FlixChatter Review: Casino Royale (2006)

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This review was part of Mark & Tom’s Decades Blogathon that was published back in mid May. But since July 6 is Eva Green’s birthday, I decided to post it here this week.


I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Casino Royale came out. I just re-watched it this weekend to refresh my memory for the blogathon, though I had probably re-watched it a few times in the last 10 years. It’s still as good as the first time I saw it, and I still would regard it as one of my favorite Bond films… ever. I’ve mentioned Casino Royale so many times here on my blog, in fact it’s one of my fave films of 2000s and one of the 8 films I’d take with me if I were stuck on a desert island.

Like many Bond fans, I too had trepidation about Daniel Craig casting (too blond, too short, etc.) but of course we’re all proven wrong the second he appeared on the pre-credit scene. Craig might not be the most good looking Bond actor (and he is the shortest), but he more than made up for it in charisma AND swagger. Apart from Craig’s brilliant casting, it’s the story that makes this film so re-watchable. It’s not only a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period. An origin story of sort, James Bond goes on his first ever mission as 007, and he didn’t get off on the right foot with M right away. The scene when M berated Bond when he broke into her flat was intense but humorous, a perfect balancing act the film continuously play throughout. It’s not the first time we see the venerable Dame Judi Dench as M, but I must say I LOVE the banter between her and Craig even more.

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A great Bond film has to have an effective adversary and we find that in Mads Mikkelsen‘s Le Chiffre, a cold-looking Scandinavian with a bleeding eye. It would’ve been a silly gimmick if not played carefully, but here Le Chiffre is a cool and ominous villain. The fact that he’s really not a mastermind in the likes of Blofeld or Drax, but the fact that he’s not hellbent in ruling or destroying the entire world is frankly refreshing. He is a banker to the world’s terrorists, and so his only motive is money, like most of real world villains are. And a great Bond film also needs a memorable Bond girl. Well, Eva Green‘s Vesper Lynd is perhaps the hottest cinematic accountant ever. “I’m the money,” she quips the first time she enters the screen and into Bond’s heart. To this day I’m still enamored by the train scene to Montenegro, the way Bond & Vesper banter each other with wit and sexual undercurrents is what Bond movies are all about. Vesper is no Bimbo and that automatically made her a bazillion times more intriguing than bombshells in lesser Bond movies.

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Casino Royale isn’t big on gadgetry, and as a longtime Bond fan, I actually didn’t mind it. It’s got everything else one would expect in a Bond movie – the cars, the exotic locations, the suspense, action and quick wit – it’s all there. Compared to Craig Bond movies, the Roger Moore versions feel more like a drama given how relentless and vigorous all the action sequences are. The opening parkour/free running scene apparently took six weeks to shoot and my goodness, I’m out of breath just watching it! This is one sprightly Bond and Craig did most of his own stunts, so it looks believable that he was the one doing the action in the movie. He reportedly has the injuries to prove it too! The car chase wasn’t overlong, but dayum was it memorable. The scene where Aston Martin missed Vesper by a hair and rolled over multiple times still took my breath away every time I saw it.

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But all of that action stuff wouldn’t have mattered much without a grounding story. I think the last time Bond was genuinely romantic and emotional was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was when Bond fell in love. The scene of Bond tenderly comforting Vesper in the shower is one of my favorite scenes in all of the Bond films. There is nothing erotic or sexual in this scene, instead it packs an emotional wallop that makes Bond/Vesper relationship one of the best and most convincing romances in a Bond movie. The love story in Casino Royale is core to the plot and it was woven perfectly into all the espionage intrigue.

Vesper: You’re not going to let me in there, are you? You’ve got your armour back on. That’s that.

Bond: I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Bond films are known for being an eye and ear candy, and this probably ranks as one of the most beautifully-shot. The scenery in Venice as Bond stroll in the Grand Canal is especially striking, topped off by the intense fight scene in a crumbling house (shot at Pinewood Studios modeled after Venice’s Hotel Danieli). The soundtrack also ranks as one of the best, done by David Arnold with an homage to the legendary composer John Barry. I can’t get over how much I love the track City of Lovers, which I’ve highlighted for my Music Break here. The theme song You Know My Name by Chris Cornell is also one of my favorite Bond songs, and the cards-themed opening sequence is spectacularly-done.

