Dave’s 3-Word Review:
High stakes indeed.
I always have mixed feelings about reviewing a movie that I already have for no other reason than…just because I can. Sure, I’ve been going through the series one by one for a couple of weeks now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t just cheat and copy-paste my original review here…but that feels too easy. Besides, my old review was really biased. It had been years since I’d seen any Bond film at that point, and the only other Bond I knew was Pierce Brosnan. I was, for a lack of a better word, naïve. I loved this film, and I still do, but now I can really pinpoint why based on the previous installments of the film. This is Casino Royale, and this film revolutionized the way James Bond is seen.
Meet James Bond, secret agent man. After explaining to the audience how James Bond became a double 00 agent, the film goes on to show us his very first mission. What he had to do was keep an eye on this terrorist named Le Chiffre, who wins money through stocks and uses that money to create terrorist attacks that would ensure his stocks to rise…or something. Anyways, when he loses a large sum of cash, he enters a high-stakes poker game to get it back and to pay off the people he owes, or else they’ll come to kill him. James Bond, being the most skillful poker player on the force, is hired to play against Le Chiffre and make sure he cannot win the money. A desperate Le Chiffre will be easy to manage and get answers out of.
What a phenomenal film. Ultimately, when you think of James Bond and what the character should be like in real life, you’re not going to get a better representation than right here. As I’ve mentioned in my original review, Daniel Craig wouldn’t normally fit the appearance of the role. He has blond hair and blue eyes…but somehow, gosh darnit, he pulls it off. He has the attitude, is physically fit, has hand-to-hand combat as well as weapons, and has the smarts to get out of any situation. He is smooth, but not like the Bonds before him. His smooth is so much more human and realistic…and suddenly you really believe him. He is a tough guy, a machine of a man, but still cares deeply about people. He doesn’t throw puns left and right, but instead is sparingly sarcastic. My God, if he isn’t the perfect Bond, I don’t know who is.
You know as soon as this film begins that it is going to be sensational. The introduction guiding us through the origin of James Bond is amazing, there is an over-the-top and beautifully choreographed action sequence in the beginning that takes you through gorgeous locations. The fight scenes are off the charts and you soon realize that the plot is simple yet intelligent. It makes sense, it’s realistic, and still fits within the Bond world.
You’ll notice that this film doesn’t have a Q or any spy gear. That’s a first in a long time, and I can’t believe it myself, but you don’t need spy gear in order to make Bond Bond. Instead, again it furthers the realistic angle and removes that campy..corny side of James Bond. I believe I said in one of my earlier reviews that if a movie is going to be campy in general, it might be hard to believe Bond is a spy, therefor, give him special gadgets that will make the viewers drop their jaws. Well, this film had no gadgets, and I still felt the Bond spirit.
Now for the co-stars. Judi Dench is the best representation that we’ve ever seen for M. At least thus far. Her role has just magnified itself into one of the most important aspects to a film. Even though this is a reboot of sorts, and even though we’ve already seen her four times before, she still adds so much to the story, and she’s honestly one of the best parts of these Bond flicks. Felix, the CIA agent was in this film. When I first watched it…I had no idea who that was, but now that I’ve seen the series, I know that he’s been in a lot of the films, and it was incredible to see him back…he’s looking pretty good after that shark attack! Eva Green as Vesper is one of the best Bond girls to ever grace the silver screen. Her importance to this story closely correlates to that one girl who Bond got married to years ago. Bond clearly cared for her character and stays with her for a long time. Something you don’t expect from him. Finally, Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre is the perfect James Bond villain. He has it all, the weird accent, the look that exhumes evil, and the scar on his face. Amazing. Just…amazing.
Also, I’ve been raving recently of the spy car introduced in From Russia With Love. I first saw the car (I thought) in Skyfall. So when I saw it in the second ever Bond film, I was excited. I’ve learned that it’s been in several Bond films since, including most of the Pierce Brosnan film. I was mostly surprised to see Bond drive the thing in this film as well! It wasn’t a spy car, but it was the same make and model of the spy car as well as paint job. It was the same car…which I love to see.
Any other Bond, whether it be Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, or Brosnan…I don’t think they really could pull this film off…which is half of the reason why I don’t think any of them tried. The other half tells me it’s because this story has already been told in 1954…just as a TV short movie (I skipped that one because I totally don’t count it as important). The story is important though, even though it is all about poker. It’s high-stakes poker if ever I saw it. Yeah, and the stakes are death.
Casino Royale changed everything we ever knew about James Bond and created a brand new series that may make a fan ask themselves why they would ever watch the classic series when they could watch Daniel Craig steal the role and make it his own?