Yes, yes I know a review is about 14 years late but take into account I was five years old at the time. Which in all honesty isn’t an excuse for only watching Casino Royal this year but before you start scolding me let me explain myself…
As a child I knew who James Bond was, I mean every boy knew who he was but the difference was I had never watched the films. I remember (for a nineteen year old I do say “I remember” quite a lot like an old man) when I was on a school rugby tour, we were in a blu-ray store and Skyfall had just been released and I so very much wanted to buy it but I had spent the last of my money on Pirates of the Caribbean and a Peter Pan game for my sister, safe to say I wasn’t too happy with my purchases that day. Even before then at school I tried to look cool by acting like James Bond which wasn’t too difficult when cool, calm, confidence can be a sweaty palm away from being comically shy which I was. Anyway I tried to emulate this cool, charismatic, and mysterious character which I had never seen before yet knew about. That’s when you realise how deeply etched the character is in society, never watched it but from whispers, reviews in the form of gatherings by the monkey bars and compliments like “you look wonderful in that suit, like my little James Bond” he became a persona of cool in my mind.
The important question here is. Just how good was Casino Royale and how did Daniel Craig fair in his debut film as 007.
From the beginning of the film it is evident that this particular Bond is on the grittier side, a darker glass of cool composure, sordid humor and a killer punch. Now having not watched the previous James Bond films (yes, yes I know I’ll get on with it) I can’t shed complete light on how this James Bond differs from the likes of Sean Connery but let me give you a run down of what makes this James Bond film applaudable.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond
Well firstly the lethal spy is gifted with the “Bond charm” and gets his way with women and I quote, “You think of women as disposable pleasures, rather than meaningful pursuits.”The stone cold killer however, is shockingly human. If the tale of women being attracted to a man with walls around his heart so when it’s broken down all that’s left is a pounding lump of innocent affection runs true, then surely Daniel Craig in Casino Royale must be a keeper. A moment that symbolises this perfectly is the conversation Bond has with Vesper Lynn and it goes:
Vesper Lynd: You’re not going to let me in there, are you? You’ve got your armor back on, that’s that.
James Bond: I have no armor left. You stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me… Whatever is left of me, whatever I am… I’m yours.
You don’t hear that often.
In the beginning M refers to Bond as a “blunt tool” which is true in the sense that for one who is meant to be calculative and dispassionate, he becomes very much vulnerable, romantically irrational which is then resolved in the most sombre of affairs. This James Bond is a strong, intelligent killer with a witty and soft side which essentially makes him human. This sense of violence and killing coupled with falling in love and being affectionate is what draws you in throughout the movie. He is first closed up and dark then next he wear’s his heart on his sleeve which makes you even more empathetic for him come the end of the film.
It’s a sort of initiation for the new Bond. In the beginning he is rash, and kills without point. M describes his faults as; without judgement, arrogant and with issues on the terms of trust. As the film develops, reaches it’s climax and settles, Bond resolves these issues well, the hard way and M acknowledges, “you’ve learnt your lesson” christens him into the dispassionate, cold-hearted, lethal spy he was meant to be.
The film itself
Now because I’ve watched this movie fourteen years after it’s release and having watched its successor’s I expected to be underwhelmed by the visuals and locations but I was anything but disappointed, it was timeless. The locations chosen were breathtaking and each of them so relevant to the plot of the film, the high stakes poker game shot in a glamorous Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic filled with expensive suits and flashy cars, while the more romantic scenes were filmed in the soft coloured and beautiful Venice of Italy. The action scenes met the excentric standards of a Bond film but retain a level of reality and practicality(well sort of).
The plot of the film is well written and well portrayed. It shows the antagonist Le Chiffre forced into a corner after losing 10 million that belongs to dangerous people and plans to win it back in a high-stakes poker game which Bond joins in order to stifle Le Chiffre’s plans, but of course this can’t be everything now can it. As the film progresses the plot deepens and you soon realise there are greater forces in play. Still the film keeps you wondering and gives you a bit of a helping hand to explain things in case you stray, it really is a well thought out film.
One thing I will say about the mostly immaculate film is that James Bond was left, well a bit spartan in all honesty. While the Aston Martin DBS Bond used was quite a looker, it was the only thing he had in terms of incredulous gadgets and, it to be fair was rather tame (except for a few important moments). It could also be argued that considering the plot structure there wasn’t too much space for lets say a “Car Invisibilty Cloak” (you might have had a bit of a cringe there) but it could have done with the occasional grenade pen or the like.
So to recap Casino Royale’s James Bond is more of a “contained” weapon with a sharp suit and gentlemanly demeanor as a holster. The immaculate tale and mixture of geographic beauty that is Casino Royale is his christening, he begins as “blunt instrument” but through turmoil, pain, and the sharpest blade of all, heartbreak comes out the sharp, lethal, playboy 007 viewers love to see.