Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkleson
Release Date: November 14th 2006 (UK)
Let me make something crystal clear from the outset though: if you clicked here wanting to read an overwhelmingly negative view on something I consider a celluloid masterpiece, I will say the same thing to you as I would say to anyone watching Diamonds Are Forever (1971) for the first time: prepare for a whole lot of disappointment.
Ok, well that may not be entirely the case, after nearly nine years since I first saw it at York’s City Screen, I still don’t understand the concept of short selling stocks fully and I’m none the wiser about how to play Texas Hold Em still, but it’s a testament to the directing talent of Martin Campbell and all involved that these subjects are handled with such care and skill that it does not matter. Even though a sizable chunk of the movie revolves around a group of people sitting and playing cards, it never once comes close to being a boring spectacle.
One criticism may be the lack of Moneypenny. While I understand her and Q were taken out because this was to be a more ‘back to Bond basics’ film, there is a character filling this iconic role which has never been one of tremendous screen time, so it does stick out a little to see the guy who is M’s secretary and for him not to be Ms. Eve Moneypenny, something which is not carried over into any of the rest of Craig’s tenure. But this is only a minor quibble, and if the biggest hole is a lack of a next to insignificant cameo, this film must be doing something right then!
The action is both nearly all practical and in camera (like the special effects) and the music, a slow build from Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name in the titles to the traditional Bond theme in the credits after Craig utters the famed five word line for the first time is in my opinion, near pearless in this franchise and could stand well against many other films. In fact, if you were to watch this film and then its immediate predecessor Die Another Day (2002, Tamahori) in short order, it would probably give you the same impression it gave me: how are these two even in the same franchise? If Die Another Day is nearly the nadir of the entire franchise, it is only evident that this was EON realising their mistakes, taking a step out of the limelight for a few years, re casting the roles (apart from my favourite actress, York’s own Dame Judi Dench) and going straight back to Fleming where they had been seriously staying away from the past few films.
Craig’s first turn as Bond does show off his acting chops well, he of course doesn’t exactly have his toughest role here, for that I would recommend seeing him in Enduring Love or Our Friends in the North but it is good that for as shallow as this role can be, Daniel plays it sublimely from the tee with the good humour (see the part in the Ocean Club where he crashes an overbearing man’s Land Rover), the brutality (the opening monochrome sequence evidences this well, as does the part in the finale where he is tortured in a manner that might just leave every male in the audience wincing) and finally, the suave and looks (see the extended sequence where he does the Bond in tux look into Vesper’s mirror – something ironic considering that in 2004’s Layer Cake, Craig does his best Sean Connery impression while posing with a Luger and ends the film shot by co – star Ben Wishaw, who would go on to become Q in two film’s time, Skyfall as well as feature alongside Craig in the above mentioned Enduring Love).
In conclusion, Casino Royale is well worth your time, but as it is the start of the new and current James Bond continuity, worthy of being the first Bond film anyone should see.