Casino Royale (12A)



Action (2006)
144mins US/UK/Czech

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer(s): Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Having been elevated to 00 status, James investigates a terrorist cell run by Mollaka, and comes face to face with international banker Le Chiffre, who holds the purse strings for many criminal underworld organisations. M assigns agent Vesper Lynd to keep an eye on James as he heads to Le Casino Royale in Montenegro, where Le Chiffre is due to participate in a high stakes poker game. Fortunes change on the turn of a card, pitting Bond and his associates against the full might of Le Chiffre's underworld contacts.

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LondonNet Film Review

Casino Royale
It isn't until the dying moments of Casino Royale that Daniel Craig - cruelly labelled Blonde Bond - gets to utter the immortal line "The name's Bond, James Bond", and becomes only the sixth actor to don the tuxedo of the iconic MI6 secret agent on the big screen...

Sony Pictures Releasing. CASINO ROYALE  2006 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.The role, as written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis from Ian Fleming's first novel, fits him snugly enough, introducing a brusque, impetuous, rough and ready Bond, who has only just attained Double-O status via a splendid black and white pre-credits sequence.

Craig's secret agent isn't the Bond of old - he's not polished or refined, his preferred method of seduction is a pout rather than a cute line, and his sense of humour (on the few occasions he unholsters it) is drier than his trademark tipple. At times, 007 is so emotionally distant, so fixated on achieving his objectives at the expense of the people around him, it's difficult to empathize with the character. He's a crude, cocksure killing machine; even senior intelligence officer M (Dench) feels compelled to warn him: "Any thug can kill. I want you to take your ego out of the equation and judge each situation dispassionately."

By the end of the film, Bond's relationship with his steely superior has thawed. "You can stop pretending - you knew I wouldn't let this drop," he tells M, having disobeyed her orders to pursue his target. "Well, I knew you were you," she replies sagely. We warm to the maverick agent too, although not completely. After some scene setting in Czech Republic and Uganda, the action begins in earnest in Madagascar. Having been elevated to Double-O status, James sets his sights on bomb maker Mollaka (Foucan), who leads the MI6 agent to Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), an international banker holding the purse strings of many of the world's most dangerous terrorists. When Le Chiffre heads for Casino Royale in Montenegro and a high stakes poker game with a USD10 million buy-in, Bond follows, his every move scrutinized by sexy Treasury official Vesper Lynd (Green).

Fortunes change on the turn of a card, pitting Bond and his associates - Felix Leitner (Wright) and field agent Mathis (Giannini) - against Le Chiffre's underworld contacts, including his beautiful yet deadly girlfriend Valenka (Milicevic). Screenwriters Purvis & Wade and Haggis remain faithful to the spirit of Ian Fleming's book, and reinvent Bond by affectionately poking fun at some of the iconography.

Craig recreates Ursula Andress's famous bikini scene from Dr. No clad in figure-hugging brief swimming trunks, and later in the film, when James orders his trademark martini and the bar man politely enquires, "Shaken or stirred, sir?" the secret agent snaps, "Do I look like I care?"

M's secretary Miss Moneypenny has no place in Casino Royale, nor does Q - Bond's sole gadget is his swanky new Aston Martin DBS with a computerized glove box. Green brings a smoldering sensuality and fragility to her Bond girl, who is so much more than window dressing, saving Bond's life on more than one occasion. Mikkelsen plays his villain extremely low key, only really showing anything approaching emotion during a torture sequence, which has been cut by censors to achieve the film's 12A classification.

Without charm in his arsenal, the new Bond has scant recourse for tongue-in-cheek innuendo or smart one-liners. He succumbs just once, surviving a near catastrophic ordeal in the midst of the pivotal poker game and jesting, "I'm sorry. That last game - nearly killed me."

Vesper has the honour of delivering the film's best double entendre, shortly after surprising James with a brand new designer tuxedo. "It's tailored!" he gasps, taken aback. "I sized you up the moment we met," she smirks. Bond's treatment of the female of the species certainly hasn't changed. "You like married women, don't you James?" asks one conquest, as she and Bond writhe around on the bedroom floor. "It keeps things simple," he replies coolly. The film accentuates the point during Vesper's first tete-a-tete with the secret agent. "Don't worry, you're not my type," Bond tells her. "Smart?" wonders Vesper. "Single," he counters.

Action sequences are brilliantly orchestrated including an outrageous set piece at Miami airport and a chase through a building site that tests the acrobatic skills of Sebastien Foucan, co-creator of le parkour (free running), to the limit.

Craig is in impressive shape and copes well with the physical demands of the role, although it's very noticeable when his face is digital grafted onto the body of a stunt man. It's ironic that the rowdy theme tune sung by Chris Cornell (a founding member of Soundgarden and Audioslave), entitled "You Know My Name", should be an instantly forgettable dirge.

Daniel Kleinman's opening titles sequence is similarly disappointing, forgoing the usual silhouetted, nubile lovelies (the symbol of a bygone misogynist, politically incorrect Bond) in favour of a rather inelegant, kaleidoscopic mosaic based on the four suits in a deck of playing cards. The end credits proudly announce "Bond Will Return" - on May 2, 2008 as it happens, when we will see if Craig really has a licence to thrill or is merely the man with the golden locks.

- Heather Von Bourne


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