Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 21: Casino Royale

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a few weeks, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the twenty-first entry, with a full review of arguably the best film in the franchise, in terms of pure objective quality, Casino Royale. I hope you enjoy what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall. I'll do my best to leave my two-cents out of it. But just because I'm stepping aside doesn't mean you should. Without further ado...

Casino Royale
Director:  Martin Campbell
Starring:  Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini
Rated PG-13

Now the whole world's gonna know that you died scratching my balls!
                        ~James Bond

Kills: 12
Bond Girls:  Vesper Lynd, Solange Dimitrios
Car:  Bond wins an Aston Martin, but the mission gives him an Aston Martin DBS V12
Locales:  Madagascar, Bahamas, Montenegro, Venice
Odd Villain Trait:  Le Chiffre has a scar on his eye and weeps blood from it
Song:  “You Know My Name” pefromed by Chris Cornell

Casino Royale is an absolute masterpiece in the 007 series.  The film is top notch big budget entertainment and one of the best reboot films ever created.  One could argue that this isn’t the first time the series has been rebooted.  Every time a new 007 take the role, it could essentially serve as a new start to the series (minus On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).  Following the ridiculousness of Die Another Day, Eon decided to rid itself of that era and start anew, grounding James Bond and focusing on physical effects and stunts.  What hasn’t been said about this movie already?

Pierce Brosnan claims to have bowed out of the role (his contract was only for 4 films, so make of that what you will), so the hunt for a new Bond was on.  And this was definitely the largest and what seemed like the longest search for a James Bond ever.  Basically, if you were a working British actor, your name was in the mix.  Heck, Scott and I even tested for it.  Once word got out that there would be a new James Bond, everyone pointed their finger at actor Clive Owen.  He had to be it, right?  He made a film in 1998 called Croupier which was basically an audition tape for 007.  We HAD to have him.  But alas, Clive did not want the role and refused it.  Another public refusal came from Eric Bana, who didn’t want it either.  Some wild names would pop up, like Adrian Paul, but the two actors it truly came down to were Daniel Who? and Superman.  Henry Cavill was rightly deemed far too young for the role (thank god they have brains, to see this guy’s acting talents with an American accent see Hellraiser: Hellworld – which my sister loves – and get a tad scared about Clark Kent’s upcoming performance). 

Craig’s casting caused a fanboy uproar.  A year later, Heath Ledger would be victim of similar outrage.  Craig was called ugly, blonde, short, blue eyes.  Without seeing a lick of film or audition, the meme was that this guy was going to be terrible.  Personally, Clive Owen was my first choice, but I thought Craig was a fine pick.  Having seen the guy in Layer Cake and Munich, I knew he had the chops.  If more haters had watched these films before they bitched, they may have been a little more patient.  And Craig, like a true pro, completely silenced them the moment the first screenings let out on opening day.  He is truly beloved now, but before this film was released, things were not so glamorous.  85% of the people on the internet loving Daniel Craig as 007 are absolute hypocrites.  I’ve come to learn that if someone is cast in an iconic role and it causes internet fanboy uproar, this is a good thing for the film at hand.

Craig’s performance of Bond is the best introduction 007 performance since the moment we met Sean Connery at the baccarat table in Dr. No.  Call me blasphemous but it’s likely better.  That’s no knock on Connery, but Craig is given more depth and opportunity with his script and the modern times we’re living in.  Also, unlike any other Bond, he is played for the sex appeal rather than the women.  It’s 007 who we see arising from the ocean and getting the double takes on looks.  Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd hardly wears anything raunchily arousing, only things that are of a sophisticated sexiness.

Vesper Lynd immediately grabs you from the moment she enters frame and you know you have one of the best Bond girls in the series history.  Green fills Casino Royale with a rich and complex performance.  It actually hurts not only Bond, but us the audience to discover her betrayal.  Green doesn’t have supermodel good looks, but a natural beauty and charisma that take her well over the top of the majority of her predecessors.  Kudos to the producers for bringing in someone who could act first and look good second.

Also in this stellar cast is Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre.  It’s an interesting villain as we know the whole time that he is not the man behind the curtain, but only a link to him.  This is a vile nemesis that is struggling with his own problems and trying to keep his life intact.  Craig and Mikkelsen have great back and forths with each other at the card table and when Le Chiffre is torturing him.  Mikkelsen manages to pull off one of the most difficult Bond villains on paper in spades.  This man is cocky, evil and yet afraid for his life.  One of the film’s best moments comes when he is threatened by Obanno in his hotel room.

Martin Campbell returns to the director’s chair to jump start another Bond and this time you can tell he’s learned a thing or two since GoldenEyeCasino Royale is just a beautiful film to look at.  The photography is just gorgeous and an absolute beauty to look at.  The action sequences have a good scene of location and are well choreographed.  It’s also all real stunts and real locations, something we weren’t getting a lot of at the time.  Campbell also likes to damage and bloody up Craig’s Bond, giving him a sense of humanity and vulnerability throughout the picture. 

It is rare when you leave a new film in a franchise clearly knowing you just saw one of THE best entries and maybe the best.  Sometimes these things don’t come right away.  Sometimes they need some years to marinate or have lesser pictures succeed them to make them finally get the appreciation they deserve.  Casino Royale marked its place immediately upon release.  James Bond was back and had one of his greatest adventures ever.  It works on more levels than just a Bond film.  It’s an absolute spectacle and achievement in mainstream cinema.  This is a film and a reboot that studios are attempting to emulate when they talk about reboots.  Aside from a few lines of dialogue during the poker game by awkwardly spoken by Mathis, it’s pretty much damn near perfect.    There aren't many people who haven’t seen this film, but if you haven’t, what the hell are you doing?  This is a MUST SEE.  Not sure if you’re into James Bond or haven’t been a fan in the past?  See this film. 

Brandon Peters will return in QUANTUM OF SOLACE

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1 comment:

Laura Peters said...

Hellraiser: Hellword is HILARIOUS

...but obviously not as good as Casino Royale.


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