james bond Casino Royale
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Martin Campbell
scr Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
with Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Caterina Murino, Ivana Milicevic, Isaach De Bankolé, Simon Abkarian, Jesper Christensen, Sebastien Foucan
release UK/US 17.Nov.06
06/UK MGM-Columbia 2h24

Rough around the edges: Craig

green mikkelsen dench
Quantum of Solace (2008) Skyfall (2012)
Casino Royale Meaner but not leaner, this 21st adventure is an invigorating reinvention for the 007 franchise. It's a smartly written, tautly acted dramatic thriller, but it's so long that it feels like we've watched an entire trilogy.

British intelligence agent James Bond (Craig) has yet to prove himself. His boss M (Dench) isn't sure he has what it takes, especially when he makes some crucial mistakes. But he tenaciously follows a lead to the shadowy terrorism financier Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), teaming up with bombshell accountant Vesper Lynd (Green) to crash a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. But can Bond keep his cool long enough to beat the bad guys? Will he finally earn his double-0 status?

Since this is based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, the filmmakers can deploy some authentic character development. And with a serious actor like Craig, they can push Bond in some meaty directions, as it were. Craig is a rare actor who can convey steely toughness and inner sensitivity, at ease in the jaw-droppingly physical action scenes as well as the gritty drama and sexy emotion. He sparks with chemistry alongside both Green and Mikkelsen, and even his scenes with Dench have an engaging zing.

The filmmakers wisely play down the character's camp side. There's a definite edge to this film, a muscly brutality that infuses both the action scenes and the character interaction. The free-running chase in Madagascar is breathless and astonishing, using pure human physicality without any technical gadgetry. And a horrific torture scene pushes a different set of boundaries entirely. This bristly tone gives all of the set pieces an unpredictable darkness, even though we know what has to happen.

This willingness to turn creepy and disturbing, pays off with several powerful dramatic sequences. Yet after the initial action and intrigue, the subdued tension of the poker game feels somewhat dull. And there's essentially another entire story still to come, complete with several new locations. There's not a weak scene anywhere, the cast is riveting and the production values are very high. But in the last half hour we start to wonder if it's ever going to end.

cert 12 themes, violence, some language 3.Nov.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Casino Royale Russell Drury, Cambridge: 5/5 "Bond is back, though you may not recognise him. Daniel Craig gets the chance to re-invent Bondís character, and he does not disappoint. There are still plenty of adrenalin filled action sequences, but they link up a gritty story, played out by a brilliant mixture of sharp, absorbing, and of course, beautiful characters. Despite this being a more hardcore spy thriller than the typical light-hearted Bond film, the wit and humour is still thankfully there. Ironically I found myself laughing out loud during a torture scene, and there are plenty of other moments to keep you amused, including some blink-and-youíll-miss-them cameo appearances. It is a long film, over two hours, but the locations, the cars, the girls, Daniel Craig, and the very abrupt ending will leave you hungry for more." (24.Jul.07)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall