James Bond: Classic, Cheese or Crap? – Casino Royale

“Casino Royale”

2006

Bond: Daniel Craig

Classic, Cheese, or Crap?: CLASSIC

In the mid 00s, 007 was in the need of a change of direction.

2002′s “Die Another Day”, although a huge box office hit, had not been received well critically and wasn’t sitting well with fans. Bad CGI? Obnoxious product placement? A Madonna cameo? The franchise had returned to cartoonishness reminiscent of the worst of the Moore era.

Pierce Brosnan expressed willingness to return as Bond, but his four picture deal had been satisfied. EON Productions was also considering recasting the role with a younger actor (Brosnan was about to turn 50). After a period of deliberation, when an agreement on a one picture deal could not be reached, Brosnan announced he was retiring from the role, and EON announced they were giving the Bond franchise a “reboot”.

The new Bond? Daniel Craig.

Craig was a relatively unknown to the (American) movie going public when he was cast as James Bond. He had had parts in “Tomb Raider” and “Road to Perdition”, but his largest role was the lead in Matthew Vaughn’s “Layer Cake”. Having had seen “Layer Cake”, I was psyched he was cast… I could envision him as Bond right away. But there was a lot of angst out there about the casting. I can recall a great deal of backlash simply because Craig was blond. LOL

In spite of the protestations over the new Bond, EON was saying all the right things. They wanted to get back to the spirit of the early Bonds. They were basing the movie on an Ian Fleming novel for the first time in decades. Less CGI. More stunts. More spying. They wanted to make a Bond movie worthy of consideration alongside the Franchise’s best.

Anticipation was high. Bond fans were getting psyched.

And when it premiered, it completely delivered. Opening with the new Bond brutally earning his 00 status, then treating audiences to Chris Cornell’s scorching theme song set to a delightfully old school credit sequence, followed by the exhilarating parkour chase with an explosive culmination… You knew within the first ten minutes, BOND WAS BACK.

Many Bond films start strong and fizzle, though. Not Casino Royale. Casino Royale takes the frenetic energy of its opening and channels it perfectly into the rest of the movie. It expertly juggles set up scenes and character beats with adrenaline filled action sequences. There’s a perfect sense of pacing and balance… Even though it’s knocked at times for having “multiple endings”, this is one of those movies that runs two+ hours, yet feels like it ends too quickly.

Much of that is due to the incredible cast. Although there was no Q, and no Moneypenny, Judi Dench reprised her role as M, continuing her fantastic contribution to the series that she began during the Brosnan era. Giancarlo Giannini makes his first appearance as Bond ally Mathis, and Jeffrey Wright is solid as the series’ 859th Felix Leiter.

But Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green make the biggest non-Bond contributions.

As Bond villain Le Chiffre, Mikkelsen is menacing, memorable and his plans/schemes are far more credible than 99.5% of other Bond villains. His bloody, weeping eye is one of the great Bond villain physical defects, too. How sick is that?

Vesper Lynd is one of the best Bond girls of all time, to me. Perhaps my favorite. Gorgeous. Intelligent. Vulnerable. Treacherous. Eva Green steps into the franchise as if she were born to.

“I’m the money”.

You’re goddamn right you are.

But the star of the show, of course, was the new Bond, Daniel Craig. Intense, focused, Craig played the role as “the strong, silent type”. More akin to the serious Dalton than the glib Brosnan, Craig’s Bond was a stone cold killer with just a dash of the traditional Bond charm. He was physically suited for the action sequences and finally able to give the female Bond fans their Ursula Andress/Halle Berry moment. Craig was a perfect choice to reinvigorate the role. Cool, handsome, and tough. In retrospect it’s laughable that anyone cared what color hair he had…

Casino Royale returned the franchise to glory. It was an enormous success in every regard… Financially, critically, and with the hardcore fans. It put together a magical mix of style, stunts, sex appeal and suspense. But most of all, it returned a sense of credibility to a franchise that had been… borrowing on its good name for awhile. Memorable action sequences and characters. A love interest and subplot with depth and feeling. And a brand new, kick-ass Bond.

Bond was back. And he was once again a force to be reckoned with.

A formidable force.

Now if they only ended the big poker game on a more realistic hand…

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59 thoughts on “James Bond: Classic, Cheese or Crap? – Casino Royale

    • If you played poker you might.

      I was like “Oh, come the &$%# ON…” LOL.

