1/11/07

Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig (James Bond), Eva Green (Vesper Lynd), Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre), Judi Dench (M)

Directed by Martin Campbell (GoldenEye)

IMDB: "In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world's terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro."

This was, by far, the best action film I have seen in ages. I cannot even think of another movie with a comparable level of gasp-worthy action sequences, heavy drama, and style. The opening foot chase set in Madagascar literally had me gripping the arm rests at the theater. Fist fight on a construction crane! Scarred man jumping around like Toad from the X-Men! Daniel Craig looking all smart and serious while displaying a hefty quantity of rippling, taut musculature. Bond is the only person in the film to get naked -- equal rights rock! Gosh, it's good to be a girl and watch this film.

A few of the poker scenes seriously annoyed me, which sucks because the plot centers around a high stakes game. Campbell and/or his scriptwriters needed to give the audience a little credit. The character of Mathis kept providing the Ms Eva Waif a running commentary about the game -- not the tactics, like watching a game of "Celebrity Poker," but an ongoing tally of money in the kitty. And she's supposed to be an accountant! Otherwise, the always intriguing Jeffrey Wright was seriously under-used, and I hope his version of Felix plays larger in future Craig Bond films.

But aside from great visuals and a rather strong plot, there was Daniel Craig. Vesper says: "I'll keep my eyes on the money and off your perfectly formed ass." So right! I am not one to ogle men's backsides, usually preferring a well-formed upper body, but the wardrobe department made the most of his physique. When he finally puts on the James Bond suit -- a tux -- I actually said "oh" out loud. Embarrassing. "There are dinner jackets and then there are dinner jackets; this is the latter. And I need you to look like a man who belongs at that table."

Oh, and he can act too. For the first 45 minutes, Craig plays Bond like a machine, chasing and killing and snarking with smart efficiency. A single look or a raised eyebrow would indicate his intentions before running off to do something clever. But then, Bond meets Vesper. And he smiles! He cracks jokes. He eats her up with his blue eyes. Nice. Eva Green gave as good as she got, but at times I was distracted by the her shockingly low-cut dresses and the contradictory profusion of ample skinny girl cleavage. I cannot imagine how Keven followed the plot during those conversations.

The most effective scene of the movie is a testament to Craig's acting, particularly his ability to convey emotion without words. The entire first half of the movie established Bond as a badass supreme. He kills without a flicker of moral or emotional reaction. But after braining two Africans in front of Vesper, realizing the danger she was in and how close he came to being responsible for her death, Bond returns to his suite to clean himself up. His hands shake. He never says "oh my gosh -- can't believe she almost died" -- but his face registers the entire range of emotion and his own confusion. He's Bond! He shouldn't be feeling those things. Fantastic.

In fact, the entire movie was littered with various -- dare I say it? -- subtleties. (Bond's use of the word "bitch" at the end. Dude! He felt that one.) Subtlety is an egregious error that the Broccoli siblings will correct when they photocopy this template into farce (I mean, the director did GoldenEye, which was also a good Bond flick), but I enjoyed them while they lasted.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. (swoon)

I saw this film just before the holidays and I loved it. This, from a woman who has never in her life really liked a James Bond flick.

Daniel Craig is simply scrummy.

Keven said...

I don't want to say I told you so.

Who am I kidding?

Fang Bastardson said...

This film and The Departed are two of the best movies I've seen this year. You know what movie surprised me? Jet Li's Fearless. I don't usually watch subtitled, or chop-sockey movies, but, uh, well I thought it was a different film when I rented it. (I'm usually in a hurry, to my own detriment.) But not in this case.

It was a 'small' movie, but for some reason, it continues to resonate with me. I recommend it, but not for when young 'uns are underfoot. It's another one that takes immmersing yourself in.