Casino Royale (2006)


UK; Martin Campbell

Parental Guidance – Intense Violence; Brief Sexuality

“Casino Royale” reboots the franchise with a sense of seriousness that was not always evident later, when Bond was getting dangerously close to a send-up of the clichés of the spy genre. It introduces a younger Bond, only recently equipped with a license to kill he uses extensively. When an evil millionaire (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world’s most notorious terrorists and rebels, sets up a high-stake poker game to replenish his ebbing fortune (due to a missed coup foiled by Bond itself in an athletic, gravity-defying pursuit sequence), the famous MI6 agent is in, with 15 million dollars provided by the government, whose far from altruistic interests are represented by accountant Vesper Lynn (Eva Green).  But Bond should never have forgotten the old mantra: nobody is worthy of trust in this world.

This grittier, earthier opus of Bond’s adventure, with occasional gory notes, is a clear caveat that the spy is no Captain America: he is a ruthless killer, and no one is safe around him. He can also be defeated, because he is a human being. Once these two principles firmly established, the ride can begin. Director Martin Campbell treats the genre’s aficionados to a firework of acrobatic, jaw-dropping and sweat-drenched action sequences around the world, from Madagascar to the high profile casinos of Montenegro. But such tours de force often come at the expense of a more elaborated, layered narrative. Instead of building towards a shattering and bruising climax, carefully feeding the crescendo, the director recklessly unveils all his magic tricks too soon.

“Casino Royale” also introduced a fresh face as Bond: Daniel Craig. Though amply criticized, Craig made the notorious spy his own, inhabiting the character with a scary intensity and never trying to make him sympathetic to the audience. One might ask: would the real Bond give a damn about his popularity among crowds. The answer is no: the real Bond gets the job done…ideally seducing a few beauties and uttering a few aphorisms in the process. This is exactly what Craig does throughout.

Respectful of traditions, cool but never camp, brimming with virile aphorisms (“Lynn: If the only thing left of you was your smile and your little finger, you'd still be more of a man than anyone I've ever known. Bond: That's because you know what I can do with my little finger...”), ‘Casino Royale” is a fully satisfying James Bonds.  However, maybe unsurprisingly for what has been for decades assimilated with the pinnacle of “genre” cinema, it never pauses to breathe and explore the more complex and mature issues interwoven into the fabric of its explosive narrative.

Casino royale poster              Casino royale 119


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