WE’RE on the final stretch now. After the 40th Anniversary ‘celebration’ of Die Another Day, we say goodbye to Pierce Brosnan and hello to the latest man to hold the handle of England’s most well-travelled spy. Let’s find out what Tom and Andrew thought of the first outing of the controversially blonde 007, Daniel Craig: Casino Royale.
Tom Jennings: With each new actor to play 007, there has always been an inevitable soft reboot of the character. Roger Moore brought a goofier version of Bond, Timothy Dalton brought a more violent Bond and Pierce Brosnan was a swanky, post-Cold War Bond. All of these versions had been new takes on the character but with very similar outcomes; the gadgets, the cars, the cheesy one-liners, the beautiful women, the over-the-top villain and the reluctance to let go of Cold War paranoia. The die-hard fans would always stick around but many voices started to rise after Die Another Day saying they were tired, that James Bond had had it and should go the way of the dodo.
Obviously MGM and Colombia weren’t going to simply let their cash cow die, so the idea was to reimagine James Bond as we knew it and take it back to the source material. It was decided to make 007 more realistic again. Gone are the gadgets, gone are the cheesy one-liners (okay one or two stick around), gone is Miss Moneypenny. What we have left is real, raw, effective Bond. The fights border on brutal, the cars are very fast but get damaged by gravity -not a flying chainsaw helicopter – the femme fatale is sexy, independently minded and incredibly… fatale.
The villain is over-the-top, weeping blood whilst throwing his best poker face, but he is a lot more subdued than the man with metal teeth or the guy with a killer hat and he’s that much more sinister for it. The few moments we do see him go on the offensive are all the more effective because we don’t see him cackling from a chair. The only chairs involved in this modern Bond have no bottom to them and come with a lot of wincing from the men in the audience.
But what of the new spy in charge of the screen? Daniel Craig is, quite honestly, brilliant as the new 007. Still charming and witty but a lot more gutsy than we’re used to. Craig’s Bond is quicker to anger and finds more use in guns than gadgets. With a fresh timeline MGM, were able to show a James Bond that was still new to the world and had only just attained his 00 status. With comparisons to Sean Connery’s turn as 007, this Bond was new but very familiar.
The film opens in black and white, harkening back to the roots of the character and the setting, whilst modern, still maintains a classic style. The luxury casinos and flash cars all have a modern yet retro style to them which all scream at the viewer that, even though we’ve come a long way since the 60s, there are still things that will always be around. People with a penchant for violence will acquire money at the expense of others, women who like to play with men’s hearts will wear classy dresses and old school spies who like to shoot guns will beat up bad guys. It’s all great.
Andrew Monk: So, for my final contribution to this series of articles, I find myself with the unenviable task of arguing the negatives for Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale. Not only is this a damn good film but one of, if not the very best Bond film to be released. Armed with a great cast in Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green and Judi Dench, whilst displaying some visually stunning action set pieces, and yet also keeping many subtle references to early Bond, it’s certainly hard to find flaws in Casino Royale.
Whilst many fans of Bond films past would point to the lack of gadgets, quips and a claim that ‘Bond has gone Bourne’, these arguments seem a bit redundant considering Bond is something that has moved with the times repeatedly, and so the back to basics approach to me seems valid. However, this does not mean Casino Royale can’t be nitpicked to shreds and is flawless. One only need to look at the near in-your-face product placement from Omega, Sony, and Virgin throughout the course of the film. Something that has continued in the current Craig era with Heineken, for example. Whilst I get movies aren’t cheap, need they be so on the nose?
But a more serious issue with the film is its length, as it is the longest Bond adventure to date. This can be mainly brought down to the high stakes poker game taking up a significant 30 to 40 minutes of the film’s running time. Whilst the game is heavily abridged it does somewhat make the film drag, and gives most of our villains screen time to playing poker, which in my eyes heavily undermines anything threatening about him.
That being said about the length, the last 20 minutes in a final act comes out of nowhere with a great twist, but at a cost of lengthening an already stretched out and detailed movie. Also in this scene, apparently the best getaway plan to steal $120 million is to retreat and hold up in a crumbling Venetian house under repair that could fall into a canal at any second. Just saying.
But while I can nitpick this film, all I want to say is that it truly is a great revival of the character and the best Bond film to date. It shows a more human side to James at the cost of some tropes that used to make Bond, Bond. Its lengthy plot can sometimes be wearisome the more you re-watch it and these costs are too much for some. Though that’s not me, nothing is perfect and Casino Royale is no exception.