Monday, 17 September 2007

Casino Royale - DVD Review

When Daniel Craig was unveiled as the successor to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond, I couldn’t believe the outrage around the world. There were letter writing campaigns, anti-Craig websites were set up, and I dare say a few hate letters were sent to various people. The reason why? Not because Craig was a bad actor, but because he was blonde!
So does Daniel Craig cut the mustard as Britain’s top secret agent? And what is Casino Royale about anyway?
Forgetting the slight inaccuracies with regards to continuity which I’m sure some Bond devotees will pick up on, Casino Royale was the first ever Bond story written by Ian Fleming way back when. When the story begins, our hero has just completed two professional assassinations for the secret service, and has just been promoted to “00” status, with a licence to kill. On a mission that takes him from Uganda to the Bahamas to Montenegro, Bond must take down corrupt banker Le Chiffre, who just happens to have some connections with nasty international terrorists. To take him down, Bond, apparently the best card player in all of British intelligence, must take his foe down in a high stakes game of poker at the Casino Royale. Hence the name of the film.
Forgetting the 1960’s spoof Bond film of the same name (although if you’re a Bond fan like me that’s something that’s a little difficult to do), Casino Royale is a great way of introducing Craig as Bond. Forget for the moment that he has blonde hair, as an actor Craig is tremendous, and probably the most physical Bond ever. Not since Brosnan debuted in Goldeneye has someone grasped the role so readily and so easily. Just watching him on screen makes you think that he’d been playing the role for years, and you can certainly see why he won the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role recently.
But Bond wouldn’t be Bond without the beautiful women by his side, and Eva Green plays the part of Vesper Lynd, the treasury agent who funds Bond’s entry into the poker game. Green is also well cast, and a welcome addition to the long-line of Bond girls.
Judi Dench must also get a special mention for her recurring role of M. Since she debuted alongside Brosnan in Goldeneye, Dench has brought a sense of power to the role, and a sense of sympathy as well, which is something her previous male counterparts never brought to the role.
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre, and although capable in the role, he just didn’t have that certain something that made previous Bond villains stand out. He was good, but he wasn’t a certainly wasn’t a Blofeld.
Production wise, director Martin Campbell has done a great job of capturing the essence of Bond here, as did writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis in updating Ian Fleming’s original novel for a 21st century audience.
Of course, there are a few extras on this two disc set, including the Bond Girls are Forever documentary which is well worth watching, as well as the video for Chris Cornell’s theme, You Know My Name.
In conclusion - Casino Royale is a worthy successor to the numerous Bond films, and hopefully we’ll see Craig return as Bond in the next few films. Besides, who cares if he has blonde hair or not?
And before I go - I also like the 1960’s version of Casino Royale. A very funny film. Which probably makes me one of the few Bond devotees in this world who actually does like this film.