Casino Royale: The Real James Bond Back to Menu Home
  

by Cedric Stalpers

  

DVD

The producers of the latest James Bond movie Casino Royale took quite a gamble. Ian Fleming's first 007 novel of the same name had been adapted two times before - in 1954 as television movie starring American actor Berry Nelson as the British spy and in 1967 as a feature with David Niven - and neither movie was a success. Several Bond fans argued the producers picked the wrong card when they chose the rugged blond actor Daniel Craig to replace Pierce Brosnan, whose Bond movies earned more than one billion dollars worldwide. With more than seventy million on the gambling table, a Fleming title that had never before been brought successfully to the screen and a controversial choice for the leading role, it seemed the odds were firmly against the latest adaptation of Casino Royale. How well did this gamble pay off?

Just like in the novel, written more than half a century ago, Bond's opponent is the cruel LeChiffre (Mad Mikkelsen), a fundraiser for a sinister organisation. After an investment scheme has gone terrible wrong, the villain has lost millions of dollars entrusted to him by a terrorist organisation. The terrorists breathing down his back, he tries to win back his money at the Casino Royale gambling table and attracts the attention of the British secret service. Spymaster 'M' (Judy Dench) places her best card player James Bond (Daniel Craig) opposite LeChiffre, stating: "If he loses this game he will have nowhere to run." Except into the trap the British secret service has set for him. Yet when the stakes are raised, Bond finds out the odds can cruelly turn against him...

Fortunately the odds do not turn against Daniel Craig in his debut as 007. Commander Fleming described his hero as a 'blunt instrument in the hands of the government' and the two-fisted, battle-hardened Daniel Craig certainly is. There have always been two James Bonds: the infallible hero of the movies and the more human, harder-edged hero of Ian Fleming's novels. While Pierce Brosnan was the 'Bond of the movies' - handsome, funny and invulnerable - Craig is the 'Bond of the books' - cold, dangerous and human. When he kills for the first time in the line of duty, you feel the adrenaline racing through his body. When he enters a fight, he gets hurt and bleeds (though not as much as his opponent). And when he falls in love with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), you feel this time it's for real.

Paul Haggis script is, despite several changes necessary to translate a novel of 1953 to the cinema of 2006, faithful to Fleming's original. Haggis wrote the scenarios for the oscar winning Million Dollar Baby and Crash and due to his talent both Bond and his leading lady Vesper Lynd are fleshed-out characters. (Vesper was named after a drink Ian Fleming was offered by a retired army colonel; as a nod to Fleming, in the film Bond names his cocktail after her.) For the first time since Licence to Kill Bond shows sincere affection for his heroine. As the movie progresses, we grow more fond of the both of them.

Worth mentioning are Daniel Kleinman's breathtakingly beautiful opening titles, featuring card figures coming to life. They symbolise Bond growing from a cardboard figure in the earlier movies to a three-dimensional hero in this one. And they represent the successful adaptation of a novel more than half a century old, to contemporary cinema. I think Ian Fleming would have loved to watch this film. Most of the praise has to go to Daniel Craig. Thanks to him the gamble has paid off more than just nicely. Casino Royale is the ace of the series.

Despite Daniel Craig's terrific portrayal it must be noted Casino Royale, unlike earlier Bond adventures, is not a movie you may want to take younger children to. Like the novel it features violent and bloody scenes, leading (for the first time in the series' history) to a PG-16 certificate in several countries. The movie is still a far cry from gruesome films like Sin City and Saw, yet it does feature a torture scene and hand-to-hand combat justifying the earlier mentioned certificate.

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* Graphic Copyright Sony/Columbia/MGM 2006 All Rights Reserved. Story ©Positive Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Caption Photograph: Copyright Sony Columbia Pictures/MGM