It was slightly over a decade ago now that director Martin Campbell resuscitated the dying franchise of
James Bond by inserting Irish-born actor Pierce Brosnan into the key role. Campbell went on to make
two Zorro features, as well as a couple other films in between, before slipping into his directorial Bond
shoes once again. A serious revisiting of the 1967 comedic version of Ian Fleming's book Casino Royale
once again relaunches the series with a yet another new Bond, British actor Daniel Craig, the series'
very first blue-eyed, blond-haired super spy.
The Bond character has come great distances since its inception with Sean Connery as the leading
man. In recent years, Brosnan has been the very face of James Bond, defining the character for my
generation. However, as the humor-tinted spy thrillers with Connery gave way to considerably different successors,
and eventually to the more campy, flashy, gadget-intensive quartet of Brosnan films, the franchise
seemed to have lost its way. While those films were often decent popcorn flicks, Bond wasn't taken
quite as seriously anymore. Enter Daniel Craig. With more recent successful "serious" action films
like The Bourne Identity series hitting big screens, it doesn't surprise me that the wallets
behind the Bond franchise would rethink their methods. And completely starting over with a new James
Bond, starting out at his first mission, seems to be a good plan -- even going back to the director
who last rebooted the film series. So with twenty films in the James Bond catalog, the question is,
"where do we go from here?"
Casino Royale is a near perfect introduction to a new generation for 007. The film's
opening sequence, presented entirely in black and white, shows the viewer just how James receives
his "double O" status, setting up the film for being his very first mission as "007." He's young,
he's confident (maybe a little too much), and his superior M isn't quite sure she can trust him or
if he's even right for the job. Casino Royale shows Bond making plenty of mistakes, taking many
many hits, and shedding more blood than probably all of his predecessors. It's a much grittier
Bond, and a lot less glamour for the sake of glamour. It feels like a new era for the character and
it actually feels right.
As important as his name is to the series, so is the music. Composer David Arnold, who cleverly
updated the score to modern times for the previous three Brosnan outings, returns to the composing seat.
With the previous films, Arnold mixed a heavy amount of techno and synths to give it a very modern,
very cool vibe, but this obviously doesn't quite fit within the vision of Casino Royale.
Arnold holds the classic Bond theme back for the entire film, as if to say, "well, he's Bond, but
he's not the Bond you know him as quite yet." In fact, it isn't until just before the credits roll
that the full-on Bond theme appears. Instead, throughout the film, hints of the classic theme drift
in and out of the action, used sparingly, and used to accent that the character is on his way to being
the ultimate super spy. And that about describes how the character is approached in Casino Royale
altogether. Craig is easing the audience into Bond. It's at a card table that James first discovers
his signature vodka martini drink, and it's through events that unfold in this particular plot that
reveal just why James needs to learn not to trust people -- and why his character becomes known for
an inability to committ in a relationship (to put it politely). Arnold approaches the music more orchestrally
than modernly, and it fits more appropriately for the scope of Casino Royale.
The action and plot of Casino Royale is some of the best for the series in years. James
takes a beating but he also sure knows how to give one. And we see he's not perfect, nor is he impervious
to pain or bleeding. It's violent and brutally so at times, but seldom graphic. Craig brings
a no-nonsense side to Bond that Brosnan lacked, but still knows when a sarcastic comment or joke
fits in a moment. When French actress Eva Green shows up about halfway through the film as Vesper Lynd,
the two possess an incredible chemistry and ability to banter wonderfully, offering some of the best
dialog ever found in a Bond film (at least, of the ones I've seen). I originally thought Daniel Craig
was entirely the wrong choice for James Bond but I was gladly proven wrong upon viewing the film. Craig
was a wise choice indeed.
Content is always a problem with the James Bond franchise. With each film you can expect heaps
of violence, shapely women, mild language, and a sex scene or two. Casino Royale's only difference
is the overall sexuality of the film was toned down a bit while the violence was amped.
There's quite a bit of bloodshed, particularly from Bond himself as he's beaten, slashed, etc.
A pretty serious torture scene borders on disturbing until some surprise humor is used to lighten the mood of it.
The end result is wince-inducing, leaving the viewers torn in deciding whether laughing when its
intended is actually appropriate or not. Sexuality is of course present, as Bond seduces a man's wife
to learn information, but leaves her before it escalates. Later we see a few brief scenes of him
making out with Vesper and in bed with her, but no actual in-the-act moments are seen. Finally,
there is a prolonged scene with a man sitting naked in a chair while being interrogated, but only side
views are show with no explicit nudity visible. While the sexuality is sadly trademark to the Bond
character, it's unfortunate it must be included at all, as it ultimately isn't imperative to the story
and only seems to glorify the spy's womanizing ways (although this particular story doesn't paint
Bond as a full-blown womanizer... just yet). As an action film, Casino Royale is about as
good as it gets, but the action is intense, although not too graphic, as wounds and the like are often
not focused upon. Still, Casino Royale is an adult film through and through. I wouldn't mind
seeing the grit toned down a bit further or the sexuality dropped altogether, but Heaven knows that
would be asking a bit much from Hollywood. We're about as likely to see that happen as to see Bond
quit drinking and take up knitting as a hobby.
