Where there were precious redeeming features in DAD, there are few things wrong with Casino Royale. The violence is bone-crunching, Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen are superb, the plot doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator and David Arnold’s music is again wonderful. In Daniel Craig the producers seem to have once again found someone who can act rather than just “do” Bond; in particular Craig’s scenes with Judi Dench and Eva Green bristle with wit and tension. Danish-born Mads Mikkelsen is brilliant as Le Chiffre, the gambling, knotted rope-wielding baddie. Rather than having any designs on world domination Le Chiffre is actually on the back foot for half of the film, trying to win his money back; and I think that this role-reversal (almost) makes the story all the more interesting.
The first 30 minutes of the film are absolutely brilliant, and some of the best of the entire series. The pre-credits scene depicting James Bond’s (no 00 yet) first two kills is sublime; the clinical straight lines of the office building in Prague clashing with the high-contrast gritty bathroom and the very messy scrap. Added to this is a moment of inspiration using the bathroom as the backdrop for the famous gun-barrel shot.
Straight into some of the coolest credits of the series and a great song by a man with such an ace voice; I’ve been a fan of Soundgarden and Audioslave for years, probably because I think Chris Cornell’s voice is brilliant. The title of the song is perfect too: “You Know my Name”. After a four year break and a change of Bond we don’t have it shoved in our faces - we know who he is, we know what he’s about and we know his name; very apt that the James Bond theme isn’t played until the final scene. Following the theme song there is a spectacular chase in Madagascar as Bond pursues a free-running bomb-maker through a building site; all of which is just amazing.
The only disappointment (other than the frankly baffling way that having directed this clever and sophisticated film, Martin Campbell goes on to direct the confusing, over-blown and frankly boring Green Lantern), is the sound. I don’t ever remember it when I saw Casino Royale in the cinema, but the three other times I’ve seen it (two different DVDs and on a plane) the sound keeps getting suddenly quiet, particularly in action scenes. A quick google tells me I am not alone in this, and that is terribly disappointing; it really spoils what is otherwise an excellent film.
Stunning set pieces, a very smart script/screenplay by Crash director Paul Haggis, excellent performances by the three main actors as well as a wealth of supporting cast make Casino Royale one of the best films in the series.
Order of Preference so far:
Casino Royale, You Only Live Twice, Goldfinger, The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Goldeneye, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia with Love, Dr No, The World is Not Enough, The Man with the Golden Gun, Die Another Day, A View to a Kill, Octopussy, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, Thunderball