In Casino Royale, Secret Agent James Bond ventures on his first mission as 007 and must defeat a weapons dealer in a high-stakes poker game. However, things are not what they seem to be as Bond gets entrapped into a game that will question his trust.
Casino Royale throws all the ridiculous formulas the previous Bond films used to have, and introduces us to this new world of 007 bathed in grit and realism. From head to toe, this addition to the Bond franchise is overly simplistic but is riveting than never before. Campbell’s take lessens the explosive action, but makes it even more hard-hitting thanks to an unforgettable chase scene early on that is gripping yet simplistically terrific in all its’ might. The action feels even more believable and white-knuckled, specially with Craig’s sense of danger present in every scene. The film’s first hour exhibits to us all the action, excitement and tension to prepare us for the captivating and engaging story that is waiting to unfold in its’ second half and its’ final minutes. One could’ve never thought that the character of Bond could be explored deeper, but Casino Royale re-brands the Bond name by giving him full-on characterization and stripping him down to show us a James Bond that is naked and weak despite the assumption that he is empowered. This aspect is best shown in a painful torture scene that can make one squirm and feel uneasy; something you would never expect from a Bond film, but nonetheless delivers. But even with all the realism and seriousness spread around, the film never fails to remind us that this is still a James Bond feature. Only, Casino Royale feels slightly like a film noir mixed with Bond elements thanks largely to Martin Campbell’s immensely focused narrative and bold take that still manages to not deviate too much from that classic 007 feel we know and admire.
Martin Campbell presents to us a revamped James Bond in the form of the handsome and stunning Daniel Craig, who gives us perhaps the most realistic Bond we could ever have. Craig’s portrayal of the famous British spy in Casino shows us that he is dangerous, which leads us to believe that Bond could be really aggressive and fast-handed even if in previous incarnations one could not take him too seriously because of his wacky gizmos. Daniel Craig’s performance is magnificent; his sly sense of humor and cockiness is something new to be loved and praised, granting him the power to be winsome.
Showing the consequences of this James Bond’s arrogance is a great touch, as we learn that his ego can drive him off an unwanted direction, putting his and others’ life on the line. If anything, this installment reinvented the name of Bond by presenting to us the different sides of his personality, each giving us various ideas about who he really is under all those suits and ties. One prominent aspect is that he could be seriously emotionally attached, giving us the notion that he could eventually get emotionally damaged along the way, as seen through Vesper. This tends to leave him broken inside, and resorts him to be even more cold-blooded, which enables the film to show Bond’s raw emotions. Given the fact that Casino Royale is also a character study on Bond, one could say that he could be the realest action hero we’ve ever seen.
The characterization of Vesper is deceiving, as her true colors are revealed just as we thought that everything is alright. Her name is just as mysterious as she is, and Eva Green gives a remarkable portrayal with her seductive charm and the relation she shares with Craig onscreen while she’s in character. Mads Mikkelsen’s subtly sinister Le Chiffre is intimidating; just by staring at his menacing visage for too long, we are able to sense that he has the capability to really hurt Bond, and in one of the film’s iconic scenes he does so. In the poker scenes involving him and Craig’s Bond, the tension is felt. Oddly enough, it basically tells us that the stakes are higher than ever literally and figuratively. Even if Le Chiffre didn’t do anything representing classic Bond film villainy, he is really amazing and the fact that Mads’ depiction of him as heartless yet vulnerable is something to put in mind every time you see Casino Royale.
Exciting, tense, and gripping, Martin Campbell and Daniel Craig breathe new life in Casino Royale. Through the use of a solely focused narrative detailing the latest exploits of Bond and presenting him to us under a microscope as well as engaging us in captivating performances by its’ small but efficient cast, this 20th entry in the Bond canon is a very much welcome addition and one that is just flawless and impossible not to admire. Heck, I could even consider this a modern classic for all I know. It’s just too perfect.
*Casino Royale could be looked for on DVD and Blu-Ray distributed by Magnavision Home Video.
* ‘SPECTRE’ opens today in Philippine cinemas nationwide. Also in IMAX. Distributed by Columbia Pictures Philippines.