Nov 16, 2006

Initial Thoughts on Casino Royale (2006)

Well, using my best undercover operative techniques, I did manage to infiltrate one of the secret, high security Hollywood press screenings! I'll probably need to see the movie again before I can actually review it, but I'll try to post a "rough draft" review tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some initial post-screening thoughts. I'll definitely give away some little stuff, so if you want to remain totally pure, don't read it. But I will definitely avoid any major spoilers.

One thing that I never considered, in all of my fevered excitement for this movie, was that it would be a different viewing experience than any other Bond movie I'd ever seen. The first Bond movie I saw in a theater was Licence To Kill in 1989. That was around the time I first started reading Ian Fleming, too. I'd seen all the others already on video or on ABC. (Remember when they used to air them on Sunday nights during the summers every year? Those were the days! Sigh. Whiffle ball in the front yard until the sun started to disappear, and then running inside for Bond on TV... OK, nostalgia attack over.) So, the point is, in all the cases where there was a movie based (to whatever degree) on a Fleming book, I'd already seen the movie. Usually they were such different animals that having seen the movie had little effect on reading the books, and even when the stories were the same, they were never ruined. And from LTK on, the movies themselves were all original stories, made up for the screen.

So, the point is, this is the first time I've ever gone into a new Bond movie not only as the latest installment in my favorite movie series, but also as a screen adaptation of one of my favorite books. (And Casino Royale is one of my favorites.)

That thought had never occurred to me prior to seeing the movie. So it produced some conflicting emotions during the screening. "Holy shit! This is awesome!" / "Wait! That's not how it is in the book! Aww." I still haven't quite reconciled those thoughts, and it may take another viewing (knowing exactly what to expect) to do so.

Yes, this is the most faithfull adaptation of Casino Royale put on screen yet (though, honestly, that's not saying much considering the two previous attempts). Yes, this is actually "based on the novel by Ian Fleming" according to the credits! Yes, this is the closest Movie Bond has come to Fleming since the days of Dalton. But is it my Casino Royale? The version I've carried around in my head ever since reading it for the first time? No, and it won't be yours either, so remember that when you're going into the theatre and adjust your expectations accordingly. That's a basic caveat for all movies based on beloved books, but I'd forgotten to heed it tonight. But the BIG question, that everyone's asking, and tons of critics have already told you the answer to (94% positive on Rotten Tomatoes right now!) is, "Is the movie any good?"

Unequivocally, yes.

It's a great movie, and a great Bond movie, too. Definitely the best since Goldeneye. Will I go back as far as On Her Majesty's Secret Service as some critics have? I'll need to see it again before I let you know. And How's Danny Boy? He does a great job. It's hard to compare him with those who have gone before, because he's playing Bond at a different point in his career than they did. Maybe in the next movie, or the one after that, we'll finally be able to tell where he stands in the pantheon of Bonds. But he's a great actor and he delivers exactly what the script calls for. And he's SO good in the infamous torture scene, that in that scene alone he will win over any who doubted him and seal his place as THE Bond for the Jack Bauer generation.

Random thoughts:
The Danny Kleinman credits sequence is fantastic, and without even one dancing girl! Yes, I wouldn't have thought it possible to have a great bond title sequence without any girls, but it comes off as one of the very best. VERY retro.

The song over the titles is a different version from the one that's been making the rounds on the net and on the radio (presumably the single version). Maybe this one?

The traditional "pre-credits" sequence is about 40 minutes this time... and it's not before the credits. Yes, there is a short "pre-credits" bit in black and white, but that's basically prologue. After the credits come two long (and amazing) action sequences pretty much back-to-back. Then it's into the book's main plot.

True, there aren't one-liners per se, but Craig NAILS the humorous lines that are there, often with a threatening undercurrent.

Eva Green is great. So is Giancarlo Giannini, though Bond's relationship with Mathis is changed from the book in a way I didn't entirely approve of. So is Jeffrey Wright, though Felix doesn't have too much to do in this movie. I hope they keep him around and really develop the great friendship he and Bond enjoy in the books.

Crying tears of blood is a cool quirk for a villain to have.

The torture scene IS there, basically intact, and, as I mentioned before, plays even BETTER than it does in the book, mainly thanks to Craig.

I still wish Moneypenny had been in it. The "Villiers" character played by Rome's Tobias Menzies is kind of a combination Tanner and Moneypenny. He even answers M's phones. (I thought he was going to be more Tanner, and that "Villiers" was a tribute to James Villiers who played the part in For Your Eyes Only. Michael Kitchen made the best Tanner to date in Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough.)

I didn't really like the ending. I can't say too much about it without spoiling, but the book was much better, and much more economical storywise. This adds another final, unnecessary action sequence set in a sinking building in Venice. It felt like the end of another Bond movie, a relic from the late Brosnan era. The drama happening inside (from the book) almost got lost amidst the chaos, which was too bad, because it was more in keeping with the rest of this movie.

The famous last line from the book is in the movie... sort of. It's not quite the same, and it's no longer the last line. (The last line of the movie, however, is a good one, and had the audience cheering...)

Anyway, it's a great movie, well worth your precious box office dollars. Go see it this weekend!

1 comment:

JTK246 said...

An excellent and comprehensive review...even after only one viewing and even without delving too much into plot spoilers. Clearly, the writer knows his Bond-lore...