Cast & Credits
Daniel Craig James Bond
Eva Green Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen Le Chiffre
Jeffrey Wright Felix Leiter
Directed by Martin Campbell
Original running time: 2 hours and 24 minutes
After Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan was told that he wasn't wanted back as 007 by telephone. He was not too pleased and the news of how this happened sent many of his fans in an uproar. It was announced that not only was EON productions going to have an extensive search for a new James Bond, but that the next film was going to be based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel - Casino Royale. After over forty (or is it fourty?) years of trying, EON had finally acquired the film rights to Casino Royale. I am not going to go into all of the details about Casino Royale's history since it's a rather lengthy story and I already done so in two previous reviews for the two previous Casino Royale movies. What I will talk about is how the producers of the Bond series eventually announced that Casino Royale would be a complete reboot of the series and that Daniel Craig would now be James Bond.
Let me take you back in time and put you inside my head when all of this was announced. *Inside Amp's head when this film was in production* So, you guys are telling me that the first 20 movies didn't matter? You're telling me that the 007 series which is number one to me didn't matter? And what's with you guys hiring a blonde guy that looks more like a Bond villain than Bond to be my favorite secret agent? Also, if this is supposed to show how Bond becomes a Double Oh, then why is Judi Dench M? She was introduced as the the new M to Pierce Brosnan's Bond in GoldenEye, right? No Moneypenny? No Q? No gadgets? Oh, and how the heck does Bond become a Double Oh in 2006 when everyone knows that he's been around for a long, long time? There is just sooooo much wrong with this. My head is going to explode trying to make sense of all this nonsense. *Back in the present day* As you can see, my expectations for this movie were not very high and I, as a Bond fan, was ready to completely give up on the franchise. As the first reviews came in I was ready to snicker and tell EON, "I told you so!", but something interesting happened... The reviews were not only positive, but extremely positive. I don't hardly ever agree with the critics I said to myself, but I have to admit that the enormous amount of positive feedback got me interested enough to actually get me to go to the theater to see Casino Royale. Would it measure up to my expectations (hopefully not the bad ones)?
After the gun barrel sequence... Wait! What? There's no gun barrel sequence??? Whoa... and everything's in black and white? If this crap doesn't improve in five minutes I'm outta here! The film opens up in the Czech Republic with a man going towards a safe which is empty and when he turns around we see Bond in a chair with a Walther pointed at him. The man in MI6's section chief named Dryden. It turns out that Dryden is selling information to foreign powers. After Bond tells Dryden that he's aware of this, Dryden states that if M really wanted him that she would have sent a Double Oh and they need two confirmed kills to reach 00 status. Dryden asks how things went for his contact Fisher and James tells him, "Not well". We see a really vicious fight in a bathroom between Bond and Fisher which ends with James choking him out. Wow! This isn't anything like that last movie with three guys surfing into North Korea... Dryden tells James, "The second is much easier...". Bond shoots Dryden and replies, "Considerably." Then we flash back to Fisher on the bathroom floor scrambling for his pistol and then when Bond turns to shoot him it becomes the iconic gunbarrel sequence. Take back everything that I said. That intro was marvelous. It was quick, to the point, and shows that you don't need millions of explosions and an over the top stunt in order to have a great Bond intro. Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go about it.
The credits feature Bond in a bunch of shootouts and fist fights amongst an army of playing cards. The images in this are pretty cool. A couple of bullet holes show up before the 7 in a seven card, gun sights become roulette wheels, and the face of a Queen turns in Vesper Lynd (a character we will meet later) briefly. The theme song is done by Chris Cornell and I like it. Sure, it's not as good as many of the classic Bond songs, but I think that it's the best one since GoldenEye. That being said, I like hard rock and did listen to Cornell's band Soundgarden so while I enjoy it, the song might not be other's cup of tea. The soundtrack is once again done by Dave Arnold and this time I would have to say that it's serviceable. It seems as though he's given up on trying to be John Barry, but on the plus side seems to have figured out that Bond does not roll on ecstasy or go to raves. In the end, I would say that the music isn't ever distracting and when you do notice it that it doesn't detract from the proceedings so all in all, not that bad.
After the credits, we are taken to Mbole, Uganda (in color) where we witness a meeting between criminals. The leader of a group of "freedom fighters" named Obanno is seen meeting up with a man named Le Chiffre who is a treasurer for terrorists and is famous for being able to make their money appear wherever and whenever they want. A shadowy figure named Mr. White brokers the deal and explains to Obanno that if something happens to the money that his organization will not tolerate it.
The next scene begins by showcasing a fight between a snake and a mongoose. Bond is working together with another agent named Carter and they have a bomb maker named Mollaka under surveillance. As Bond and Carter discuss on how to proceed, we find out that Carter has a bad habit of touching his ear when he can't hear. Unfortunately, Mollaka notices this too and takes off running. Bond winds up chasing him through a massive construction site and we find out that the bomb maker is extrememly fast and agile. He can do wall kicks and triple jumps like Mario. What Bond lacks in speed, he makes up for it with brute force and ingenuity. When it looks like the bomb maker is going to get away, Bond hops onto the back of a van, jumps over barbed wire and follows Mollaka into the Mbutu Embassy where he he finally catches up to him, shoots him, and escapes with a little quick thinking and his gun. Bond makes sure to get the bomb maker's backpack which includes his phone. Bond sees something on the phone that says Ellipsis. I could have went into more detail about the chase sequence through the construction site, but words cannot do it justice. What an exhilarating and well directed piece of cinema it was. It is following by a quick scene where we see how good Le Chiffre is at poker and where he says to bet against stock on an airline.