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Per IMDb, this was the first James Bond movie to be based on a full-length Ian Fleming novel since Moonraker 27 years prior. Goldeneye‘s director Martin Campbell helmed the film from a screenplay from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. I wish Campbell would be back in the director seat again as his previous two Bond films rate as one of my all time favorites. There’s so much style & sophistication in abundance here, but never at the expense of story & character. What I also love is that the quieter moments in the movie is still just as intriguing as the high-octane action scenes. That poker game in Montenegro is brimming with elegance as well as suspense, whilst showcasing the film’s excellent production design and costume design. Vesper’s plunging purple dress is a real head-turner and I don’t think Craig has looked more suave than in his tuxedo that Vesper tailor-made for him.

I really can go on and on about this movie as it’s really a masterpiece in the 50 years of James Bond films we’ve got so far. It also made me even more dismayed that the recent film in which the plot directly followed this one was such a downgrade. Looking back at Casino Royale‘s fantastic finale with Bond introducing himself to Mr. White, I expected SO much more than what they gave us with Spectre.

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What are your thoughts about ‘Casino Royale’? Does it rank amongst your favorite Bond films?

007 Chatter: Our picks of Best & Worst Bond films from each decade

In anticipation for Bond 23, a.k.a. Skyfall coming on November 9th, 2012, Ted and I are starting a new monthly series called 007 CHATTER… look for it sometime in the first week of each month.

I’ve also added a new category for this, so click on 007 Chatter on the category drop-down menu for all Bond-related posts.

As the new batch of Skyfall new pics have just been released (you can see some over at Castor’s blog), it’s time for another 007 Chatter post. This time, both Ted and I take a look at our best and worst Bond films from each decade. Now, as I haven’t watched ALL of Sean Connery’s Bonds, my list will start from the 70s and up.

TED’s LIST

The 60s:

Many Bond fans will agree that this era contains many great Bond flicks so it’s quite a challenge for me to pick the best Bond film from this decade. Here are my choices for best and worst Bond film from the 60s:

Best: Thunderball (1965) –  It was hard picking this one over On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Goldfinger and From Russia With Love but Thunderball is still my favorite Bond film of all time. As I stated previously on my Best Bond films post, Thunderball has everything you ask for in a Bond film: pretty girls, beautiful locales, good action sequences and of course a villain who’s trying to destroy the world.

Worst: You Only Live Twice (1967) This is probably the only Bond film from this decade that not many people talk about and it’s for a good reason. It contained probably the dumbest idea ever put in a Bond film and there were a lot dumb stuff that appeared in many of the Bond films, this one tops them all. Sean Connery put on a make-up so that appears to be Japanese, not only did the make looked awful and Connery looks nothing like an Asian person, it was quite offensive in my opinion. Now it wasn’t as offensive as Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of an Asian man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s but it’s still quite bad. Besides being offensive, this Bond flick just wasn’t that interesting. The cinematography was awful and the script was badly-written. It’s the worst Bond film of this decade by far.

The 70s:

After the poor box office returns of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which has a more serious tone, the producers were afraid the audience might lose interest in the franchise. So they’ve decided to make Bond films into more of a light action/adventure and as a result, many of the Bond films from this decade were pretty dreadful.

Best: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – Out of Roger Moore’s entire Bond films; this may have been his most serious Bond. It’s not perfect but the film was a lot of fun, it was beautifully-shot by Claude Renoir and had some cool action sequences for its time. Also, it was tightly-edited by John Glen who would later direct five Bond films in the 80s.

Worst: Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – So this was the film that kick started the silly comedic tone of the franchise and they convinced Sean Connery, well actually the producers paid a then unheard-of $1.25mil to him, to come back and play Bond again. In a rare occasion, most of this film took place mainly on US soil and it has the first American Bond girl, Jill St. John. With the exception of a nifty car chase through the Vegas strip, this film was quite dreadful. It wasn’t fun or exiting, the plot made little sense to me and Connery looked like he’d rather be somewhere else than playing Bond again.

The 80s:

So the 80s was interesting as far as Bond films are concern, we saw three different actors portrayed the secret agent and it contained two of my favorite Bond films ever. But the decade also released some really bad Bond flicks.

Best: It was toss up but I have to go with License to Kill, my other favorite from this decade was For Your Eyes Only. I thought License to Kill (1989) was a better film because it was a more realistic take on the character and oh yeah, Timothy Dalton was great as Bond. I know many Bond fans hated him but I thought he’s closer to what Fleming had written on the novels.