      One of the most unrealistic things in the Bond series… and that’s saying a LOT.

      But youre right, I love this flick too. Probably my number one.

      • As a film fan/ movie blogger? Yes. Nitpicky.

        As someone who plays poker frequently? Not nitpicky at all, they might as well have busted out a song and dance routine…

        Back to back boats, followed by quads, then a straight flush? Lol, the odds are like 8,000,000,000,000,000 to 1

      • I think Casino Royale is easily in the top 5 of Bond films.

        Fogs, I think it’s great that you reference the poker game. I loved Casino Royale, but the way the poker game ended drove me bat shit crazy!! The movie was extremely realistic in style, and it’s that reason that I expected more with regards to how the ended the poker game. As an avid poker player, I’m not asking for a A/Q to beat A/J, but something like a river 7 to give trips over pocket bullets would have been much more realistic.

        I really enjoyed reading your review, thanks!

      • THANK. YOU. JOE!!

        Isn’t that like the dumbest most Hollywood BS ever…

        The only realistic element to it was that it would push the table all in. Any of those hands are worth the shove.

        Still. Ludicrous. And worse yet, they had that great hand earlier where Bond loses and thinks he picked up on the tell!

        I don’t know, I guess I should have seen it coming earlier when the guy bets the car (that always happens in poker, right?) and then it’s aces vs kings. Not that unrealistic, but totally Hollywood.

        I would say they were dumbing the poker down for newbies, but even that doesn’t work… That final hand is still rough if you don’t know what’s up!

        Lol, that’s what you call “pent up frustration” after like 4 people disagreed with me :D

        Thanks for posting up, and thanks for your timely support on this!!!

  1. Nailed it! I loved this return of Bond. You can see the influence of the successful ‘Bourne’ trilogy on this, but it remains true to the long stable of films in this venerable series. I never tire of watching ‘Casino Royale’, or Daniel Craig. I’ll be re-watching this and its less successful sequel in prelude to ‘Skyfall’ later in the year, for sure. Well done, matey.

    • Thanks Big Cat. Always want to do right by the fans of any particular flick, you know how it goes…

      And yeah, LOL, you and me and well…. the whole gang here willl probably be getting psyched up for Skyfall somehow (though the money line against Gelfman rewatching Quantum of Solace is out of control).

      I know I’m going to turn this site into like, Bond Central somehow…still have to figure out just how.

  2. The majority of people aren’t really going to know/care how realistic the last hand was, especially when you look back at all of the unrealistic crap that has happened to Bond over the years.

    This is definitely a classic. I picked up the novel last year and was surprised at how true they stayed to it with the movie.

    Lets keep our fingers crossed that this years Bond movie will be even close to this good.

    • “Lets keep our fingers crossed that this years Bond movie will be even close to this good”.

      Amen!

      And I know. Like I told PG…. it probably just bothers poker players. But I did have to laugh when that hand unfolded.

      Yeah? So they kept true to the book, huh? No wonder it felt so Old School. They should go back to those books and just rename the new movies. The movies the books were based on started to go so far from the source material that people probably wouldnt recognize them anyways….

      Just an idea. I’ve only read one, actually. FRWL

  3. Absolutely hands down a modern day CLASSIC. I love this film and everything it is. The casting was spot on. The theme from Chris Cornell couldn’t have been any better. Though seeing the Aston get thrown around brought a tear to my eye. Yes… that brought a tear! The same effect the carpet beater scene must have done to men the world over watching.

    Also, loved that it was Bond doing most of the stripping down! Not that I’m a feminist and all that junk, but made a nice change. I remember reading that the scene in the shower, just after Vesper shot the dude in the stairway, initially she was meant to be in her underwear. But they realised that brought away the emotion of the scene, and she was fully dressed. Good move!

    Seriously though, I couldn’t love this film any more than I already do.

    • Oh, I don’t know that men were crying during that scene, I think they were cringing though, LOL.

      That car wreck is iconic, to me. Awesomest car wreck ever. Read all kinds of things at one point about how hard it was to get the car to actually do that because the AM actually handles too well and wouldn’t flip. :D that’s clutch.

      Never knew that about Vesper in the shower! That’s cool. You’re right, this is a much better choice. Normally I’d complain that we missed out, but Eva’s “put it on the record” for us elsewhere.