When we next see Bond, he has broken into M's house and is using her personal computer program in order to trace the bomb maker's phone calls. She admonishes him for his intrusion into her place and says that she feels that she made a mistake by making him a Double Oh. The interplay between the two is enjoyable. She is like the stern teacher with Craig's Bond being the juvenile delinquent. It's much better than her telling him off and Bond saying "Point taken." like some other guy that I won't mention... So, while Bond was fooling around with M's computer, he finds out that the phone call to Ellipsis was traced to the Ocean Club in Nassau, Bahamas. Bond is sent there to investigate.
At the Ocean Club, Bond is mistaken for a valet by a guy with a Range Rover. Bond takes the keys and crashes the vehicle. He uses this opportunity to sneak into the Ocean Club's surveilance room. He looks up the time that Mollaka called Ellipsis sees that at that precise moment a guy that was pulling up front in a 1964 Aston Martin answered his phone. Bond asks the lady at the front desk who owns the Aston Martin and she says that it's a man named Alex Demetrios who has a house up the beach. Bond finds out that Demetrios is a known associate of Le Chiffre's. This is where the favorite scene of all female and gay fan's of Daniel Craig occurs. He emerges from the ocean while looking at Demitrios' ocean front house. Soon, Bond and Demetrios are playing No Limit Poker in the casino and Demetrios puts his car on the line. He also finds out that three aces beat three kings. Demetrios leaves in a rage and Bond predictably seduces his beautiful wife, Solange. James learns that Demetrios is on the next flight to Miami. We see a quick scene where Le Chiffre questions Demetrios over his man Mallaka, and tells him that he has another man for the Ellipsis job named Carlos.
After arriving in Miami, Bond finds Demetrios in an art museum who puts a key chain on a table in front of him. This momentarily disracts Bond. Demetrios pulls out a knife and a struggle ensues with Bond prevailing. As he looks back to where the keychain was, it's gone! Bond once again uses the old telephone ploy and makes a call from Demetrios phone to Ellipsis and sees a man pick up his phone and follows him. Bond follows the man and sees him punch in a code to get access to the planes, one of which is the Skyfleet S572 (the largest jet in the world) - which about to be unveiled! Le Chiffre bets against airline stocks and the Skyfleet is unveiled? Uh-oh. Bond tells M that he thinks that a bomb is about to go off in Miami Airport. He also deduces that Ellipsis is the password to get to the runways. Next, we see Carlos getting aboard a gas tanker truck, but not before setting an explosive charge to the bottom of it. Bond gives chase and there is a furious fight on the truck. Eventually, Carlos jumps off as the truck is going at high speed towards the Skyfleet! James barely stops it sideways about a foot away from the plane. The police rough him up and throw him on the ground in cuffs. Carlos sets off the explosive charge with his phone and realizes that it's no longer on the tanker. Bond attached it to his belt loop during their brawl. Boom! Bond smirks. Great, great, great scene! By the way, Le Chiffre lost only $101,206,000 on that deal.
Bond meets up with M and is quickly given an injection which is a homer. She informs him that Solange was brutally tortured and murdered. She also informs James that Le Chiffe has started up a Texas Hold 'Em tournament in Montenegro at Casino Royale which has a $10 million entry fee and a $5 million buy back. He is known to be a mathematical genius which is how he got heavily involved in and successful at gambling. M says that she knows that Bond is known as the best card player in the service (of course) and she plans on getting him entered into Le Chiffre's card game in order to try to clean him out. On the train to Montenegro, Bond meets up with Vesper Lynd who works for the HM Treasury and is a International Liason Officer. They psychoanalyze each other very effectively and are involved in a commercial for Omega watches which completely undermines the entire scene. Oh well... Let's take a moment to hear from our sponsors.
This review has been brought to you by Campbell's Soup. It's Mmmm mmmm good.
We soon meet Rene Mathis who is from the French Secret Service and is Bond's contact in Montenegro. He is basically in the movie to clean up Bond's messes and to be a commentator during the upcoming Hold 'Em game for viewers that don't understand how the game works. This leads into the big card game. Bond loses a rather large hand to Le Chiffre, but in doing so learns his tell. He rubs his temple with his index finger whenever he's bluffing.