Worst: Again a toss-up but the worst Bond flick from this decade was A View To A Kill (1985), but my other choice was Never Say Never Again. A couple of reasons why I chose A View To A Kill: first, the film was boring and how could you cast Christopher Walken play a villain and yet his character was so weak and nonthreatening? Second, when Never Say Never Again opened in theater back in 1983, it wasn’t considered the official Bond film because it was produced by another movie studio, Warner Bros., so for that reason it gets a pass from me. It’s now considered part of the Bond family because MGM bought all the rights from Warner back in 1997.

The 90s:

Well, it took a few years before we finally saw a new Bond flick back on the big screen in the mid 90s when GoldenEye opened in 1995. A new actor took over the role of the super secret agent. There were only 3 Bond films that came out in that decade, 2 good ones and the other was quite bad.

Best: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – I’m quite sure many people would’ve chosen GoldenEye over this one but to me this film is a lot more fun. As I mentioned in my previous article, I thought Pierce Brosnan didn’t look comfortable in his first outing as 007 but he looked like he had a lot of fun in this one and was very comfortable playing Bond. The film has some really cool action sequences, such as the shootout/car chase scene in the parking ramp and the motorcycle and helicopter chase through the streets of Hanoi (it’s actually filmed in Thailand). I also like the villain in the film, he’s not another Russian who wants to take over the world, he’s just a greedy media mogul who wants to start world war 3 so he can make more money.

Worst: The World Is Not Enough (1999) – When it was announced that Michael Apted was going to direct the next Bond flick, I thought to myself why did they hired a director whose films were mostly dramas? (Okay I’m hoping Sam Mendes would prove that a dramatic director can make a great action film with Skyfall) Well, my fears came true when I finally saw it and walked out of the theater feeling like the franchise is going downhill fast. Not all of it was Apted’s fault but he directed some really boring action sequences in the film, the plot was a snooze fest and the villains were quite weak. Oh did I mention that Denise Richards played a scientist in this film? ’nuff said.

2000s:

Well in the last decade, Brosnan starred in one Bond film and we were introduced a new Bond later in the decade.

Best: Casino Royale (2006) – After a couple of very bad Bond films the producers decided to reboot the franchise, even though the last film was the highest earning Bond film ever. They cast a younger Bond in Daniel Craig and went back to his early years as a reckless secret agent. The film received great reviews and was big box office hit. It’s my second favorite Bond film of all time and Craig did an amazing job playing 007.

Worst: Die Another Day (2002) – This was the film that resulted in the reboot of the franchise. It was a huge box office hit but critics and fans all agreed that it was one of the worst Bond films ever made. To be honest, I actually enjoyed the first half of this film but the rest of the film was a disaster. I’m not a huge fan of Halle Berry so I thought she was one of the worst Bond girls ever. You might remember, MGM actually considered expanding her character into a stand-alone film. Fortunately her Catwoman film tanked so bad, the idea was scrapped. Also, Brosnan looked like he’d rather be somewhere else than playing Bond again.

RUTH’s LIST

Since I haven’t watched all of Sean Connery’s Bond flicks, I’m going to skip the 60s and goes right to the following decade.

The 70s:

Best: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – I totally agree with Ted on this one, and interestingly enough I had just read this awesome review by Dan over at FogsMovieReviews and I wholeheartedly agree it’s certainly the high point of the Moore era. If you saw my post about Mozart a few weeks ago, this is actually the movie that introduced me to Mozart’s music, ahah, what do you know right? 😀 I think I’m partial to Moore’s Bonds that have Jaws in it and he’s got quite a bit of screen time here. I also like Barbara Bach as the sexy but sophisticated Bond girl, waaay too much cleavage but I’m sure the boys don’t mind. Oh and that amphibian car is way cool even today!

Worst: It’s a toss-up between Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun – but if I have to pick just one, I’d have to go with the latter as I’m really creeped out by the dwarf from Fantasy Island as the henchman to Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga. Lee made for a pretty sinister Saruman but he’s a pretty lame Bond villain as well. Overall this just wasn’t a memorable Bond flick to me, I mean I don’t even remember who the main Bond girl was, I just knew that Maud Adams died in this one but she’s of course had a much bigger role in Octopussy.

The 80s:

As I grew up watching a bunch of Bond movies in this decade, it’s really going to be tough to pick just one favorite. This is a special year for me as there are four Bond movies I like released in the 80s, two from Roger Moore and two from Timothy Dalton. Octopussy is more of a guilty pleasure though.

