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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Casino Royale reviewed

I'm going to risk overhyping Casino Royale in sharing my thoughts now that I've seen it. I went in with high expectations based on the great reviews I'd seen, and those expectations were exceeded. That is a rare event for me when seeing a much anticipated movie.

Royale is an exceptional and spectacular film, and it is easily one of the best Bond movies ever made. I'm going to allow some time to pass before I reflect on exactly where it stands against the previous films, mainly because I suspect it may be better than all of them.

This is a beautiful and brutal movie. The cinematography is elegant, the action sequences are extraordinarily well produced and the dialogue and character interactions are refreshing and vivid. Even as a longtime Bond fan, I will confess that these are attributes that have been missing from the series for a long, long time. If I knocked anything about Royale, it would be that it opens a little clumsily up until the end of the title sequence. It is top notch the rest of the way.

Once you see the movie, I think you will know what I mean when I say that comparing Daniel Craig to anyone except Sean Connery would be comparing apples to oranges. He brings elements to the character and person of Bond that have never been on screen before. Especially during the first hour of the film, he is a physical force and a man possessed. I was stunned by how he moves and by how consumed he appears with succeeding in his mission. Never does Craig seem along for the ride from one one liner (or sexual conquest) to the next: He is immersed, toe to scalp, in being a young, arrogant and powerful secret agent. It works. Boy, does it work. Craig has quickly made the character of Bond his own in a way that no one other than Connery has, and he may well surpass even Connery if given the time, the films and the solid writing needed to do so.

If you are willing to see some minor spoilers, keep reading. If not, stop here.

The last several Bond films have seemed to me to be insistent on contributing signature elements and trademarks to add to the canon of 007 excitement. They have largely failed, and those attempts have come off as mere tribute and even parody, at times, of the earlier movies.

This is not the case with Royale. The torture scene that has generated a lot of discussion prior to the film's release is original, creative and realistic, and it is intense in a way that Bond films rarely are. It is a modern answer to the laser aimed at Connery's crotch in Goldfinger, but it isn't derivative. It may even become more iconic with time. I found myself wincing and entralled simultaneously in watching it.

Also akin to Goldfinger is a brief chase scene midway through the film. While it echoes the manner in which Connery wrecks his Aston Martin by being decieved by one of Goldfinger's clever traps (a mirror that reflects his own vehicle's headlights), leaving the lovely and strong-willed Eva Green strapped to the asphalt in the middle of the night for Craig to nearly run over is a stroke of creative brillance. I never saw that coming, and I felt myself gasp when it happened. Royale is full of these kinds of new thrills, not with poor imitations of earlier movies.

Not long after Craig signed on as Bond, I began wondering if the Bond series was nearing its end. Die Another Day was a loud and overdone movie, in my opinion, and the move to hire Craig and reboot the franchise smacked of desperation to me. No longer. I left the theatre last night feeling like the story of Bond is nowhere near a conclusion, but only beginning. I cannot wait to see where the series heads next, because it will clearly be fresh and uncharted territory.


jag said...

A perfect review...nobody's done it better.

Rob Robinson said...

Thanks, jag!