Wednesday, November 15, 2006
MovieWatch: "Casino Royale"
Director: Martin Campbell
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 72
In a Nutshell: You've got to love the James Bond franchise, or at least proprietors Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. On one hand, everybody's all "Oooh... Look at us! We're revamping and remodeling our franchise." On the other hand, they're hiring the director of "Goldeneye" and the writers "Die Another Day" and "The World Is Not Enough" to oversee the change. It's a little bit like all the times George Steinbrenner rehired Billy Martin or all the different sitcoms networks keep giving Jenny McCarthy. It goes back to that whole cliche about the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.
In this case, almost by dumb luck, they got it mostly right. After a search that seemed to last years, they ended up with the man they should have hired in the first place (always assuming that Clive Owen kept saying no). Daniel Craig's Bond is an absolute revelation, the perfect actor for a film that thematically revolves around a man who comes to embody his violent job and falls into crisis when he lets his guard down and shows his human side. Part of why people who hate James Bond loved Pierce Brosnan was his effortless cool. He looked like he rolled out of bed every morning in a tux with his martini in one hand, a gun in the other and a beautiful woman sleeping there next to him. That bores me to tears. Daniel Craig's Bond sweats, gets bruised and cut to pieces and finds himself out of breath if he runs for too long. His muscles show strain and his veins pop on his forehead. He understands that taking a life or sleeping with a vixen are choices and he copes with the repercussions. Brosnan was a well-oiled machine, but Craig is a human being, a man with a job that's both cool and also dangerous as heck. [Hmmmm... I'm gonna need to steal that last bit for my Zap2it review.]
Craig is so good -- when did anybody last talk about the actor playing James Bond as giving a "performance" -- that the movie follows him. Campbell, a respectable craftsman without an iota of inspiration, shows a grittier and more energetic side, particularly in the film's two opening sequences, a black-and-white flashback to Bond's second MI6 kill and a splendid parkour-flavored sequence featuring Sebastien Foucan. Craig's intensity even carries the film as the writers are pushing to add action set pieces to an Ian Fleming book that's 95% character study. With a 144 minute running time, these embellishments are often grating, as with an extended scene in Miami that could have been trimmed entirely without any loss to story.
I need to praise Bond Girl Eva Green for being beyond ravishing, but also to note that she's too young for the role.
And I need to emphasize the utter stupidity of turning Bond and La Chiffre's key baccarat game into Hold-'Em Poker. The notion that Bond would be an expert in a game as trendy and common as Hold 'Em is an embarrassment. Might as well have the guy playing Uno.
That being said, I liked the movie more than any Bond film since Who-Knows-When. And a full review will be up by Friday on Zap2it.