Sunday, August 09, 2009

Movie Review -- Casino Royal

Thanks to a recent generous 40th birthday present of a blue ray disk of Casino Royal, I finally got around to watching this 2006 production of the 1953 book. I had actually listened to the audio version of the book just a few years ago. Compared to the Roger Moore and Sean Connery movies that I had grown up with, the book is very violent and James Bond is portrayed in a far more "human" manner. The 2006 movie starring actor Daniel Craig as James Bond is an attempt to be closer to the original Ian Fleming books rather than the somewhat more flippant version of James Bond that was particularly evident during the Roger Moore years. However, I think the attempt fails.

The problem may be that despite the efforts of the writers and director to make this a more serious Bond, too many elements in this movie simply cannot be taken very seriously. Take for example, the extended opening sequence in which Bond chases bomb maker Mollaka in Madagascar. Mollaka, who apparently in addition to being a bomb maker, is a part time olympic athlete, is able to climb construction sites like a monkey and jump from building to building as if he were made some kind of superhero. Bond is barely able to keep up. I should mention that I have reached the point in my life where I find such extended physical action sequences not only pointless but actually a outright turn-off. There are other such extended sequences, particularly the final action sequence in Venice.

A second problem in the movie is that James Bond is portrayed inconsistently as being able to bleed and subject to poisoning (in a rather absurd scene) and then at same time remaining in many ways the supremely confident Bond that was portrayed by Moore and Connery. However, during the Moore and Connery days, the confidence was justified within the movie by Bond's clean successes. Here there seems to be little or no justification for such certainty. Furthermore, the climactic torture sequence at the end, which, if memory serves me right, was portrayed realistically in the book, came across as completely unrealistic in movie, with Bond basically acting as if Le Chiffre were just tickling him.

My wife thought the only redeeming features of the movie were Judy Dench's portrayal of M, and a certain appealing striped shirt worn by one of the women. While Casino Royal certainly has more violence than the classic Roger Moore and Sean Connery movies, and Bond makes fewer witty statements, I think this new supposedly serious James Bond portrayed by Daniel Craig is nowhere near as enjoyable as the movies I first watched over 30 years ago.

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