There is a break from the game. Before going on break, Bond puts a homer on Le Chiffre's inhaler (he's asthmatic). As Bond and Vesper get ready to go on the elevator to go up to his room, they hear a scream. Obanno and one of his men has met up with Le Chiffre and wants to know where his money is. Le Chiffre tells him that he'll have his money that night. Obanno threatens to cut off Le Chiffre's girlfriend's arm and this causes the ruckuss that Bond hears. He tells Vesper to take the stairs which is where James gets into a brutal fist fight with Obanno and his man. Eventually both men are killed with a little help from Vesper. Mathis cleans up the mess at the bottom of the stairs. This turns into a not-so-gratuitous shower scene with Bond and Vesper fully clothed. Vesper says that she feels like blood's on her hands and that she can't get it off. It's hard to keep it PG-13 sometimes.
Soon after returning to the card game, Bond sees Le Chiffre give the tell that he does when he's bluffing and goes all in. It turns out that it was a fake tell. Le Chiffre's four jacks destroy Bond's kings full over aces. Bond is cleaned out and orders a vodka martini. He's asked if he wants it shaken or stirred and says that he doesn't give a damn! This was a controversial scene with some fans, but I personally liked that Bond was so disgusted that he lost his cool. The game takes another break and Bond decides to grab a knife and just kill Le Chiffre right there and then. He is stopped by one of the players in the game that introduces himself as CIA agent Felix Leiter. Yay! Followers of this series know that I love Felix Leiter. Felix tells Bond that the CIA will put up the money for Bond to be bought back into the game, but if Bond cleans Le Chiifre out that the CIA is allowed to bring him in. They strike a deal!
Soon after Bond returns, he is poisoned by Le Chiffre's girlfriend. He makes his way to his brand new Aston Martin DBS and fortunately he has a defribrillator in his glove box. He calls up MI6 and asks for the procedure to save his own life. He presses the button to get his heart beating again and realises that a wire isn't connected. He passes out! Is this for Bond? Vesper comes by, connects the wire, and pushes the button. His life is saved. It's a good thing that Vesper knew which wire went where and which button to press...
After returning and saying that the last hand nearly killed him, Bond starts to win a lot of money. The final hand in this game is one of the least likely things to happen ever. I am not Le Chiffre so I can't tell you the exact odds on it happening, but I will say that Pauly Shore winning an Oscar in the future is definitely more likely. Four players are all in. The first hand is an ace high flush. The second is 8's full of aces. Le Chiffre's hand is aces full of 6's. Bond's hand is a straight flush. Even less likely than those hands coming up, is all four of these guys not betting during the course of the hand. Keanu Reeves winning an Oscar in the future is more likely. Yeah, you heard it right. Pauly Shore is a better actor than Keanu Reeves. Felix thanks Bond. James and Vesper go to Bond's room. She gets a message from Mathis that tells her that the CIA have Le Chiffre and to come out front. It's all a ruse and Vesper is kidnapped by Le Chiffre.
Bond gives chase after Le Chiffre in his Aston Martin and sees Vesper tied up in the middle of the road. He turns quickly and flips his car about fifteen times. I don't know how turning quickly does this, but that's what happens. Le Chiffre tells Bond that he was double crossed by Mathis. Soon James wakes up naked tied to a chair that has it's seat cut out. Le Chiffre has a rope with a knot at the end and starts beating Bond in the testicles with it asking him where the money is. This scene is extremely nasty just like the one in Fleming's novel. I was pleasantly surprised that this scene was not toned down one bit. I was even more surprised to actually see Daniel Craig smile for once. Maybe he's into S&M? Just as it looks like Bond is going to lose his manhood, we see Mr. White come in and kill Le Chiffre.
Without giving everything away I will tell you that Vesper and James declare their love for each other, Bond resigns, there is a big plot twist where James is double crossed and the money is taken from him, there is a big shootout in an abandoned building in Venice where the entired building collapses in the water, a tragic thing happens to Vesper, Bond says, The bitch is dead.", and Bond meets up with Mr. White and gives my second favorite Bond, James Bond in the series next to Connery's introduction in Dr. No.
In the end, I have to say that this movie is great! All of my worries about the series, this movie, and Craig were unfounded. Craig is great and completely believable as a 00 Agent with a licence to kill. Some critics will tell you that he's a bit rough around the edges and he is, but I will argue that's exactly what Ian Fleming's character in the novels was. Also, people will say that the movie is humorless but that's not true at all. It's just that the humor is very dry which is good after the last four movies. Sure, the reboot was uneeded in my opinion and Judi Dench still being M made no sense, but I honestly can't find anything else to critcize in this film except for that horrible Omega commercial and that it might have ran a few minutes too long. I give it:
5 out of 5 - Great for a Bond movie. Give me a second to breathe in and out. What's that? Oh yeah... It's fresh air after Brosnan's trilogy of terror. It is so good to be able to breath again. There are a Bond movies that I like better than this one, but this has to be one of the best. It is very close to Ian Fleming's original book and character in spirit. Some may not care for this approach, but the cinematic Bond had become very different from the literary one and this was a great return to 007's roots.
Cool thing to know: This movie was inspired by Ian Fleming's work and not Jason Bourne.
Another cool thing to know: Roger Moore's hair wasn't that dark, so who cares if Craig has blonde hair?
Yet another cool thing to know: This movie kicks ass!
James Bond will return next Monday in Quantum of Solace.