|Casino Royale (2006) (2010) - Used - Blu-ray|
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After a great deal of discussion--on the part of fans and producers alike--over Daniel Craig's (THE MOTHER, MUNICH) suitability for the role of James Bond, he more than proves himself in this explosive revamping of the franchise. Under the direction of Martin Campbell (THE MASK OF ZORRO) and with Paul Haggis (CRASH) helping with the re-writes, this addition to the Bond canon manages to hold true to the essence of the stories--the villainous villains, the fabulous sets, the beautiful women, the fast-paced action--while updating the formula with subtlety and humanity. Trading in the Cold War era for a new, post-9-11 landscape, the tale unfolds in locations that span the globe, including the Bahamas, Venice, and the Czech Republic. It opens in Madagascar, where Bond pursues a guerilla bomb-maker in one of the most breathtaking chase scenes ever--and it all takes place on foot. Botching that assignment, Bond goes to Montenegro to square off against terrorist baddie Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), an international loan shark who gambles with the money of his equally dangerous clients. Beautiful British Treasury representative Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, THE DREAMERS) supplies Bond's own funds, appearing on his arm in Montenegro, while M (Dame Judi Dench, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) keeps a close watch on the action from headquarters. The extravagant poker game forms the center of the action, with Jeffrey Wright (SYRIANA, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) putting in an intense appearance at the table; interrupting the game are assassination attempts, poisoning, and other dramatic events that keep the adrenaline pumping. The flirtation that unfolds between Bond and Vesper Lynd is only in keeping with the spy's M.O. as a ladies' man. What differs here, however, is what sets this Bond apart from the rest: the romance is taken seriously, and it exposes a vulnerability in Bond that he's never shown before. This, however, only makes him the tougher, as Craig's Bond is darker, less campy, more brooding and mysterious, than his past incarnations ever were.
I had previously seen Casino Royale when it was released in theaters and I originally liked what I saw. However, two years went by and I suddenly forgot most of the film. So once I decided to buy a Blu-Ray Disc Player, I knew that I had to get it. I also had become a huge fan of Chris Cornell and the film's theme song "You Know My Name" from the opening and end credits. In my opinion, this was the best Bond song in the history of agent 007.
Anyhow, getting back to the movie, the intro to Casino Royale is spectacular if viewed on a screen that does 1080p. No bond girls to speak of, but just cards and an animated James Bond roughing up some animated bad guys. Once that is over, the film immediately thrusts you right into the action with a chase scene that will surely blow out your subwoofer if you're not careful with the bass. Bond, shortly after, learns of his mission and gets going. He doesn't take on a ton of thugs as in the past Pierce Brosnan 007s, but instead gets involved in more dialogue with criminal characters before subduing them. When the action does take place, however, it shows agent 007 at his best since Sean Connery was still starring in the role.
The storyline is actually very intriguing and believable, while the action may not correspond as well. ELLIPSIS, a mission known exclusively to some of the villains, becomes a target of M and Bond's agency, which in turn fuels the plot. A long poker game takes place among Bond and several other characters including one of Bond's key opponents. The film eventually peaks with an excellent action scene that ends tragically for Bond (notice, I said tragic, not fatal). But rest assured, Craig puts his own signature mark on the film in the end.
The "Bond Girl" is hot once again, despite being younger than the past few darlings. She is well-prepared and keeps Bond in check very nicely. For a change, Vesper (her character name in the movie), unlike several Bond ladies, actually maintains a British accent along with Bond. Also unlike other Bond films, 007 actually falls in love with his screenmate. Without spoiling anything for anyone, I shall move on to the next highlight of the film.
If you've never seen Daniel Craig act before or even if you have, you will not be disappointed, believe me. Pierce Brosnan was good in Goldeneye, perhaps, but not nearly as suave as Daniel Craig is here. He produces a more believable accent and his body type alone does more for the Bond persona then Brosnan ever could. But let's stick to the movie, shall we?
Overall, if you have a chance to grab this one on Blu-Ray, do yourself the favor. The Blu-Ray experience is unlike that of any DVD you've ever watched, especially in 1080p. When combined with 5.1 Surround Speakers, you've got yourself a true hom theater in any room in your house. The sound rivals that of a Multiplex theater and the picture clarity is even better. The soundtrack, as always, is amazing. The acting is good and the action is awesome with great directing and cinematography as well. After all, would you ever expect anything less from "'Bond, James Bond'"?
"Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed!"- M to James Bond in CASINO ROYALE. But this Bond will not be dispatched so easily. He is virtually impervious to pain. He is incredibly acrobatic. If he is on the run and you have just put up some drywall it had better be very thick drywall. When others fall to an explosion he escapes with minor cuts. And he heals quickly (far too quickly). He even cheats death (shocking, positively shocking!). Watching CASINO ROYALE you may ask yourself: is this really 007 or Bruce Wayne, dropping his cape and cowl for a new identity? Yet the renovation of the 53-year old Bond ediface (books and movies) by producer Barbara Broccoli and company succeeds despite the comic book heroics. Daniel Craig's (see LAYER CAKE; THE ROAD TO PERDITION; THE MOTHER) flaxen-haired Bond silences the pre-release complainers instantly. A look at his physique and you almost believe he could shrug off all those body blows. Size up his manner and style and he gets your complete attention. Craig's Bond is cold and brutal with irresistable charm. With a touch of Steve McQueen in his face and the swaggering gait of James Cagney (rather un-British) this Bond leaves you shakened and stirred. He renounces nearly all his forerunners- save for the animal ferocity and magnetism of Sean Connery. Indeed, the filmmakers labor to increase Connery's kill/kiss aura to the breaking point, pitting Craig's Bond against adversaries and women who match his physical and mental prowess every step of the way. Martin Campbell's direction has little trouble with the fast moving plot and even as the film breaks with the past it pays homage to it: there are traces of John Barry in the music; an 1964 Aston Martin DB5 rolls into view; a certain "Bond song" pop singer shows up at the casino gambling table. Nice touches amid all the bang-bang. And a nice start for Mr. Craig....er, Bond, James Bond.
Still not on a par with the days of Sean Connery, the new Bond is quite an improvement over effeminate versions portrayed by Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton. You can finally see some of the manly qualities that Bond should have, without all of the fancy-pants poncery of the more modern Englishmen to play the part.
But enough about the acting, as that's hardly what people would buy a Bond film for!
The Bondgirls: very nice this time around. I remember hearing an uproar about Eva Green being selected for the female lead, but I think she's perfect. Quite good in this film. She was thankfully not another Xena: Warrior Princess 21st-Century female action hero stereotype. She was tough, yet vulnerable, and quite feminine. The other ladies were quite easy on the eyes, as well, though they don't get much screen time. It's a one girl show this time around.
The Plot: though I realize nobody watches Bond films for the clever plot, this one was not so ridiculous as some of its predecessors. Though not as intricate, with only mild twisting and turning, it is at least believable. Basically, the villain is a banker-to-the-warlords who takes a huge loss when his stock market scheme is foiled, and needs to make up the defecit before the warlords realize he was gambling with their money. Intro the high-stakes Texas Hold'em tournament (yeah, you heard right!) held in Montenegro - probably the most unlikely premise for Bond to appear anywhere, it is an obvious latch-on to the growing popularity of the card game. Anyway, Bond needs to win, because he's Bond, and the villain needs to win, because he doesn't want to sleep with the fishes, see. Violence and intrigue ensue. Pretty standard stuff, if you cut out the poker bit.
The Action: yes, beside the Bondgirls, this is the reason most people would spend two hours watching a Bond Film. And, for the first time in the last few installments, this edition actually lives up to expectations. After a short flashback for expository purposes, we are treated to a relatively original chase scene, something you can rarely count on in a Bond film. The action here was well-balanced between tension-building realism and the over-the-top unlikeliness Bond films are noted for. I was impressed. Later on, there is a short car chase that ends in an interesting, if somewhat Snidely Whiplash-esque, manner. A somewhat less interesting fuel truck fight (I know I've seen it in a previous installment) sets the stage for one of Bond's clever tricks that the audience isn't let in on until the end. Also, they do some interesting things to a Venician building towards the end.
The Cars: this was a little disappointing. The Astin-Martin was nice, but that's about it. One moment that tickled my fancy was when they showed bond driving a rental car that looked like a Ford Focus, or something similarly lame (no offense to Ford employees - I'm sure it gets excellent gas mileage).
The Gadgets: surprisingly few gadgets entered into the story, and nothing that allows Bond to make a MacGuyver-like escape from some holding cell. Every last deus ex machina in the film was due to something else saving Bond's bacon. I missed the laser pens, and John Cleese, but you can't have everything.
Overall, I would say this is definitely above averageon the Bond scale, and I would recommend all Bondophiles buy it. People with only a mild interest in Bond films may want to rent first.
The essence of Fleming's James Bond has been a difficult capture on film since the uncanny portrayal by Sean Connery cast the character in stone for all to see and, albeit, study. Connery clenched the identity of what a double-0 agent should be was practically unchallenged by a parade of characters throughout the series, until the debut of Mr. Daniel Craig in the title row.
No, Craig didnt' nail the Bond portrayal, he gave moviegoers and the franchise a fresh new James Bond, one closer to what Fleming, if he were alive, might have been thoroughly pleased with as his bookreaders might have imaged. From the outset, Craig's Bond is seen as a rough rogue who's finding his place in the double-0 boundaries. Having the brash swagger that could easily disappear in a crowd, he gives us a determined, passionate, daredevil refusing to give up on life or mission. Not afraid to use "by any means necessary" he gives the audience a two-popcorn bucket express ride through the film, glancing off more than a few encounters with the broodish villan, yet learning his trademark moves that carry 007 through the Fleming series. His acquired tastes in wine, women, cars and career. He has to be instructed by Eva Green to wear the right tuxedo, supported by Jeffrey Wright's "Felix" to return to the gambling tables and directed by the unforgiving M, played to the core by Dame Judi Dench. And finally the revelation of arrival as a legitimate agent with the utterance at the end of the film, means that Daniel Craig has arrived to save the franchise for another few films.
Let's hope the script for his next outing is as wonderful as Casino Royale. Bond, Jame Bond is back!!
Tom M. Jones