      LOL :D

      Hey, and good for lady Bond fans! We’ve been treated to TONS of eye candy over the years, so why not…

  4. Classic! The producers heard the complaints against CGI action and responded perfectly! The opening sequence with “Parkour” stunts is sensational! But just when Bond is settling down to make love to Vesper on the beach(must control my drooling), the usual ending for most Bond fliks, the Turbos kick in and we’re off to Venice! Venice like never seen before. Most importantly, Bond actually cares for his lost love Vesper. When did that ever happen? Great flik!

    • Correct on all counts, RB.

      That Venice action sequence is one that hasn’t gotten mentioned yet, here, it’s incredible too. The concept of the sinking building is fantastic. And the fact the Vesper actually DIES? What balls…

      Great flick, indeed.

  5. This is my favorite Bond film and you mentioned almost all of the reasons why I love it. I think Paul Haggis deserves some credit too for actually including character development among the leads (something a lot of Bond films severely lack). I really how this film starts off with a bunch of spectacle before being able to just rest itself on the shoulders of a great script and some strong acting.

    And in terms of the final poker hand, I don’t play enough poker to care about the realism of it. All that mattered to me was that it was directed with enough suspense to keep me glued to the screen.

    • LOL, I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned that poker hand…

      But you’re right, Ry, the writing was awesome. Great script. Great dialogue. I love the fact that La Chiffre has his own battles on his hands. I mean, this movie was just so well written. Nice point.

      • No the poker hand is probably a legitimate concern. It seems whenever poker comes up in film, it always ends with someone winning with an unbelievably great hand at the last second. It has become a cliche. I just overlooked it this time because everything else about the scene was so well done.

  6. Absolutely great Bond film in every way. In my top 3 (right behind … something. I forget which. lol)

    Also remember it was one of the very best Ian Fleming books (my favorite in fact), and the story required very little in the way of updating to make it work in modern times. It’s also the last of the original Fleming stories which never really had the full on Bond-movie treatment. Yes, there was a 1956 TV version, but that hardly counts. (and of course there was the brilliant Woody Allen version, which probably should be a MTESS at some point.) To any serious Bond fan (the Literary kind I mean) Casino Royale was something of a holy grail, long anticipated and hoped for. To finally have it realized, and realized so well, made all the more satisfying.

    I wish we had another word than “Classic” since it’s a bit too recent to really fit that word (just speaking semantically) but within the strictures of the game, yes, CLASSIC.

    • Well… I dont know, I think its a Classic just waiting to age… hows that? I mean, I couldnt see anything ever changing that.

      It’s in my top three too. Right now its number one. LOL But I havent made the list official yet, so Goldfinger could still take the brass ring.

      And uh, no, I dont see the others as MTESS. LOL. But they might get some attention… they just might. :D

      • Eh, I wasn’t wouldn’t call the Woody Allen one a must-see. I enjoyed it all right, but it wasn’t anywhere near as funny as it should have been, to me. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more had it kept the focus more on Peter Sellers and let him cut loose than on David Niven. Allen himself was funny, though.

  7. I think it was the harder edge to the film that made it so memorable for me. The torture scene and the fact the Bond gets seriously injured. I can’t think when he has come off so badly in any other bond movie.

  8. This is a great, classic, Bond movie. All the comments above are dead on, but I too did not care about what hand the poker game ended with. At first I thought they were going to reveal a cheating gadget, but when that didn’t happen I just chalked it up to typical Bond intellectual strategy (luck). It was important to see this Bond as human.

    I liked this movie’s theme song from Chris Cornell so much that I have learned to play it on the guitar and may push my band to play it!

    • There you go Ray! Get that in the set list for your gig coming up buddy. LOL

      I bet the singer cops out on you though!

      “Uh… I dunno guys…”

      You could always work it in between songs as a solo!! :D

  9. I loved Casino Royale. It was a great film and I think they did a nice job of going back to Fleming’s Bond, but I still can’t get into Craig as Bond. I felt like they tried to make shift Bond into Bourne.

  10. Classic indeed! Probably my favorite James Bond movie, if there is such thing. I love that it’s darker, grittier and more serious than all the previous Bond flicks.

  11. A fantastic synopsis here dude! I like Casino Royale…which made Quantum of Solace all the more of a greater disappointment. (ready for Skyfall thought).

    And Mads…glad you mentioned him as he was a great classic bond villain.

    Had my doubts about Daniel Craig when I first learned about him but after watching him…perfect choice.

