Brilliant Bond Hits The Ground Running In A Royale Flush - sharpshooter's review of Casino Royale.
Re: Previous doubters of Casino Royale and Daniel Craig, Bond has an uncanny ability to frequently cheat death. Casino Royale emerges as one of the best of the Bond series. It shocks, thrills and entertains in equal measure.
The film opens in black and white with James Bond, not yet a Double O agent, on a mission to kill another British agent who had sold British secrets. The black and white show his life before 007, to make it stand out as significant and important as a scene, and it silently lets the audience know this isn't going to be the same ride as before.
Bond makes his first two kills to qualify for Double O status. The first, the British agent's associate, in a brutal fist fight in a bathroom. The scene is shown in quick rapid fire bursts involving shattering porcelain tiles, as Bond struggles to overcome his first victim in cold hearted execution. Bond coldly manages to drown the contact in a wash basin, and is visibly emotionally shocked by his grim glance afterward.
The traitorous agent is killed with one shot and with 'considerably' more ease. The killing of the associate merges into the gunbarrel sequence, a modern and realistic clean artillery piece with faster falling, vertical 3D blood that leads into the opening titles.
The opening strains of the song You Know My Name begin, performed by Chris Cornell. The song accompanies the title sequence. The lyrics do not contain the words Casino Royale. Although used with the main title song in Octopussy, it creates a new history, taking its own direction and not relying on past formula. Avoiding attempts at techno tunes from the Brosnan films with songs from Garbage and Madonna, Cornell gives a raw edge, much like Daniel Craig's portrayal of 007 in the movie.
The lyrics stick with you over the memorable chorus. The orchestral score is rousing and pure Bond, it is modern and pulse-pounding, again much like this newer take for Bond. Themes from the story, betrayal and the coldness of the character of 007 "The coldest blood runs through my veins" are made.
The intricate title sequence explains this is now what his life is going to be. Once he becomes a Double 0 everything explodes around him. An animated Bond is involved in fight sequences that are apart of the visuals, but do not move into censorship territory with violence. By using an animation technique over footage of fights, the sequence creates something that looks fantastically retro, but which also acts as a protective layer to the violence. It has a simpler look, giving it a harder feel than the previous title sequences.
The animated Bond resembles the literary Bond. At the end of the opening credits, when the animated Bond is walking towards the camera and turns into Craig, the change from the literary Bond image to Craig's Bond symbolises the fact that the true literary Bond has been brought to screen.
The new Bond hits the ground running immediately. The first action scene crackles with electricity. With sweeping cinematography inducing vertigo as Bond climb construction cranes desperately chasing a bomb maker, to the final moments of a tense Embassy standoff. Bond is resourceful and scintillating, using his wits and physical capability over gadgets. This concept is used throughout the film.
Daniel Craig is the most human James Bond yet. Gone is the joke schoolyard humour, replaced with a tougher, harder and more dangerous Bond. The audience is relieved when he smiles, but is always unsure of his unpredictability. Jokes that are made are less frequent and more refined. Craig's Bond saves his cutting remarks in his times of need. Example being after surviving an attempt of his life during a poker game, an exhausted Bond remarks "That Last Hand, Nearly Killed Me", and his defiant last stand during the torture sequence involving thick rope and Bond's genitals, taunting Le Chiffre to hit his itch down there more "to the right."
Craig's Bond displays a Bond that he is capable of being hurt. Throughout the realistically brutal fight sequences, his face is cut and bloodied, his knuckles are bruised and his hair is out of place frequently. We see the man behind the number. The audience accompanies Bond behind the scenes as he mends his bloodied wounds in front of his hotel mirror, whilst downing a quick drink. Scenes such as this are scarcely seen in Bond films. Once Bond returns to the table, we see the unflappable image that the public is accustomed to. Unknown to other characters in the film what he had previously endured.
This Bond can handle himself against the heavies well, but dislikes using his new-found licence to kill. The Bond of 2006 finds death a grim necessity, but an unescapable reality. Previous Bond films did not touch on this subject as much as this. We see a man who quits his job leaving with what he has left of himself. When Bond returns to active service, he essentially shuts off emotionally and gives himself to the Government. Implying that at the film's end this Bond has very little soul left, and continue to be whittled away. His humour can now more be seen as a defence mechanism to his line of work than ever before. This new take on Bond gives the man a refreshing take on his personality that has never before been told.
The villain of the piece is Le Chiffre. The dark brooding character is armed with platinum asthma inhaler and an evil glass eye. The glass eye also can become blurry and unfocused. He has the unusual ability to weep blood from a derangement of the tear duct. The new features of the character of the 1953 novel is equally bizarre of Fleming's creative mind. What makes Le Chiffre an exceptional villain is that he is under pressure to recoup his lost money. He is a fragile person. He is getting desperate and because of that he's getting more dangerous.
As a money launderer for terrorist groups, he is just like everybody else in the world because he's trying to get rich. He does not care what his clients do with the money either. Le Chiffre mocks the past formulaic Bond villain arrangement, claiming "I have never understood all these elaborate tortures." The realistic take on the Bond villain is that he is not trying to conquer the world, or invent something that will make him so.
A thumping sound is made by composer David Arnold. Seemingly paying homage to previous composer John Barry by using traditional orchestra, Arnold incorporates a glint of techno, being respectful yet exciting. The music suits sequences appropriately, serving as mere background noise that adds to scenes of high tension notably the marathon high staked poker game. The poker game could have been overlong and drawn out, instead it is made exciting by being broken up with a series of intervals. Arnold carefully places small segments of the Bond theme, notably in which Bond adorns his trademark tuxedo. The theme notes a small piece of Bond is coming into fruition. The score from Arnold gives the actor the floor when drama is needed, and gives a sweeping rousing cue when the action calls for it.
The final scene of the film which involves the knee-capping of the film's main protagonist by a mysterious assailant. The attacker is instantly recognised to be that of Bond, simply by the beginnings of the Bond theme. A theme Craig's Bond had to earn. The guitar strings are a prelude to the first utterance of his trademark introduction, in which he snaps with a sardonic, confident smile to his incapacitated foe.
As the end credits roll and the Bond theme blares, we know all is right in the world of Bond. The rough diamond has been forged, and he will not be pulling his punches from now on.
Bond has been re-claimed for an adult audience.
Last edited by sharpshooter (20th Jun 2008 05:39)