Royale

Die Another Day, which was meant as a celebration of the Bond Franchise, but turned into an overblown parody lacking a decent story but filled with bad CGI and speed-ramping camera work and an invisible car. The film did great business at the box office, but the fans complained.

Reboots are pretty normal now, but back in the day (was 2006 so long ago?) the idea of starting from scratch was quite new, and to do it with James Bond was nothing short of revolutionary.

After decades of legal wrangling EON was finally able to do Fleming s very first novel, Casino Royale.
Those who have read the book will know that Bond spends most of his time in one location, playing cards and nearly becomes impotent in the end after he's tortured by the villain, and the Bond girl kills herself.

Now this should not have posed a big problem for EON, they have done plenty of Bond films were they retained the title and very little else (You Only Life Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker etc...etc...)

The opening scene, though not from the book, certainly is in the spirit of it. A grainy B&W scene were Bond becomes 007 by killing 2 men. One in a messy fight, the other coldly and efficiently. The tone is set.

After that the first half is completely unrelated to the book. This part has 3 functions. To provide Le Chiffre with a reason to set up a high stakes poker game later in the film, to provide much of the films exotic locations, big special effect and stunt sequences and thirdly to introduce us to the manners and actions of 007.

Daniel Craig plays Bond as a hard-ass bastard. not without a certain charm, but certainly able to kill at a moments notice. He's self-assured to the point of supreme arrogance (as all Bonds are) but not infallible. He messes up several times in the first part of the film.
Craig's hard-man physique, together with those steel-blue eyes gives us a fantastic "bruiser" Bond. Able to convincingly run through walls, survive long drops, explosions and hundreds of bullets. No more time for one-liners. this Bond has a job to do.

The first half of Casino Royale contains 2 big action scenes and both are without a doubt the best of the naughties. African Rundown takes advantage of the "Free Running" craze, and runs with it. A long chase sequence brilliantly filmed and edited. Yes there is some shaky cam, some close up fighting, quick fire editing, but it's always put into context by a few long shots. So during the whole scene were are lever left in doubt were we are, and what's going on.

The Miami International scene is equally brilliant. Beginning calmly, (Bond dispatching with a villain in the middle if a crowd with none the wiser), to a balls to the wall action sequences (a fuel truck with a Bomb on route to a huge plane, ending with a cruel smile by Daniel Craig).

Judy Dench is retained as M, who was always a bit disproving of Bond's methods, but now functions disapproves stronger then ever, even though she's clearly using him as a puppet.
Mads Mikkelsen is introduced as Le Chiffre, brilliant mathematician with a cool, bleeding eye.
Caterina Murino is appealing as the eye-candy Solange, and less appealing as her mangles corpse.

Now for the second part of the film. Much of this is adapted straight from the book. James Bond plays a high stakes game of cards with a villian.

Daniel Craig begins to show a different side. His strained first meeting with Vesper leaves him skewered, and he and Eva Green feed of each other nicely in their mutual disdain. Of course we've scenes like this before, 007 and the Bond girl not hitting it off, but we've rarely seen it done so well. Even the "Miss Broadchest" joke does not seen like something from Carry On.
Craig's Bond shows a sense of humour. He's rather brilliant in strutting into a casino so confident that he seems to own the place, and later relaxing a bit and almost seeming a nice bloke.

In the end Bond does get tortured, and it's as painful as it's rating allows. Craig turns from super-human secret agent to someone who could conceivably die. (loved that the writers did not change this scene and that Bond is not able to think, talk or fight his way out of this).

Very much near the end of the film James Bond falls in love.
The dialogue in some of these scenes could have made it gone either way. Both Craig and Green make the smart decision of playing it straight. It works. I believed it.

Daniel Craig has been given the most interesting, diverse Bond to play and he succeeds with flying colors.

Eva Green is great as Vesper. Less glamorous as the traditional Bond girl, (I actually thinks she looks better without the make-up.) but far more layered. especially in her later scenes were she says goodbye to Bond in the Swiss hotel, knowing she will either be dead soon, or worse she displays great subtlety. And her eventual demise is rather painfull to watch.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre as a card player. His voice and her body language betray little of what is going on. He finds little touches, looks, gestures, intonations that spice up what could have been a boring role.

The direction by Martin Campbell is excellent. His action scenes are very well stages, and he does wonders building suspense with what could have been a bunch of boring scenes of people playing cards.

