Casino Royale

November 17, 2006

This review does not contain spoilers.

Channel Four used to show Ireland’s The Late Late Show in England.  It was compulsory viewing for the kids of Irish parents because Gay Byrne was (and still is) something of a legend amongst the Irish.  Gay Byrne may sound like a form of venereal disease shared amongst the lovers of musical theatre but he was in fact a legendary TV host and interviewer with the demeanour of a nosy old spinster.  In his own way he was actually pretty cool.

It was on his show that Pierce Brosnan told us the news: he wasn’t going to be the next Bond.  This was truly shocking, particularly for a young Irish Bond fan like myself.  It was 1986 and with no small amount of bitterness Brosnan explained that the makers of Remington Steele had decided to keep him on for the remainder of his contract.  His annoyance was understandable.  Firstly the guy was clearly born to play Bond and secondly, whoever won the roll in his absence could, like Roger Moore, keep going for over 12 years!

As it happens, he’d needn’t have worried: Timothy Dalton got the part.  Dalton never truly inhabited the roll and always seemed like a poor cover version.  I felt that every time his Bond killed someone, instead of delivering a wry smile and a quip he should have delivered a condolence card and an apology.

When Pierce did finally arrive I think it was worth it.  Goldeneye was certainly the best Bond movie since Octopussy which had been twelve years earlier.  During Brosnan’s tenure there were some great highs and a few lows and often it seemed that the man himself was getting frustrated with the quality of the films.  I’d say that Brosnan was a great all-round Bond who often didn’t get the scripts he deserved.

Once it was announced that Brosnan wasn’t coming back I felt a bit sorry for the chap.  When it was announced that they were going for a younger, more physical Bond I raised an eyebrow, much in the style of Roger Moore.  When they announced the casting of Daniel Craig it all became clear and my eyebrow resumed it’s normal position.

Firstly Craig is a damn good actor, so there were no worries there.  In a departure for Bond they had cast someone who looked like they’d seen some action, been in a few fights and didn’t mind getting his hands dirty.  On the other hand he could also pull off the ex-public school boy persona.

Of course there were a number of naysayers out there, many of them in the press.  They seemed to expect another Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore and, when he didn’t meet those expectations, they found a vein of humour (actor who plays tough guy is really a bit of a wimp!) and totally drained it.

So, does Casino Royale deliver?

Yes it does, and then some.  Firstly I should be clear that this is very recognizably a Bond film but thankfully a few things have changed:

  • One thing that plagued the Brosnan years was the constant references to sexism.  M seemed to call him a misogynist dinosaur every five minutes and he’d constantly meet women who were his equal.  Why the script writers couldn’t just accept that Bond’s a bit of a bastard and stop wringing their hands over it I don’t know.  Oh, it now seems they have.  Yay!
  • Gadgets.  In the past Q would give Bond a bunch of gadgets that fitted a very specific purpose and they’d just happen to be very useful later on.  Clearly Q had Jane Seymour and her tarot cards locked in his basement.  In this movie Bond hardly even uses his gun, never mind gadgets, and often seems happier just jabbing people in the eyes with his fingers.  Which brings us to…
  • Violence.  It’s more violent in the sense that when people get killed it’s much more brutal and drawn out.  No more post massacre quips.  Clearly it’s a matter of opinion but I do think that the casual dispatching of characters numbs us to it’s impact – in this film there are clearly consequences.
  • It’s a spy movie!  Yep, it’s not just good guys and bad guys anymore but double-crosses and double-agents and the plot seems a bit more satisfying than the Bond we’re used to.
  • Bond makes some mistakes.  He’s always been a smug bastard, but now, he has a little less reason to be.

Now some people might take this to mean that this Bond is more realistic.  Not a bit of it, it’s still complete fantasy, it’s just a lot more rewarding.  And I think that’s because of the biggest change of all – the script is very good.  Pierce Brosnan must be livid.

Any downsides?  Well there are a couple of scenes that are too long, the poker scenes unavoidably come with a commentary from a character that screams clunky exposition, and the theme song kinda sucks.

These are minor quibbles.  Once you see the opening chase sequence and hear David Arnolds old-school score you will know that Bond is back where he belongs – at the top.


4 Responses to “Casino Royale”

  1. seanyboy Says:

    One more reason not to wait for this film. I'm determined to see this at a cinema.

  2. jean Says:

    I want to see this movie!

  3. deborah Says:

    You both should go see it. The mister and I saw it today and you get two thumbs up and a couple toes as well. Daniel Craig's Bond is more of a throwback to Connery. Much more violent as dodgy said, and most of it physical (not guns). Where I disagree with dodgy is that it is more realistic. The lack of gadgets and a more human Bond really point to that realism.I think all of the nay sayers should being eating crow just about … now.

  4. Ardiril Says:

    My first exposure to Bond was while I was in seventh grade in 1970 reading Thunderball. I was hooked, but I still had to wait two years before seeing Bond on screen. For some reason though, the original Casino Royale with David Niven remained my favorite for years. That is, until I saw On Her Majesty's Secret Service in the mid '80s.When I first saw a picture of Daniel Craig, I was thrilled; he had the look of a hardened Navy commander. What I found disturbing though was the addition of Paul Haggis (Crash, ugh) to the screenwriting team, but I did enjoy the new Casino Royale and I look forward to more films of this style.

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