Friday, November 17, 2006

Casino Royale - Movie Review

Casino Royale 2006

Legend has it that when President John F. Kennedy was asked by a reporter which books he enjoyed reading, he replied the James Bond thrillers by Ian Fleming. Little did he realize he would help launch a craze for all things Bondian that would result in the most successful film franchise of all time. Well, forty three years and twenty one films (give or take) later, we have a new Bond.

Boy, do we ever. When we heard that our future husband Daniel Craig would take over the tuxedo, we nearly slid off our barstool in moist anxiety. When the production photos began to leak like a syphilitic whore onto the internet, we contemplated undergoing hypnosis to calm our nerves. When, finally we sat in a darkened theatre with two of our bestest pals, ProPain and Kokolicious awaiting the much hyped “new lookBond flick, we calmly removed our undergarments to prevent soiling. And thank God we did. (Well, Koko and I did - ProPain went for the exploding cars and busty babes. None of us were disappointed.)

From the opening scene which sets the tone for a darker, edgier, and less gadgetry laden Bond, we knew that Daniel Craig was not only the best choice to play James, he is the only choice. While we’ll let the Bond nerds debate the merits and minuses of Brosnan versus Dalton – we are here to tell you that not since a certain wife beating Scotsman named Sean planted his firm thighs in between the famed telescope lens opening has there been such an action packed, steamy, and exciting Bond flick. Well, we will pause to give credit to the most underrated Bond film of all time, the George Lazenby one shot “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” featuring the best Bond girl ever – Diana Rigg.

But, back to our future husband Daniel Craig. Danny has managed over the years to build himself quite an impressive resume by portraying a variety of bounders, cads, gun for hire and sexually charged heels. His acting chops are without question, delivering socko performances in everything from “Sylvia” to this year’s “Infamous”. And while some people would question the acting challenges to be found in a James Bond franchise flick, they would be wrong. As any true film lover can tell you, the classic action heroes throughout the years from Errol Flynn to John Wayne to Burt Reynolds and Harrison Ford were all fine actors who made carrying a gun and swinging through explosions look not only easy but believable.

Daniel Craig is no exception. His steely blue eyes locked fiercely upon his targets coupled with a buffed physique that assures the audience of his derring do makes him the most authoritative Bond in decades. The fact that he is equally at home donning the requisite tuxedo and swirling a martini glass seals the movie deal completely.

By now if you were expecting a completely revisionist Bond, you obviously fail to understand the meaning of the word “franchise”. This is no revision. If anything, it is a clearing of the detritus of excess that has been building since Bond sailed into outer space to challenge the onslaught of the “Star Wars” phenomena. While a Bond sans gadgets is a pipedream we shall never live to behold, they are kept to a spare minimum here. The focus is on action. This Bond is made real thanks to successful thrillers like “The Bourne Identity” and the popularity of martial arts imports that depict hair raising stunts paired with lightning quick fighting skills.

The plot, as in most Bond flicks is simple and secondary. International terrorism backed by multi million dollar manipulations responsible for a global connection of baddies that demand to be kicked hither and yon by one lone British agent. Instead of a “Goldfinger” or “The Man with the Golden Gun”, we have the return of the dastardly Le Chiffre, a personification of evil replete with a glaucoma laced stare. As played with a calm malevolence by Mads Mikkelsen (and honestly, that name is more Bondian than Le Chiffre), this villain weeps blood while mopping the floor with underlings. No volcano lairs, laser beams or oddly shaped Oriental henchmen.

For this Bond, the grand showdown occurs behind the table of a high stakes poker game held at . . . the Casino Royale! (Quelle surprise!) While we miss the original novel’s Baccarat game for its haughty glamour and international zeal, we assume that Texas Hold ‘em was the way to go for a mainstream flick. This brings us to our quibbles with the new Bond. And yes, we have a few. At almost two and half hours, it could stand to be trimmed to tighten the pace and up the suspense a tad. But, we suppose in hiring Martin Campbell to take another shot at our dreamy hero, the producers were opting for a man with a safe track record for action and not a creative genius.

Also, whoever was in charge in of the opening title sequence needs to stop playing with his Mac and learn from the master. Maurice Binder, they ain’t! And you Mr. Chris Cornell, are no Dame Shirley Bassey. (For our money, Dame Shirley should sing every Bond Theme Song.) That being said, we were so grateful to actually be interested and excited by a new Bond flick, that we forgive the producers these small flaws.

As the latest Bond girl, Eva Green lands the plum role of Vesper Lynd. We simply adored Mademoiselle Green for her deliciously flowing performance in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers”. At first, we couldn’t quite imagine her in the sexpot role of a Bond heroine, but then we remembered that this Bond Babe would not be of the Britt Ekland or Halle Berry mold. No, this Bond would require his gal to have acting skills, and simmer instead of shimmy. And for that, Mademoiselle Green is a fine choice indeed. One that seems truly inspired in the films final act when . . . well, we wouldn’t dream of spoiling the ending for you faithful readers.

The success of this film rests squarely on the shoulders of our future husband, Daniel Craig. When we finally composed ourselves enough to leave the theatre, assisted by ProPain and Kokolicious dangling a bottle of Grey Goose to help restore the blood that had completely drained out of our crotch – we heard perhaps the most wondrous and sought out sound that any film maker desires. Buzz. Everywhere you turned, men, women, small children were muttering Daniel Craig’s name. Clearly the huddled masses yearning to be entertained had never attended Mr. Craig’s artier hits, but now that he was made his name known to the movie going public at large – one thing was clear. A new star was born.

So, hopefully, twenty years from now with the Bond franchise behind his tight little behind . . . (whew . . . pardon us, while we collect what’s left of our thoughts) he will be able to return to the meatier . . . (there we go again.) roles that helped launch his career and be able to collect his long deserved Oscar for some piddling action film directed by a misunderstood auteur. It could happen.

For now, do yourselves the favor of spending a couple of hours and a half in the dark with our future husband . . . just don’t touch him, or drool too loudly or we’ll be forced to jab the stem of our martini glass into your bleeding eyeballs. For James Bond is back, in a truly entertaining outing that left us longing for more. Bless you all!

Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Paul Haggis
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Daniel Craig as James Bond
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre
Judi Dench as M
Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Caterina Murino as Solange
Simon Abkarian as Alex Dimitrios

Cinematography by Phil Meheux
Film Editing by Stuart Baird
Original Music by David Arnold
Title Song – “You Know My Name” sung by Chris Cornell
Costume Design by Lindy Hemming
Production Design by Peter Lamont
Art Direction by Peter Francis, James Hambidge, Steven Lawrence & Dominic Masters
Set Decoration by Simon Wakefield



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