The score by David Arnold is very much like, yet unlike his previous 3. The Bond theme has been largely removed. The techno is toned down and the action is a bit less over the top then it was in Die Another Day.
The song is different 2. His previous 2 Bond songs were writing in a big band style deliberately evoking the John Barry/Don Black songs. This one is a rock ballad, but still manages to sound like an authentic, 100% Bond Song. The theme of this song is such that in the film it offers acts as a substitute for the James Bond Theme, and at times a mutes version of that theme morphs rather handsomely into "You Know My Name". Arnolds 2 big action cues are amongst the best he's writing, his romantic material for Bond and Vesper is intimate and strangely sincere. The only nod to John Barry (apart from the end credits, with The James Bond Theme in it's most retro rendition) is the track "Solange".

I love this film. I've been a Bond film for decades, and always hoped they would make this kind of film. There were attempts in the Brosnan era certainly, but those never dared to move away from the truckload of gadgets, silly humour and seemed content follow the recipe that has proved successful for decades,

Casino Royale does away largely with the comedy and one-liners so that the few that remain actually work. There are no obligatory scenes with Q or Monneypenny doing a variation on the same routine they have done for decades.

It's like cooking. You have a fantastic, lean roast, and over the years you add to the recipe. More veggies, some mash potatoes, some extra spices, a few side dishes. After a while it's no longer a lean roast, it's an entire banquet were the original recipe is only but a part of it.

Casino Royale cuts the redundant side dishes and gives us a mean that fills us up nicely, without making us feel bloated. (not to mention the diarrhoea the next morning)

Not only a brilliant Bond film, one of the best ever, but also a smashing film....


**** out of ****

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#2 Koray Savas

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 09:06 PM

I wouldn't give it that much praise, but yes, it's very good.
"Close Encounters to me is as good a piece of concert music as the 20th century has produced. Everybody fixates on... the Superman fanfare, or Star Wars - Main Theme, or the Raiders March. It's what happens after that, it's not the big popular hook where you go: 'My God John Williams is a genius.' Y'know it's the stuff which is maybe less hooky and less hummable, but is great art." - Hans Zimmer

#3 Chaac

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 09:16 PM

Great film.

#4 Stefancos

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 09:51 PM

I wouldn't give it that much praise, but yes, it's very good.


As far as I'm concerned it is almost without fault.

My only dynamic criticism is that having a defibrillator in an Aston Martin DBR is a bit convenient, and I really don't see why a security lock in Miami International Airport would use an Alpha Numerical keypad...

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#5 Koray Savas

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 10:02 PM

It's been awhile since I've watched it, but I remember having issues with the pacing a bit, the odd setting (post-9/11), and the lack of gadgets.
"Close Encounters to me is as good a piece of concert music as the 20th century has produced. Everybody fixates on... the Superman fanfare, or Star Wars - Main Theme, or the Raiders March. It's what happens after that, it's not the big popular hook where you go: 'My God John Williams is a genius.' Y'know it's the stuff which is maybe less hooky and less hummable, but is great art." - Hans Zimmer

#6 Elmo Lewis

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 10:08 PM


I wouldn't give it that much praise, but yes, it's very good.


As far as I'm concerned it is almost without fault.

My only dynamic criticism is that having a defibrillator in an Aston Martin DBR is a bit convenient, and I really don't see why a security lock in Miami International Airport would use an Alpha Numerical keypad...


I love this movie to bits, but you really have to want to like it in order to buy to buy the "new story, new conflict, all presented and resolved within the last 8 minutes of the film to make up for any missing character development" approach. Pace and story wise, it was suicide. Character-wise, it was just lazy,
"Were flawed because we want so much more. Were ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."

#7 Stefancos

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 10:19 PM

You must be one of those who complained ROTK had to many endings?

Story wise, the ending is straight from the book, they only added the shootout and Vesper kills herself in a different way.

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#8 Elmo Lewis

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 11:02 PM

As a film viewer, I don't care how much of the book is in the film. My complaint is that what I got, as a viewer, doesn't quite work for me. If you want yiur characters to get to that point, you design the main story so that they do. If you respect the story too much, save that development for the sequel. But just don't tag an unrelated, traumatic event to the film once the main story is over and all the carefully set up villains have been defeated. Because at that point, I've stopped caring.
"Were flawed because we want so much more. Were ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."

#9 Stefancos

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Posted 14 August 2011 - 11:21 PM

Normally I would agree with you. But this is a franchise...

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#10 Henry Buck

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 02:04 AM

As a film viewer, I don't care how much of the book is in the film. My complaint is that what I got, as a viewer, doesn't quite work for me. If you want yiur characters to get to that point, you design the main story so that they do. If you respect the story too much, save that development for the sequel. But just don't tag an unrelated, traumatic event to the film once the main story is over and all the carefully set up villains have been defeated. Because at that point, I've stopped caring.