Overall, Casino Royale is the best Bond film in the past few decades. Daniel Craig was
an inspired choice to rejuvenate a waning franchise and Casino Royale is proof.
While Campbell has created a worthy action film, it does feel a bit long at times, especially when
the climax feels like the film's end before it merely gives way to a love story development following
some confusing plot elements and what seems like a second climax/ending. Still, it all works
together for the whole of the story in the end.
In the same way the Bourne films brought some edge to the action genre, Casino Royale
does the same, but that also means that there's plenty of objectionable content in the movie to limit viewers and rule out
families altogether. Even under the guide of a DVD filtering system like Clear Play, it will still be
a bit rough. Still, action fans will find a lot to like here with the twenty first James Bond
adventure, Casino Royale.
- John DiBiase
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Solange shows a great deal of skin in a bikini and later a low-neck dress;
Although married, Solange allows Bond to woo her and we see the two lying on the floor clothed,
while she kisses down his chest (which is exposed as his shirt is open). She moves out of
camera range (down his chest), but Bond begins asking her questions which eventually ends their
time together when he soon leaves (it's assumed they don't sleep together); Valenka is seen
with a criss cross-topped dress that is a bit revealing (but not explicit); A man sits nude
in a chair that has its bottom cut out so the man's genitals and but hang through (we only
see a side view of his butt, but no explicit view of the genitals or crotch). The man is struck
in the bottom repeatedly with a thick rope as he is interrogated (and makes a comment about
the man torturing him "scratching his balls" for him, in a mocking way); Vesper comments
that Bond can have her "anywhere" and Bond makes a suggestive comment about what he could do
with his "little finger" (after she says something about liking his smile and little finger);
We see Vesper and James passionately making out and land on a bed before accidentally rolling
off onto the floor; There's a brief shot of James and Vesper making out on a beach; James and Vesper
are lying in bed together (presumably naked under the covers). She then gets up and we see her buttoning
a shirt up and briefly see her shapely figure as she does so
1 "Chr-st," 3 "d*mn," 7 "h*ll," 2 "a" words, 2 "G-d"
Many people drink throughout the film; Bond drinks quite a bit, and has several of his
classic "vodka martini's" (as do others)
We see Bond try to drown a man in a sink; Bond chases a man who appears to have heavy scarring on his skin; Le Chiffre has a severe scar
on his eyelid and occasionally throughout the film we see a drop of blood appear from his tear
duct; While fighting, Bond and the man he's chasing have some blood on their faces/heads;
There's a brief shot of a photo with a man with a bloody bullet hole on their forehead;
At a museum exhibit for the human body, there are various skeletons and mannequins with varying
degrees of skeletal muscle tissue on them (some appear rather gross); Bond has some bloody
scrapes on his face after a fight; Although not bloody or gory, we briefly see a dead woman tangled
in a hammock with sand on her face, and we learn she had been tortured before murdered;
Bond has a tiny bruise/bit of blood on his arm after a tracking device is injected into his forearm;
During a brutal fight in a stairwell, Bond has a lot of blood on his face and shirt as he's cut
with a machete and from fighting with a few men. We then see him after the fight as he tries to clean
himself up; A man makes himself vomit to try to dispell some poison they've been given;
Bond is a little bloody after a rolling and wrecking his car; A man takes a knife to Bond's skin
to pick out the tracking device under his skin and we see an out-of-focus shot of this;
A man's face falls within the foreground of a camera shot and we briefly see a bloody bullet wound
on the dead man's forehead (just a dot of bloody, not a graphic wound); Bond shoots a nail gun
at a man who wears glasses with one black eye patch. We then see a big nail sticking out of the part of
the glasses with the eye patch (not gory, but a bit unsettling); We see a person struggling underwater
as they drown
Lots of action violence (especially mentioned above under Blood/Gore), including some explosions,
many people shot and killed; a man motions to cut off a woman's arm with a machete, but does not;
A bad guy finds that a bomb was attached to him and we hear the explosion, but do not see it;
We suddenly hear a gunshot and see that a man has been shot in the leg, which throws them to the ground.
They then crawl up to a man holding a machine gun who presumably will kill them (or interrogate them),
but we do not see it; and many other acts of action violence...
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.