"Do I look like I give a damn?" - Jake Reviews Casino Royale
"Do I look like I give a damn?"
Eon made a big decision when they parted company with Pierce Brosnan
sometime in the wake of 2002's Die Another Day. Although heading
towards his fifties, Brosnan still looked pretty good and was
apparently still popular. Die Another Day was successful but not
classic Bond and Brosnan deserved at least a better picture to sign off
on and leave James Bond on a high. Why did they put the Brozza in the
ejector seat? The main reason was apparently Eon finally aquiring the
rights to Ian Fleming's first Bond novel Casino Royale. Co-producer
Michael G Wilson had floated a 'young Bond' film in 1986 and been
vetoed by Cubby Broccoli, who promptly hired fortysomething Timothy
Dalton. Broccoli felt that Bond should always be an established agent
with a bit of maturity and that audiences would not appreciate James
Bond being depicted as an amateur.
Obviously, Brosnan was not much of a fit for a James Bond prequel. Eon
looked to tie Casino Royale into Wilson's long held 'Bond begins' idea.
That meant a new James Bond actor. Soon everyone from Martin Campbell
to Paul Haggis was talking about how the next James Bond film would be
very radical and feature a 28 year-old 007.
Sounded good to me.
The major problem with Casino Royale for this James Bond nerd was the
casting of 38 year-old Daniel Craig as the 'young' Bond. At times, the
actor doesn't even look 38 in the film let alone 28. This contradiction
was something that bugged me. Yes, they changed Bond's age to fit in
with the casting on the official website and so on, but I was still
left with an impression of that in this one Bond is a young
whippersnapper on his first mission despite the fact that the actor
playing him looks ancient compared to the other Bond actors in their
The film still holds to the premise that our craggy new Bond is fresh
into the 00-section. He has much to learn, makes mistakes, and is
altogether more stroppy and moody than previous cinematic Bonds, with
the possible exception of Timothy Dalton. If Bond is a fantasy figure
and you love the gadgets, humour and campy pop-culture escapism, you
may be disappointed. If you are ready for a new approach, influenced
very heavily by the Jason Bourne films, then Eon have provided that. It
is best to consider this as the first entry in a brand new series.
Fleming's cold war espionage novel accounts for a portion of the film.
It is of course updated and tweaked. The double-entrendres and innuendo
that has plagued recent entries were absent but Paul Haggis approaches
James Bond in a very earnest way. I found some of the dialogue frankly
bizarre. "That's because you know what I can do with my little
finger..." and "If you had just been born wouldn't you be naked?" It's
almost as if someone was trying to come up with a more intelligent way
of writing a double-entendre. The end result was several lines that
didn't make any sense whatsoever. The humourless script, riding
roughshod over the history established in the series, sucked a lot of
the fun out of a series of films I've always loved for their charm,
panache and escapism. I don't mind a more grounded film but I feel that
if you take it too seriously you miss the whole point of a James Bond
film. Part of this is tied into Daniel Craig. He deserves credit for
taking the role seriously and obviously put a lot into the film, but
his anguished acting style made the film harder work for me than it
should have been. Most of us were agreed that he was the 'strong
cheese' option in 2006 and he still is in my opinion. Like many Bond
films, Casino Royale is also a bit too long.
The poker scenes in Casino Royale have been criticised but they didn't
bother me that much. It was a wise decision to update to Hold'em. It's
the only poker I've ever played so at least I sort of knew what was
going on. Jeffrey Wright does well as Felix Leiter but Le Chiffre was
rather bland. Judi Dench has probably overstayed her welcome as M for
this James Bond fan, but she appears to be a fixture for the forseeable
future. The absence of Q and Moneypenny was understandable perhaps
although I'd like to think these characters will return in the future.
Casino Royale seeks a more 'realistic' 007 and they do that to a point
but after a foot-chase that rivals anything in recent Bond films for
lack of credibility. I liked the photography and the look of some of
the film, especially towards the end, but Martin Campbell isn't my
favourite director. Great at action, not so great with the static
conventional scenes. Casino Royale does look suitably stylish in places.
The torture scenes were negated by being saddled with some supposedly
'funny' lines from Bond. He recovers, decides he loves Vesper and then
discovers she was working for Le Chiffre before she drowns herself in
Venice, despite his best efforts to save her. I should add that the
details of Lynd's betrayal and the mysterious Mr White and his
organisation are vague. Elements are left in the air for a continuation
film; a rarity in the Bond series.
One of the first meetings between Bond and Vesper is atrocious. A
cack-handed scene on a train where they try to analyze each other in a
game of one-upmanship. Daniel Craig is much better at the action than
scenes where he has to display a lightness of touch. Your reaction to
Casino Royale depends very much on your reaction to Daniel Craig. For
me personally, the whole charm of the James Bond series was in the
sophisticated handsome devil hero, a unique counter-point to the
everyman heroes in vests and dirty shirts found in other films. This is
lost with Daniel Craig and I found it disappointing that Eon could not
have 'grounded' the series with a younger actor who looked more like
James Bond. If Craig's wrinkly mug represents Ian Fleming's James Bond
then either the world has gone mad or I have. He falls short in
projecting the urbane, refined qualities I always presumed were
supposed to be part of the point - and fun - of James Bond.
Like many Bond fans I found myself following the production of Casino
Royale more closely than previous Bonds and for this reason the film
didn't have any major suprises. Without this scrutiny on my part and
with a different actor I might well have been much more enthusiastic.
When I first heard about the plans for Casino Royale I pictured a young
Bond, perhaps in the Royal Navy for a sequence. I was disappointed by
how little the film lived up to my initial enthusiasm. The other thing
that I wasn't really thrilled about was the whole 'pretend this is the
first time you've ever met James Bond' aspect to the film. It sounded
fun at first, the thought of finding out how specific tastes and
talents became a part of his character. In the film it soon became
slightly flimsy. Am I really meant to believe that a 38 year-old James
Bond has to be taught about dinner-jackets by Vesper Lynd? He did go to
Public School and Oxford, right?
Eva Green makes a striking Vesper Lynd but doesn't have a huge amount
of chemistry with Daniel Craig. The film does though flow a bit better
than recent Bond films with fewer action scenes to insert. I feel the
film could have been cut back a little in length and introduced Vesper
in a better way. While the goal of making Bond a bit more hard-hitting
was a good one, the close-quarter fight scenes are not up to the fights
staged in the Jason Bourne films. All three Bourne films take a pee on
Casino Royale from a decent height. Bond should be Bond and Bourne
should be Bourne but Bond's latest rival casts a heavy shadow. A shot
of a train racing through the countryside reminds you of a near
identical shot in The Bourne Identity. You can't help wondering if Eon
were worried about their franchise looking a bit twee in the modern
The decision not to use the Bond theme, like the absence of Q and
Moneypenny, I can understand, but it does all serve to make Casino
Royale a strange experience. Some people like the changes but it all
left me rather cold. I admire the attempt to throw the formula up in
the air but I wasn't too convinced that it landed in the right place.
It'll be interesting to see what happens next but I'm afraid I miss the old Bond already.
As far as the James Bond series goes, I prefer the oldies.