Archive for the ‘Casino Royale’ Category

Film Review ::: Casino Royale

June 23, 2009

This film does a great job of grasping the audience right from the beginning. The pre-titles sequence doesn’t follow the normal formula, either. First and foremost, it doesn’t start off with the traditional gun barrel and, instead, ends with it. The pre-titles are also in grayscale – something we had never seen before in a James Bond film. Finally, the scenes take place in James Bond’s past. The crew involved with these scenes did an outstanding job. In noir-fashion, we see James Bond earn his legendary double-oh number. The bathroom fight brought me back to the Dalton era. In this scene, James Bond is in his most brutal form. Between slamming the enemy into the urinals and drowning him in a sink, these flashbacks certainly deliver thrills. We also see how cold James Bond can really be when he shoots Dryden (the 00-section chief). A quickly-cut shot shows a family photo on Dryden’s desk as the bullet strikes him. And at last, we also get an idea of how the gun barrel sequence came to be.

As great as that all may sound, I think this is the first and final solid aspect of the film. Once again, in true cinematic James Bond fashion, this film loosely adapts the classic Ian Fleming novel.

Perhaps one of the better aspects of the film includes the characters. Vesper Lynd and Rene Mathis were portrayed quite well, in my opinion. Eva Green did a great job of playing James Bond’s lover. She was certainly the best Bond girl we’ve been given since Sophie Marceau or Izabella Scorupco. Giancarlo Giannini’s portrayal of Rene Mathis was exceptional and the character ranks up there with the greatest allies of the series. On the other hand, the fates of each character were poorly written. With Vesper, the masterminds Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis turn Fleming’s sleeping pill suicide into a drowning in an elevator. They also (pointlessly) turn Mathis into a potential informant for Le Chiffre, and therefore he is tasered and taken off for imprisonment by the end of the film. As far as Mad Mikkelsen’s performance as Le Chiffre goes, I could take it or leave it. It was certainly a more glamorized, MTV-generation version of the character. In the novel, Le Chiffre was not model material. I would prefer Peter Lorre’s version of the character any day. The producers also introduce Felix Leiter in this film, portrayed by Jeffrey Wright. I saw this performance as very limited, thanks to the writers. Wright did not have much to work with here, and therefore, was not able to shine as he has done in some other films that he’s been in. Judi Dench is also brought back as M – which is another disgrace to Fleming’s novel. Instead of acting as Bond’s boss in the film, she more or less acts like his mother. It gets annoying after a while, to be honest. Other performances in the film were limite; none of them come off as memorable or worth a mention.

David Arnold also offers us another uninspired score. I consider the score to be one of the worst of the series. It’s dull, lifeless, unoriginal, and doesn’t even come close to the works of John Barry or Eric Serra. That said, I think I’ve given the score to this film more attention than it deserves.

Chris Cornell’s theme song was decent; made in more of “Live and Let Die” style, it certainly provided for an interesting title track. The vocals are great (coming from a Cornell fan), but the lyrics are pretty simple. It’s not the worst of the series, and not the best either. It works well with the film, though.

My major problem with this film is the ridiculous action and the poor adaptation of the novel – they go hand in hand. The story seems to be propelled by lack-luster action. The only scenes that stand up to the film’s opening include the casino scenes and the moments before the end titles. Other than that, the rest of the film carries that MTV-generation appeal. I really can’t find the difference between this James Bond film and the films of the supposedly “out-of-control” Pierce Brosnan era. When you shred away the thin, outer coating, they’re still the exact same things – generic action films made to generate loads of cash. The most outrageous scene of “Casino Royale”, though, has to be the falling house in Venice. If this house were made of ice, it would really be no different than one of those scenes in “Die Another Day”.

The brutal take on James Bond goes a bit too far, also – to the point in which it seems to mimic Jason Bourne, rather than Ian Fleming’s character. You can really notice this at Miami International with Bond’s attire. Jason Bourne can wear blue jeans and casual jackets – not James Bond. And what was with the sadistic smirk after killing Carlos? It made Bond come off as some sort of psychopath. What was with the deliberate disobedience? Had a fresh agent thoughtlessly killed a suspect against the instructions of his superior, I doubt he’d be in the service for much longer. While Bond can be a cold assassin at times, there has to be a line drawn. He is not some psycho on a killing spree.

The first few viewings of “Casino Royale” were satisfying, I must admit. It was a new Bond, and a new take on Bond, too. After a while, though, this film started losing its appeal with me, and the flaws started standing out a bit more. If you’re into generic action and cringe-worthy love scenes, then this is the film for you. However, you could also get that out of a random Arnold Schwarzenegger film if you wanted to. Though the series does not have a reputation for faithfully adapting Fleming’s novels, I think the writers could have at least made an honest attempt. Instead, this is not Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale” … it is Eon Productions’ “Casino Royale”. They maintained the basic plot, and changed mostly everything else. Even that genital mutilation/torture scene from the novel was turned into a joke.

I do not see how this is any more of a James Bond film as “Moonraker” or “Die Another Day”. It provides ridiculous action and trend-following, rather than trend-setting.

In the end, an official, faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s classic novel went to waste. What a shame.

4.0 / 10

4.0 / 10