Best: I LOVE The Living Daylight as it’s Dalton’s first outing as Bond, but given the awful villain in that movie (Joe Don Baker, seriously??), I’d have to agree with Ted and pick Licence To Kill (1989). Dalton is even more bad-ass as the rogue spy, but he’s tough guy with a heart as you could still see his broken heart over what happened to his friend Felix. I do think this film is so massively underrated as now people are praising Daniel Craig being so ruthless and hard-edged, but Dalton had done exactly that and more. Plus I think he looks far sexier with wet hair (well just sexier overall) 🙂 It’s also got two bonafide villains, Robert Davi and his henchman Benicio Del Toro (you can hardly recognized him as he’s so much leaner then with no heavy bags under his eyes). Davi is especially charismatic as the suave but sadistic Sanchez, and his friendly scenes with Bond up until the brutal truck-chase finale is fun to watch.

Worst: Never Say Never Again (1983). Really, there’s no contest here as Connery should never have accepted the role as Bond as he looked more like grandpa Bond, which made it all the creepier seeing him wooing Kim Basinger who’s 23 years his junior! It’s also a non-EON production so it’s not an ‘official’ Bond flick, which is why there was no James Bond theme or the gun-barrel opening sequence in this one. I saw this long ago and can’t recall much about it, just as well as it surely wasn’t worth remembering.

The 90s:

Best: Goldeneye (1995) – Though Pierce Brosnan doesn’t rank high on my favorite Bond list, I actually quite enjoyed this one. I like Sean Bean as the villain with a personal vendetta (one of my fave Bond villains in fact), and Famke Janssen certainly made for an indelible villainess with an unforgettable name, Xenia Onatopp (really, it’s right up there with Pussy Galore!). But most of all, I like this one as it’s the first time we see Judi Dench as M (love her spot-on description of Bond as a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur”), which is perfect casting that continues to pay off to this day! The action scenes are pretty well-done and the customary car chase of Bond’s Aston Martin vs. Onatopp’s red Ferrari delivers its optimum good fun. Even the preposterous tank chase through the streets of St. Petersburg is massively enjoyable.

Btw, the reason I pick this over Tomorrow Never Dies (though I love Michelle Yeoh as a kick-ass Bond girl) is that I can’t stand Jonathan Pryce as the villain. The idea of making the Bond villain as a media mogul is inspired but I wish they had cast a more compelling actor for the part (someone more convincingly sinister like Terrence Stamp perhaps?)

Worst: The World Is Not Enough (1999) – There are only 3 Bond movies in the 90s and hands down this fares as not only the worst of the decade but one of the worst of ALL Bond movies! As Ted already mentioned, not only is Denise Richards plays a rocket scientist, her name is Christmas Jones… Doctor Christmas Jones!! I do like Sophie Marceau as the mysterious Bond girl Elektra, but Robert Carlyle as the bullet-infested Renard is lackluster at best. He’s the least sophisticated Bond villain ever, a far cry from the regal but deranged tycoons like Moonraker‘s Drax or The Spy Who Loved Me‘s Stromberg. Mostly though, it’s just unbearable watching Denise being so far out of her elements, I really have no clue what Michael Apted was thinking casting her. Definitely THE worst Bond girl ever!

2000s:

Best: Casino Royale (2006) – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this movie. It ranks perhaps as my favorite Bond film ever, which is such a pleasant surprise given my initial doubts about Daniel Craig. This is perhaps the most-watched Bond movies as I’ve seen it a half a dozen times and still love every minute of it. It’s not only a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period. The story is well-written, it’s got a sexy & smart Bond girl played by the stunning Eva Green, and it boasts an amazing scenery, especially the Italian location, especially the one in Venice. I know that Le Chiffre isn’t the strongest Bond villain, but I actually like Mads Mikkelsen as an actor.

Worst: Die Another Day (2002)This movie is just ludicrous from start to finish with absolutely no redemptive value whatsoever. Terrible villain, lame Bond girl (I thought the gratuitous sex scene with Halle Berry is much too vulgar for a Bond flick) and there’s the invisible cars to make the agony complete! Oh and did I mention Madonna is in this also? This movie also has the most product placements in a Bond movie, from no less than 20 companies (per Wiki).


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Well those are our picks for best and worst Bond films from each decade. What are YOUR choices?