Saturday, November 18, 2006

CASINO ROYALE (2006)


BOND BEGINS AT CASINO ROYALE
By Reymundo Salao

By now, it should probably be already be fairly easy to create a James Bond movie, because we simply would have to copy the Bond templates established by Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby (ok, maybe not him), Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan. But as time goes by and as Bond clich├ęs have gone from one to the other with the Brosnan Bond films slowly losing charm, it is high time that they made a Bond film that tells us who or what Bond is, as based on the source material; the James Bond books of Ian Fleming himself. And the new James Bond universe recreated by Martin Campbell and the new actor to play the 007 agent, Daniel Craig, is definitely a world that intends to capture the James Bond the way Ian Fleming wrote him to be.

CASINO ROYALE is the 21st James Bond film produced by EON Productions and the first to star Daniel Craig as British Secret Service agent James Bond. Based on the 1953 novel Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, it was adapted by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis and directed by Martin Campbell, director of the 1995 Bond film, GoldenEye. CASINO ROYALE was first made into a TV movie in 1954, and in 1967, there was also a Casino Royale movie which starred Peter Sellers and Orson Welles, but that was a James Bond parody. First word of a new Casino Royale adaptation came in 2003 when Quentin Tarantino was said to have lobbied EON to let him do a "proper" film adaptation of Fleming's novel, based on a screenplay he had written that would have starred Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, set immediately after the death of Bond's wife Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. However, as Tarantino does not belong to the Directors Guild of America, he is unable to work with Sony or MGM/UA, so this is seen as a publicity stunt on Tarantino's part. Casino Royale was officially announced under Martin Campbell in February 2005.


SEARCH FOR THE NEW JAMES BOND
Highlighted by a flurry of unconfirmed reports from a variety of different sources, the quest for the actor to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond attracted a great deal of high-profile media attention after rumors began to surface in the Autumn of 2004 that Pierce Brosnan would not be re-signing with EON Productions to play agent 007 in Casino Royale. Brosnan confirmed this on October 14, 2004, stating "It's absolutely over," and that he considered himself "fired" from the role. A spokesperson for EON Productions issued a statement on April 17, 2005 that it would "definitely not be Pierce Brosnan."

Throughout 2004 and 2005, an endless stream of potential new Bonds — both unknowns and established Hollywood actors — were rumored and even announced by some media. Some of the popular names mentioned to be in actual consideration by EON Productions, the list included Christian Bale, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Gerard Butler, Henry Cavill, Daniel Craig, Jack Davenport, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Rupert Friend, Ioan Gruffudd, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, Julian McMahon, Alex O'Loughlin, Clive Owen, Colin Salmon, Dougray Scott, and several others.

THE REVIEW
The setting of CASINO ROYALE is set in the early days of James Bond being a Double-O Agent, so we won’t be seeing a hundred percent the James Bond we already know. Instead, we are being treated into HOW he becomes the man that we know he is. We may notice that at the beginning, James Bond is needlessly reckless, even clumsy and his charm is not as elegant. But as the story progresses, he adapts and evolves, he goes through lessons and ordeals, he refines with a touch of class, picks up tricks, and creates his own lethal sense of style. And he eventually becomes suave and and charmingly dangerous secret agent 007. This progression is excellently done. A very smart way of portraying subtle changes in Bond's psyche, and such a storyline that does answer many James Bond questions that many have long asked.


Martin Campbell is a sure and safe bet to creating and re-introducing this new world of James Bond. After all, he was the one who pulled off giving the Pierce Brosnan Bond a grand welcome introduction with "GoldenEye". His sense of tight consistency and balance gives CASINO ROYALE no room for tackiness, sloppiness, and dullness. Employing old-fashioned stunts, he even succeeds in creating one very exhilarating and breath-taking chase scene that highlights in towering cranes. A sequence that literally takes you to dizzying heights.

LE CHIFFRE, as portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, is one of those cool James Bond villains, which create an unsettling diabolical presence whenever they enter a room. But this movie provides many levels of twists and turns that may take the attention away from Le Chiffre. Don't expect Le Chiffre to be the kind of stereotyped Bond villain that has super-villain abilities, that has pet scorpions, or that is spoofed by Austin Power's Dr. Evil. He certainly has no sharks that shoot lasers.

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd is dazzlingly beautiful. She succeeds in playing a character that does indeed have the strength and the influence to bring in a touch of style and a sense of change in James Bond making him the man that he is. Her performance creates a fabulous chemistry with Craig’s Bond. A chemistry that certainly brings out both actor & actresses’ impressive acting talent. And may I add that Eva Green is far more beautiful in one scene where she has no make-up on. If I was a cartoon, my jaw would’ve fallen off.


And about the new Bond, DANIEL CRAIG..? Well, Initially, many ladies hate him. They say he looks short and ugly like a villain. But then again, many of us guys cheer a James Bond that has more of a tough-guy action movie image. The kind that does enter a room of bad guys and leaving it with remnants of chaos. Many of us cheer for him because he personifies an action hero image that we could relate to, rugged, tough, and rebellious. But the film really reveals how much Daniel Craig proves himself to be more than worthy of being the new James Bond. Apart from his rugged physique, he delivers more spiky charm with both arrogance and a sensitive side of Bond which makes him a complex character, and that is what makes him very interesting. This film even shows a far more sensitive, loving, and romantic Bond than in any other James Bond movie (he actually says the magic words "I Love You" in this one). Far beyond the romantic version that George Lazenby has portrayed in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (wherein Bond got married). Craig brings to life a more human Bond. One that actually knows how to care for something important to him and his soul, and has a nasty sense of humor even when he’s being tortured.

CASINO ROYALE pushes for a more believable Bond in a believable setting. There would be no volcanoes here that reveal to be mountain fortresses for villains, nor are there underwater palaces or outer space stations run by uniformed bad guys. But there are some pretty simple gadgets not worth mentioning. My guess is, that just like “From Russia with Love”, this movie sticks to the plain action-thriller formula from the Fleming books. Perhaps some of us can wait for the gadgets till the next Bond movie may come.

The film is said to take James Bond "back to his roots" in a film that would be similar to From Russia with Love where the focus was on character and plot rather than high-tech gadgets and visual effects. An issue which would surely revolutionize the James Bond genre. Incredible visuals would always be part of the James Bond genre. But after more than three decades of Bond movies marinated with overblown visuals, you would think that it's high time they got back to the roots of Bond; the thrill, the suspense, the espionage, the intrigue. We are in a movie age where many moviegoers have become desensitized by visuals. Perhaps the same reason why "Exorcist: The Beginning" for instance, has not worked, because it relied on visuals rather than innovating raw refreshing ideas that may hit a cerebral appeal rather than the visual aspect. After years of having witnessed movies such as "The Matrix" and the "Star Wars" prequels, some people would be less surprised by stunts and explosions that viewers could easily dissect. CASINO ROYALE does not go that direction. It brings you back to how Bond was written the way Ian Fleming would’ve wanted him to be.

And indeed, CASINO ROYALE does possess faithfulness with the original book by Ian Fleming from which it is based on, although there have been minimal revisions which sticks the storyline close to present-time standards.

By the time I was done watching the movie, I have concluded that CASINO ROYALE is THE best James Bond movie I have ever seen. And one that has made me consider Daniel Craig one of the best Bonds, only second to the gold standard James Bond himself, Sean Connery. It is highly amusing to think that the press releases and the trailers of this film initially got mixed reactions from the public, some even going so far as to hating it. Now, they are proven wrong, because CASINO ROYALE is the finest James Bond movie that will surely remain timeless in film history.

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