Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Casino Royale | Review

I may be wrong, but on watching it today I realised that it was only the second time I've ever seen the film. As in, ever. The first was when it was released and I went to see it in 2006 (which, being six years ago, and being younger than 18 now, means I was very young when I first went to see it). Up until I went to see Casino Royale, I had been a Bond fan. I'd seen Die Another Day in more recent years, and I'd also seen Dr No, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice... the list is gonna go on for a while. But up to, around and after Casino Royale I'd seen a hell of a lot. I'd even braved Licence to Kill (though.. I've never finished it). I've also got the Bond 50 box set now, which means at last I have all the Bonds together, not half-finished collections on VHS (you remember that?) and DVD. But before I go through all of them again, this time watching the ones I've previously avoided or not finished, I turned to Casino Royale, to prepare me for Skyfall.

I know Royale (as I shall refer to it as) has a good reputation. Before watching it a second time, I couldn't see it, and I think watching it when I was a lot younger in the cinema - it must have seriously messed my head up for about a week. I only have rough memories from the first time (and probably trailers I've watched again afterwards), and they were: Bond getting poisoned, Bond's fight on the stairs, Bond and the woman he has a fling with for all of about thirty seconds, the card game (obviously), the ending and the torture scene. Well. You're hardly likely to forget that. But I had fragments of memories of those things - and so I knew what was going to happen, roughly when it was going to happen, and how it would all end. This hasn't stopped my enjoyment of it. I'll admit I didn't expect much from watching it again, and I was expecting to be underwhelmed by Craig's Bond, who I don't remember really liking very much.

I was wrong. And watching it from an older perspective has helped me to enjoy it more, I believe. I'll start with Craig's Bond. He's brilliant. He's much more of a character and less of a kind of little-speaking-and-when-he-does-he's-quite-boring Bond than I thought he might be. He comes out with one liners, he does all the typical Bond things - but he does it in a much more natural, relaxed and modern way. He isn't some posh guy with instant good looks, instead he's just a man who's got a personality, but one he's selective with. He isn't the same to every person, and yet there's an underlying theme which somehow makes you feel you'll know how he'll react. That doesn't make him predictable, it makes him understandable. Bond feels like a human being, not a cliche (as certain performances (like Brosnan's for example) had made him become). He's believable, and he is human, so more weight is added to the decisions he makes. He's got too much emotion, too much attachment to make him become some happy-go-lucky Bond who quips when he electrocutes people (as he does. I was expecting a 'Shocking', but am glad there wasn't one said). That's not being detrimental to other Bonds, it's just saying how individual, how different Craig is. He's a Bond I want to watch - and he isn't as one dimensional as I believed he would be.

Of course, the emotion his Bond has and the weight his decisions carry would be nothing without Vesper Lynd. She is, by far, one of the best Bond girls. In fact, you probably can't call her that, as she isn't the type of person to be a possession, she is her own character. That's only really worked well once before, or even been tried, and that was with Diana Rigg as Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. And Bond falls in love with her. So it's believable that Bond can fall in love with Vesper. Her character doesn't try and be glamorous, in fact she tries to do the opposite, and she is, like Bond now is, a real character. She questions what Bond does, and the dialogue that they have when they first meet on the train is fantastically written. It's good to see a Bond girl being a real character, and there being real emotional decisions connected to her and to Bond. She's portrayed amazingly by Eva Green (who kind of reminds me of Lara Pulver, who played Irene Adler in Sherlock), and her character is great. Her betrayal at the end is not only done well, not only fitting in with the character, but it's reacted to excellently by Craig.

The film itself doesn't feel as long as it is. The plot moves along well, with everything tying in, with the chases fitting in (although... perhaps the truck one, and also the Parkour chase, are a little too long), and there's a good balance between the actual card game and the action around it. The direction seems good to me, though not amazing. I'm sure the director could've made the card game look a bit more exciting than it was, but overall it's good. The music works as well, and I'm a fan of Chris Cornell's theme tune (and the opening sequence to it as well - that amazed me when I was younger, and it still does now).

The idea of a reboot is an interesting one - but it's done well here. You couldn't have given this film to Brosnan to do, and certainly not witty Roger Moore or Sean Connery. You also couldn't have continued the same continuity with it, Vesper's death at the end would have been too similar to the death of Tracy in OHMSS. So the decision for a reboot was a wise one. Perhaps a new M should have been found though... I love Judi Dench's performance, but. Well - she belongs with Brosnan.

I understand that Quantum of Solace, which is up next, doesn't continue the high standards, and it will only be the second ever time I've seen that one too when I watch it (the first being in the cinema in 2008). As long as Craig's performance keeps mixing the lighter side, where his personality comes out, to the more emotional side, then it'll work. If it's just one or the other - it won't.

Casino Royale is probably going to become one of my favourites. The characters drive it, and while I think it's not as good as OHMSS (my favourite, because it balances typical Bond action as well as emotion and Royale is more focused on emotion), I think it will probably end up being quite high on my list. I enjoy all-out action Bonds like A View To a Kill (others may not like it as much, however) and You Only Live Twice, but the ones where character is brought forward and sits side by side with the action work the best. By that logic - Casino Royale should be in my top five Bond. I should write a list when I've seen them all.

I'll review Quantum of Solace, and then Skyfall. Skyfall's meant to be a similar character story to Royale, so I hope that'll be as good as people have made out (with a bit more action/emotion balance though, rather than shoving all the action at the beginning). Casino Royale isn't a perfect film, all in all, there are little tweaks to be made - but it works as a reboot, it works with the Bond they've chosen, Vesper is perfect - and there are moments throughout the film (locations, bits of music) that echo the very first film from 1962.

(I won't give the film a rating. But I will end the blog with my favourite line from it.)

"Vodka Martini."
"Shaken or stirred?"
"Does it look like I give a damn?"

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