No, I disagree completely. Defeating Le Chiffre is a false ending that lifts our spirits so that they may be crushed, along with Bond's. It also reminds us of the fragility of the new Bond - captured, debilitated, then saved by gang warfare. And if you're not getting adequate character development from Vesper, it's because we see things from Bond's slightly rosy-eyed perspective. The little clues that Vesper is not who she seems are dismissed by Bond, and therefore by the audience. He wants to keep things simple, and he is eager to fall in love. When he is betrayed, it hurts. Good example of creating a sympathetic character. Pierce Brosnan? Eh, I really don't care what happens to his Bond.

#11 Elmo Lewis

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 03:40 PM


As a film viewer, I don't care how much of the book is in the film. My complaint is that what I got, as a viewer, doesn't quite work for me. If you want yiur characters to get to that point, you design the main story so that they do. If you respect the story too much, save that development for the sequel. But just don't tag an unrelated, traumatic event to the film once the main story is over and all the carefully set up villains have been defeated. Because at that point, I've stopped caring.

No, I disagree completely. Defeating Le Chiffre is a false ending that lifts our spirits so that they may be crushed, along with Bond's. It also reminds us of the fragility of the new Bond - captured, debilitated, then saved by gang warfare. And if you're not getting adequate character development from Vesper, it's because we see things from Bond's slightly rosy-eyed perspective. The little clues that Vesper is not who she seems are dismissed by Bond, and therefore by the audience. He wants to keep things simple, and he is eager to fall in love. When he is betrayed, it hurts. Good example of creating a sympathetic character. Pierce Brosnan? Eh, I really don't care what happens to his Bond.


That's an interesting theory, but I don't think its execution works that well. The film adheres too much to its genre, in tone and in pace, and feeds off the audience's expectations so much that they can't get away with the epilogue, even if your justification for it is very nice and probably very accurate It's too much a deviation from everything that came before, and it's to rushed for th viewer to connect with the emotions behind it. It doesn't ruin the film, not by a long shot, but it certainly doesn't help it.
"Were flawed because we want so much more. Were ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."

#12 Stefancos

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 04:37 PM

I love your suggestion that there is no character development up untill the final part of the film.

Hogwash.

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#13 Elmo Lewis

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 05:46 PM

If that's directed to me, then I'm clearly not expressing myself very well.

The movie is very intelligently designed so that the character development and the plot blend seamlessly. That is precisely why the epilogue feels so jarring.
"Were flawed because we want so much more. Were ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had."

#14 Stefancos

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 05:50 PM

Maybe because it's a Bond film.

Of course since I read the book, I already knew the film would not end in the traditional Bond way, so my first viewing of it was one of anticipation rather then "What the fuck, the film is over, right?". I can actually understand why some people might find the ending a bit weird. But for me it works, because I always hoped they would end the film like this...

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#15 Chaac

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 07:43 PM

I think the abrupt ending is full of win.

#16 Jay

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 08:34 PM

Very nice review Stefan, thanks for posting it!

You've made me want to revisit this film and its sequel, two blu rays I've bought but not yet opened. Hopefully I'll watch them before the 3rd one comes out, whenever that will finally be.

And you've certainly made me want to revisit the score, not only in this review but in other posts you've made about it. Its a score that initially had no impact on me, but I've grown to like more and more each time I check it out.

Interesting that Martin Campbell made two well-directed Bond films (GoldenEye is the other), and yet all his other movies are terrible. I wonder what it is about Bond that brings out the best in him?

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#17 Stefancos

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 08:45 PM

I must be one of the few that actually enjoy QoS, though it's not as good as Casino Royale.
Arnold's score is one that does not seem all that impressive at first, but really grows on you. There are a few tracks with what I would describe as being merely "functional underscore" (much of the card game music), but I love his romantic music and it really has a few kick-ass action cues. If you haven't I would also check out Arnold's QoS score. It does not have the hights maybe that CR does, but it's a more consistent listen, less filler cues.

I enjoy Campbell's Zorro, and Escape From Absolon or whatever it's called was a good B film. And I hear Green Lantarn was decent.

I guess he's a good craftsman, who for some reason has a knack for 007.

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#18 Mr. Breathmask

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 09:38 PM

Hopefully I'll watch them before the 3rd one comes out, whenever that will finally be.


In that case, you have until November 9, 2012.

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#19 Stefancos

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 09:40 PM

Oh man....

