It’s week two of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Digital Shortbread! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and I’m thrilled to welcome the one and only Ruth from FlixChatter. I’m sure many of you will know of Ruth’s brilliant site and for our little event she is reviewing Daniel Craig’s first foray into the world of Bond with 2006’s Casino Royale.
I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Casino Royale came out. I just rewatched it this weekend to refresh my memory, though I had probably rewatched it a few times in the last 10 years. It’s still as good as the first time I saw it, and I still would regard it as one of my favorite Bond films… ever.
Like many Bond fans, I too had trepidation about Daniel Craig’s casting (too blond, too short, etc) but of course we’re all proven wrong the second he appeared on the pre-credit scene. Craig might not be the most good-looking Bond actor (and he is the shortest), but he more than made up for it in charisma AND swagger.
Apart from Craig’s brilliant casting, it’s the story that makes this film so re-watchable. It’s not only a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period. An origin story of sort, James Bond goes on his first ever mission as 007 and he doesn’t get off on the right foot with M right away. The scene when M berates Bond when he breaks into her flat is intense but humorous, a perfect balancing act the film continuously plays throughout. It’s not the first time we see the venerable Dame Judi Dench as M, but I must say I LOVE the banter between her and Craig even more.
A great Bond film has to have an effective adversary and we find that in Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, a cold-looking Scandinavian with a bleeding eye. It would’ve been a silly gimmick if not played carefully, but here Le Chiffre is a cool and ominous villain. The fact that he’s really not a mastermind in the likes of Blofeld or Drax, but the fact that he’s not hellbent in ruling or destroying the entire world is frankly refreshing. He is a banker to the world’s terrorists, and so his only motive is money, like most of real world villains are.
And a great Bond film also needs a memorable Bond girl. Well, Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is perhaps the hottest cinematic accountant ever. “I’m the money”, she quips the first time she enters the screen and into Bond’s heart. To this day I’m still enamored by the train scene to Montenegro, the way Bond and Vesper banter each other with wit and sexual undercurrents is what Bond movies are all about. Vesper is no bimbo and that automatically makes her a bazillion times more intriguing than bombshells in lesser Bond movies.
Casino Royale isn’t big on gadgetry and as a longtime Bond fan I actually didn’t mind it. It’s got everything else one would expect in a Bond movie – the cars, the exotic locations, the suspense, action and quick wit – it’s all there. Compared to Craig’s Bond movies, the Roger Moore versions feel more like a drama given how relentless and vigorous all the action sequences are.
The opening parkour/free running scene apparently took six weeks to shoot and my goodness, I’m out of breath just watching it! This is one sprightly Bond and Craig did most of his own stunts, so it looks believable that he was the one doing the action in the movie. He reportedly has the injuries to prove it too! The car chase wasn’t overlong, but dayum was it memorable. The scene where the Aston Martin misses Vesper by a hair and rolls over multiple times still takes my breath away every time I see it.
But all of that action stuff wouldn’t have mattered much without a grounding story. I think the last time Bond was genuinely romantic and emotional was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was when Bond fell in love. The scene of Bond tenderly comforting Vesper in the shower is one of my favorite scenes in all of the Bond films. There is nothing erotic or sexual in this scene, instead it packs an emotional wallop that makes the Bond/Vesper relationship one of the best and most convincing romances in a Bond movie. The love story in Casino Royale is core to the plot and is woven perfectly into all the espionage intrigue.
Vesper: “You’re not going to let me in there, are you? You’ve got your armour back on. That’s that.”
Bond: “I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.”
Bond films are known for being eye and ear candy and this probably ranks as one of the most beautifully shot. The scenery in Venice as Bond strolls in the Grand Canal is especially striking, topped off by the intense fight scene in a crumbling house (shot at Pinewood Studios modeled after Venice’s Hotel Danieli). The soundtrack ranks as one of the best as well, done by David Arnold with an homage to the legendary composer John Barry. I can’t get over how much I love the track City Of Lovers, which I’ve highlighted for my Music Break here.
Per IMDb, this was the first James Bond movie to be based on a full-length Ian Fleming novel since Moonraker 27 years prior. GoldenEye‘s director Martin Campbell helms the film from a screenplay from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. I wish Campbell would be back in the director seat again as his previous two Bond films rate as one of my all time favorites.
There’s so much style and sophistication in abundance here, but never at the expense of story and character. What I also love is that the quieter moments in the movie are still just as intriguing as the high-octane action scenes. That poker game in Montenegro is brimming with elegance as well as suspense, whilst showcasing the film’s excellent production design and costume design. Vesper’s plunging purple dress is a real head-turner and I don’t think Craig has looked more suave than in his tuxedo that Vesper tailor-makes for him.
I really can go on and on about this movie as it’s really a masterpiece in the 50 years of James Bond films we’ve got so far. It also made me even more dismayed that the recent film in which the plot directly follows on from this one was such a downgrade. Looking back at Casino Royale‘s fantastic finale with Bond introducing himself to Mr White, I expected SO much more than what they gave us with Spectre.