Decades Blogathon – Casino Royale (2006)

Decades Blogathon Banner 20162006It’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.

I’ve mentioned Casino Royale so many times on my blog, in fact it’s one of my fave films of 2000s and one of the eight films I’d take with me if I were stuck on a desert island.

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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.

Casino Royale

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.

Casino Royale

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.

Casino Royale

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.

Decades Blogathon – The Fountain (2006)

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It’s day two of the Decades Blogathon – 6 edition – hosted by myself and the one and only Tom from Digital Shortbread (check out his site by the way – that boy can write). The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the sixth year of the decade. Tom and I will run a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post); and this excellent review of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain comes from Jenna and Allie’s site Flick Chicks.

I was a spectator for last year’s Decades Blogathon, so I am absolutely delighted to make the cut to take part this year! As someone with a worryingly long ‘must watch’ list, this was the perfect chance to tick off a movie that I’ve been putting off for a while. The Fountain (2006) has been on my list for a while now. I can’t remember exactly what first brought my attention to it, but I was fascinated by the mixed opinions on it. Simply look at the chart on Letterboxd here to see what I mean. There aren’t many ratings charts that look like that.

The Fountain Poster

The Fountain is an incredibly artistic and complex movie, but in its most simplest form it is the story of a scientist named Tommy (Hugh Jackman) desperately trying to find a cancer cure for his dying wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz).

It is, of course, much more than that. There are actually three separate stories here, all woven intricately within each other. For the first half of the movie, it’s incredibly easy to get confused with the stories and the timeline itself. There are so many perplexing details that the movie focuses on that it’s hard to switch off and simply enjoy the story for what it is. Rest assured, all those questions you build up get answered in a drip feed as the time goes by.

The Fountain

In fact, it’s incredibly rewarding to see such tiny details explained such a long time afterwards. It’s really one of those rare movies where nothing is shown or said without a purpose,and I like that. My one piece of advice actually would be to stick with this if you find it getting a bit too much. If it wasn’t for the fact I was watching this for the Decades Blogathon, I can’t confidently say I would have watched the whole thing.

What lies beneath these intricate tales is one of the most heartbreaking yet beautiful love stories I’ve ever seen. It’s a real testament to both Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz for their amazing acting skills and natural chemistry together. Izzi’s battle with cancer is all too familiar and Tommy’s refusal to accept the reality in front of him was so difficult to watch. The name of the movie comes from the book that Izzi has been writing as she documents her journey and the scene in which she asks Tommy to complete the final chapter for her because he “knows how it ends” is a very memorable one.

The Fountain

My only real complaint is that the spiritual elements of the movie just get too complicated for me to understand. A second viewing might aid this as I literally went in blind, whereas knowing even just the blurb on IMDb would have probably helped me greatly. That said, anyone who is naturally interested in spirituality will have an amazing experience with this. It’s so well done and considering the fact that it’s 10 years old now it hasn’t aged at all. If it weren’t for the famous faces in the lead roles this could easily be mistaken for a current release.

With a runtime of a little over an hour and a half this movie whizzes by and the ending comes all too soon. That said, I think if this was any longer some might give up before the end, when all their questions are finally answered. I highly recommend The Fountain, but I accept that it isn’t one for everyday viewing.