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#20 Henry Buck

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 09:45 PM



As a film viewer, I don't care how much of the book is in the film. My complaint is that what I got, as a viewer, doesn't quite work for me. If you want yiur characters to get to that point, you design the main story so that they do. If you respect the story too much, save that development for the sequel. But just don't tag an unrelated, traumatic event to the film once the main story is over and all the carefully set up villains have been defeated. Because at that point, I've stopped caring.

No, I disagree completely. Defeating Le Chiffre is a false ending that lifts our spirits so that they may be crushed, along with Bond's. It also reminds us of the fragility of the new Bond - captured, debilitated, then saved by gang warfare. And if you're not getting adequate character development from Vesper, it's because we see things from Bond's slightly rosy-eyed perspective. The little clues that Vesper is not who she seems are dismissed by Bond, and therefore by the audience. He wants to keep things simple, and he is eager to fall in love. When he is betrayed, it hurts. Good example of creating a sympathetic character. Pierce Brosnan? Eh, I really don't care what happens to his Bond.


That's an interesting theory, but I don't think its execution works that well. The film adheres too much to its genre, in tone and in pace, and feeds off the audience's expectations so much that they can't get away with the epilogue, even if your justification for it is very nice and probably very accurate It's too much a deviation from everything that came before, and it's to rushed for th viewer to connect with the emotions behind it. It doesn't ruin the film, not by a long shot, but it certainly doesn't help it.

Right - it does defy all the Bond formula stuff and in that sense it's jarring. But it's one of those interesting reboots that toes the line between conformity and subversion. Batman Begins is another. Or the new Star Trek. So while the ending subverts story conventions, it wraps up the love story in a way that affirms Bond's character - cold hearted killer complete with John Barry theme. I guess there are two ways they could have gone about the Vesper thing: tragic love story (the way they did it) or casual sex. And maybe that could have worked too. But the relationship between Bond and Vesper is too human to just leave hanging. And since you can't really have Bond settle down...

Quantum of Solace leans so much toward subversion that it's hard to call it a real Bond film, although I enjoy it for what it is. But that's a different discussion.

#21 Koray Savas

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 09:47 PM

Quantum Of Solace = The Bond Ultimatum
"Close Encounters to me is as good a piece of concert music as the 20th century has produced. Everybody fixates on... the Superman fanfare, or Star Wars - Main Theme, or the Raiders March. It's what happens after that, it's not the big popular hook where you go: 'My God John Williams is a genius.' Y'know it's the stuff which is maybe less hooky and less hummable, but is great art." - Hans Zimmer

#22 Mr. Breathmask

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 10:12 PM

?

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#23 E.T. and Elliot

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 10:33 PM

I like Quantum, mainly for Craig. REALLY dig Casino Royale, though. Definitely a favorite movie of the 2000s, and I don't have many favorite movies from recent years.

What can I say? I adore Daniel Craig in the role. The Brosnans were alright. Even Die Another Day had that first act where Bond is captured in Korea with a bitchin' main title sequence. The rest of it...yeah. It's obvious why they rebooted it. I liked Brosnan just fine. He's a charming dude and you just LIKE him. But, you know, he was just sort of playing the character of Bond. Was he ever truly believable in any of those silly-ass action sequences with the quips? I kinda wanted that guy from Tim Burton's God-awful Planet of the Apes to grab a hold of Brosnan's Bond and ask, "is there a soul in there?!" He was rarely anything more or less than what we'd come to expect from the guy.

With Craig, it's like there was finally something going on under the surface. First viewing, I never knew what to expect from him. What was he thinking in that mirror scene? How truly awful that must have been for him to fall in love, open up to someone, only to have to learn that final, painful lesson...can't trust anyone, Mr. Bond. Craig doesn't even need to talk to be the coolest Bond ever. He clearly has the best action scenes and stunts from the entire series.

This is a movie with mega repeat value for me.

#24 Stefancos

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Posted 15 August 2011 - 10:37 PM

You can't blame Brosnan. That's pretty much how the role has been written for decades. Though Dalton did a good job in portraying him as more then the lovable rogue that Roger Moore made of 007.

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#25 Mr. Breathmask

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 02:22 PM

I think it's true though. As much as I enjoy Brosnan, throughout his four films he was mainly just "James Bond, the movie icon we've known for years," whereas Craig's Bond is an actual character, a human being that has things going on beneath the surface. I like Brosnan, but I like Craig better. I also think Craig has more screen presence. He's an actor you get drawn to no matter what he's in. Heck, he made The Golden Compass slightly less sucky for all of the ten minutes he was in it (hey New Line, release that original ending already!).

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