    • Yeah, I had had the good fortune of seeing Layer Cake going in, so I knew he’d be good.

      And Mads? Hell yeah, man! Le Chiffre! Cool name even.. I just looked up what it meant, supposedly its “The Cypher”

      How cool is that? :D

  12. Great review!

    I absolutely love this movie and totally agree with you. I remember sitting in the theatre and being surprised that I was loving a Bond movie so much. The opening credits are fantastic, and the action sequences are top-notch.

    In an era of Bourne, Bond got physical, using the big budget set pieces, but finally getting down and dirty too. Bond finally seemed human, and they filled the movie with characters as opposed to caricatures.

    This film is one of my faves. It’s one of the few movies I can seem to watch every time it’s on and still genuinely enjoy it.

    Have you done a review on Quantum of Solace yet? Would be curious to know what you think.

    • This is one of my favorites too, for sure. And you’re right, it did seem like a more physical, grittier Bond. Totally worked.

      I’m trying hard not to call you out on being “Surprised you were enjoying a Bond movie so much” What’s that supposed to mean Shelby? Hmm? Hmm?

      LOL :D

      • Haha, totally fine to call me out on the Bond comment. Growing up, I associated Bond with something my dad would watch, and I’d catch it on in the background. It just seemed to be all explosions and no substance.

        Since then, I’ve tried to watch a few of the older Bond films, and at the very least they’ve made me appreciate the Austin Powers movies more haha.

        In terms of the more physical Bond, I also got a kick out of the parkour sequence where Bond looks like a useless brute in comparison to all the graceful stuff the other guy is pulling off. Bond doesn’t make it look pretty, but he gets the job done. With a bulldozer. Haha.

    • I adore the opening credits for this film. I thought QoS’ opener was such a step backwards. Casino Royale’s were beautiful, clean and so well thought out.

  13. Finally, a Bond that I like! The only one I like, actually. I wrote my undergrad senior thesis about it: starting from Fleming’s books, I analysed all of its adaptations (this one, 1964 parody and 1954 episode for anthology series “Climax!”).
    He is the original Bond, before he gets turned into a “perfect machine” (quote from the book) and before he starts to believe that all the women are “bitches” (Do you remember what he says about Vesper at the end?) – and that’s how he treats them from now on.

    … Well, sorry, my academic side just broke through. Anyways, Daniel Craig is such a sexy badass! A “formidable force”, indeed!

    BTW, sorry I haven’t been around lately. But I’ve just finished preparing my dissertation, so now I’m finally free! Been missing my blog and my blog-friends :)

    • Jersey!! Yeah!! :D

      Not that we take attendance or anything, but its definitely nice to see you!

      “and before he starts to believe that all the women are “bitches” (Do you remember what he says about Vesper at the end?)”

      Wow. No, I guess I dont. I mean, I know that the Vesper incident was supposed to be formative for his attitudes towards women, and him hardening his heart. I guess I dont remember him calling her a bitch though.

      Gonna have to check into that today…

      Good to see you again Jersey!! :D

  14. Excellent review and comment thread, Fogs. This is one of my favourite films, and certainly (in my opinion) a return to the grittier Bond of the earliest movies. I’m thinking of some of the sequences in Dr No, From Russia… and Goldfinger. Connery occasionally showed how Bond “functioned”, calmly killing people when needed. I think a great deal of that was lost in the later movies, despite liking Dalton and Brosnan. Brilliant to see a return to the kind of stories that Fleming was writing.

    Definitely pumped about “Skyfall”, though I hope they steer clear of the kind of opening credits song that started “Quantum of Solace” – don’t think that worked especially well.

    Keep up the good work, matey :-)

    Cheers,

    Dave

    • Well, thanks Dave!

      I appreciate the compliments on the review! We had a lot of really good Bond interaction going on here during this series.

      I wrapped it up now, I got through them all! But There’s going to be some SERIOUS Bond stuff here going on in preparation for Skyfall, for sure. Gonna be Bond city around here somehow! Hope you stick around and check it out.

      Meanwhile, Casino Royale is also one of my favorites – not just a favorite Bond, but one of the all time faves. In my opinion its one of the best Action flicks ever. You’re right, it was a return to the gritty roots. Definitely. I hope they give us more of that in Skyfall, too.

      I hear you on the QoS themesong. Personally? I liked it, but I can easily – easily – see how people wouldnt.

      Thanks for stopping by!!

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