Saturday, November 18, 2006

movie: Casino Royale


This is Bond 21, and is based on the very first Bond novel written by Ian Fleming. It was first adapted for an episode of the CBS television series Climax! starring Barry Nelson as "Jimmy Bond." David Niven starred in a 1967 movie spoof of James Bond, but this is the first serious film adaptation.

On the plus side, they have toned down the cartoonish elements of the Bond series, which always seemed to degrade the films for me. Little of the dialogue is cheesy.

On the down side, the basic story isn't all that compelling for these modern times: the bad guy, a bank financier to terrorists, loses over $100 million dollars in the stock market and vows to regain it and more, by having a high-stakes game of cards. Bond's goal is to beat him at cards to bankrupt him and force him to seek custody and protection of the British government where he would spill the beans on the terrorists, rather than be killed off by his blood thirsty clients.

It also felt a tad long at 144 minutes. The featured song by Chris Cornell follows in the recent tradition of the series producers trying to get someone with hip name recognition which results in a totally forgettable song. They fared better in the song department in previous decades.

This is supposed to be more or less the origin story of how Bond became 007. It doesn't rely on gadgets and is much grittier. Daniel Craig (the 6th to play Bond after Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan) has performed the role with a relentless, menacing masculine presence and has revitalized the Bond franchise. Bond movies of late have been great money makers filled with over the top spectacles, but Casino Royale and Daniel Craig have allowed the series to be born again into something as refreshing as the Matt Damon Bourne series rather than continue in a direction parallel to the high-tech but antiseptic Mission: Impossible series.

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