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REVIEW: Casino Royale (2006)

Run Time: 144 Mins
Rated: PG-13
What To Expect: Daniel Craig’s best outing as Bond

It might have been yet more Bond rumors over the weekend (or maybe I’m just spending too much time at casino.com) but I decided to watch Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007, way back when they hit the reset button with Casino Royale.  For me it is safe to say that if Daniel Craig is actually finished up with the franchise, this was his best role.

After cheese and cringe of Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day especially (sorry, these are just bad movies to me), the industry’s go-to espionage series was looking decidedly laughable next to the emergent Jason Bourne series.  One was taking audiences for granted with silly bullshit like invisible cars, the other was to harken back to 1970’s spy yarns both in political cynicism and kinetic bent fender car chases.  I guess the Broccoli dynasty got spooked and hit the reset button.

What better way to shake Bond up by going back to Ian Fleming’s roots, with a screen adaptation of Casino Royale. To recap, we see a newly minted ’00 with Daniel Craig.  He’s rough around the edges and lambasted by the sardonic M (Judi Dench), who frets over why the hell she promoted such a thug so quickly.  On the other end of the spectrum, still recovering from the tectonic events of 9/11, Mads Mikkelson is Le Chiffre, a banker who is funding terrorism and must be eliminated.  We build towards a high (high, $150,000,000) poker game, which Bond must infiltrate. Naturally, Eva Green plays Bond’s working wife, there to distract at the game.

I didn’t like this movie at first.  I used to say that every Bond released since GoldenEye has sucked, the fact of the matter is that I have difficulty sitting through most of Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s Bond movies.  But I think Craig’s other movies have kind of clouded by perception of this one, because it has grown on me.

I like Craig in this movie, even if he utilizes about three facial expressions throughout and dances that fine line between stoic and wooden too much.  He says less, including cutting the awful Moore-esque one liners off at the knees.  He observes more.  That’s good.  I also like the fact that this Bond is not a superhuman, for example in that (fuckin’ brilliant) chase at the beginning, Bond stumbles, falls and hurts himself like John McClane would’ve done. Bond bleeds, screws up and has issues.  He also has somewhat of a backstory… another Bond might’ve appeared to be some upper class superhuman, but we learn that Craig’s quieter Bond was probably an orphan coming from meagre means.  It helps that the average viewer can relate more.

The second half of the movie is weaker than the first, which is something that got to me a little when I watched it when it first came out.  The pacing slows, the action crammed into the first half is kept there and we’re reduced to a game of wits and glares across the table.  This isn’t a bad thing but I think they should’ve interwoven the Die Hard 2 style action sequences more evenly.  In some sense, they’re almost overcompensating with the more ‘grounded’ stuff.

But it’s easily better than the three prior movies Brosnan came out with.  I’m not a Bond fanboy, I like very little of this series, but in reflection I’d put this close behind GoldenEye and the two Dalton movies.  I just hope that the new Bond reboot (if that’s the direction they go) can at least match this movie, or to see Daniel Craig leave the franchise in a better way that Brosnan did.

  • Mucho Macho

    I love “GoldenEye” & “Tomorrow Never Dies”.
    “GoldenEye” of course is my favorite of Pierce Brosnan movies as James Bond. With each one they decreased in quality.

    I would have loved to have seen Pierce Brosnan in a movie like “Casino Royale” but I have liked what Craig has done with the role. My least favorite Craig Bond movie happens to be the last one, which I thought was a bit uneventful.

    The problem that I have with Craig is not how he plays Bond is how he promotes the Bond movies. You’ll think this son of a bitch was forced to work in a factory by himself for $0.15 an hour.
    He did 4 Bond movies in a decade and he acts like he did 4 Bond movies a year for the past 10 years. Plus I don’t think has capitalized on the role cause he hasn’t really had major hits outside of it.

    • Barney Ross

      Yep they’re the best 007 films.

      • Mucho Macho

        I actually like all the actors that have gotten to play Bond cause I’ve liked lots of Bond movies over the years.
        From Connery to Roger Moore, I was actually one of the few ones that liked Timothy Dalton when it was cool to trash him.

        Cool soundtracks as well

        • Der

          Watched license to kill the day it came out ,love dalton as bond living daylights is great as well he’s cool as fuck in Flash Gordon and a bad mother fucker in hot fuzz

          • Mucho Macho

            Too bad we didn’t get more of Dalton as Bond. Audiences of the time kind of rejected him and it’s a shame

    • Der

      Pearce is the best bond with the worst movies ,not saying there terrible I love them but just imagine what he could have done with a juicy script and a great director

  • Mucho Macho

    The second half of the movie is definitely much slower than the first which I think hurts the movie as a whole. However I still think is a great Bond movie.

  • Kirk’s Toupee

    I could never get into Daniel Craig as Bond. He looks like he should be wearing a yellow track suit and chasing the real Bond down a ski slope on a motor cycle.