Casino Royale review


For some reason Alternative 007 were not invited to the press screening of Casino Royale. We have no idea why. Our invitations, I can only presume, were lost in the post. Anyway, Casino Royale. The reviews for this film were so hysterical that even Craig naysayers must have started to suspect they were missing out on the cinematic event of the year and Eon's version of The Godfather part II by staying away. Some big doubters flipped on seeing this film. I must confess that I was seriously intrigued to see what all the fuss was about, although slightly wary of the 'I usually hate James Bond films but...' sentiment. Of which more later.

The pre-credit sequence was, well, shown in the trailer. There was nothing new to see. Daniel Kleinman's titles were absolutely horrendous. I love his previous work but in his attempt to generate a timeless retro feel he somehow recreated the interior decor of a 1970's Indian restaurant. No girls this time but Danny Craig's lovely mug jumps out of the screen at the end. Yes.

Le Chiffre. Count me in as someone who doesn't think the villain cut it in this film. Fleming based Le Chiffre on Alistair Crowley but Mads underplays it and looks like a middle-aged goth. I struggled to understand some of his dialogue which came out sounding very Dutch.

The parkour chase. I got a kick out of seeing the French bloke do his free-running stuff. District 13 packs more of a punch but it was nicely done, although the moment where Craig and Foucan exchange telegraphed karate chops on top of the crane is one of the lamest things I have ever seen in a James Bond film. The Embassy scenes were Campbell as his generic action hack worst and wouldn't have been out of place in a Cannon Chuck Norris film. I should say though that Campbell and his Director Of Photography do at least give this film a decent look with a bit of colour.

It soon becomes clear that this isn't the James Bond we know. He is stupider and more reckless. This is explained by him being a new novice '00' although he certainly doesn't appear to be any younger than the other actors were in their debut film. One could actually say he looks older. Judi Dench treats him like a teenage hooligan (when his 'chip' was fitted I actually thought it was a metaphor for the whole problem of juvenile offenders and electronic tagging). Craig's Bond wouldn't have lasted five minutes with Bernard Lee but here is free to wander around of his own accord until they need him.

The Bahamas. Craig emerges from the sea looking like a duck in a mildly surreal homoerotic scene. It won't be the last in the film. He cops off with Solange and then wins his Aston Martin in a card game. I like the idea that Bond got his car off Q but ho-hum. The Miami Airport scene. Hey, Post 9/11 Bond! How clever. As uneccesary as the ski chase in The World Is Not Enough this set-piece simply fails to deliver. It's supposed to be Miami but (shot in the dark) could be anywhere and probably is.

Now we move into the book. Eva Green, who I was led to believe was a great actress, was exposed as something of a stock Euro bimbo. She has a cold and slightly enigmatic quality but so did Rosamund Pike in the last film and I don't remember hearing anyone compare Pike to Diana Rigg. Comparing Green to Diana Rigg is equally silly. The poker scenes go on forever with several artificial distractions to stop the film grinding to a total halt. Bond is drugged and attacked by a lunatic with a knife although the shower scene is well done and Jeffery Wright deserved a lot more dialogue as Felix. Kudos to David Arnold for not laying on too much syrup although his score wasn't that memorable.

Vesper is kidnapped and Bond gets in his car. The expectation rose in the audience. A car chase! No, sorry. No car chase. Craig (here looking for all the world like ex-Chelsea footballer Dennis Wise) flips his car over 267 times and is captured. The torture scene. Is it torture to watch? Yes, it is for me because the Daniel Craig from the supermarket scene in 'Some Voices' emerges. I am a respected British character actor and thespian and I will gurn and overact if you give me the chance. What else is he supposed to do in that situation you ask? I have no idea but somehow, call me eccentric, I never expected that schizophrenic/chef character from Some Voices to ever turn up on my local cinema screen playing James Bond. I think they call that cognitive dissonance.

Bond suddenly decides he loves Vesper (with about ten minutes of the film left). Departing from the book once again she drowns herself in a lift after a blah action set-piece in Venice. Craig says the line and the James Bond theme sounds completely incongruous and out of place. Why? Because this is not a James Bond film.

I don't like James Bond films but...

Casino Royale is a Bond film for people who think James Bond films are by and large shite. Mark Kermode said it. Vern said it on Aint It Cool. I love James Bond films and I thought Casino Royale was joyless, often boring, over-rated and completely lacking in Bond 'residue'. This film is unlikely to become a staple of bank holiday afternoons in the years to come and that is exactly how these miserable gits who haven't liked a Bond film for about 75 years would have it. And no, I didn't think Die Another Day was fantastic and don't want Bond films to be a innuendo-laden cheesefest. I love OHMSS and The Living Daylights but was left cold by this. Everything that separated Bond from the pack has been scrapped right down to Bond himself. The history established by the franchise was dumped for a couple of ironic jokes and Michael G Wilson's 20 year dream of a Bond origin film. I look forward to the origin film Michael. Call me pedantic but I hardly think a three minute sequence of Bond shooting someone qualified as an 'origin' film. Batman Begins was an origin film. The original Superman was an origin film. The tuxedo scene was beyond me. Bond tries on a tux and looks in the mirror as if...what? Has he never seen one? Is the tux supposed to be like a superhero costume or something? Here's an idea for a James Bond origin film: cast a young actor who looks like James Bond! Was that too difficult? But no, someone says, Daniel Craig is Fleming's haunted, abandoned Bond from the original novel. He is? He doesn't look like him. Craig's Bond doesn't even look like a Martini drinker. He looks like a man who drinks his lager straight from the can. Someone said that Craig gave a glimpse of how Lewis Collins would have played Bond. Sardonic, amused at himself, dialogue snapped under breath. Not far off the mark except of course Lewis Collins actually looked like a James Bond. Craig, with his waxed fruit countenance and creepy smirk looks like the sort of chap Roger Moore would karate chop and throw off a roof. Mentally I never accepted him as Bond. Very early (about the time he walked up to the camera with that gormless pout and took his sunglasses off) I went into a mode of trying to watch it as an action flick and forget it was a James Bond film.

It wasn't difficult.

 - Luke Quantrill

c 2006 Alternative 007