Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Tobias Menzies, Ivana Milicevic, Clemens Schik, Ludger Pistor, Claudio Santamaria, Isaach de Bankole
Director: Martin Campbell
SUNY Purchase '05
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore
Review By: Rocco Passafuime
In the past 45 years despite nearly every one of Ian Fleming's original 007 novels having adapted into films, his debut Bond novel was never given authorization due to its early, but heavily altered adaptation in an early 1950's CBS teleplay called Climax!.
However, by the time the world changed by 9/11, the film studio responsible for every 007 film finally gained the rights to make a film adaptation and have used it as an opportunity to rejuvenate the stale 007 formula for a new age. The result is Casino Royale, which is now available on DVD.
The story is a mix of prequel and reboot as it tells of 007's, James Bond's, first mission as a secret agent. After being reprimanded by his superior M (Judi Dench) for his ruthless nature as a "blunt instrument"Â after he kills a bomb-maker in Prague, Czech Republic, Bond goes after the man’s superior, a man named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who is a corrupt banker who funnels money for a mysterious terrorist organization.
After foiling Le Chiffre's plan to blow up a prototype airline jet at Miami International Airport, Bond's new target sets up a high-stakes poker tournament at the lush Casino Royale in Montenegro. 007 proceeds to enter the tournament in order to further foil Le Chiffre's ability to funnel money to terrorists and treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is sent to oversee his mission.
After decades of straying away from the true spirit of Bond, it was refreshing to see Casino Royale get back to Ian Fleming's literary roots. Particularly astonishing was to see how much of the story and Bond's ruthlessly cold nature was left intact in the film from the novel.
The changes have successfully managed to reintroduce 007 for 21st century viewers and revitalize the franchise, which for decades was hampered by cheesy gadgetry, outlandish plots, and often campy interpretations of Bond's character. The controversial and highly disputed decision to cast largely unknown actor Daniel Craig has paid off. He is undoubtedly the best Bond actor since the equally then-unknown Sean Connery, who initially had played the character faithfully to its literary origins as well.
While the film manages to successfully update and modernize what was a Cold War-era plot (In the original novel, the mysterious terrorist organization was SMERSH, which was the former Soviet Union's counterintelligence group.), the film suffers from a few flaws. While the action and stunts in the film are breathtaking to watch, they run on much too long and slow down the main story, which is the real gem of the film.
The DVD's picture quality is presented in the 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. The DVD is also
The first special feature is Becoming Bond, which is a fascinating behind-the-scenes feature, that talks about how Daniel Craig won the highly prized role of Bond and how the film was adapted from the original 1953 novel. It's constantly engaging as it also has great interviews from the cast and crew.
The second feature is a behind-the-scenes featurette titled James Bond: For Real, which focuses on the incredible stunts done in the action scenes. However, the featurette runs a little long and is not a consistently fascinating watch as it is more of interest to action fans.
The third feature is a TV special from 2006 called Bond Girls Are Forever. It documents actress Maryam D'Abo, who starred in the 1987 007 film The Living Daylights, as she tracks down and interviews actresses who have played Bond girls all the way back to the first 007 film Dr. No.
It features highly fascinating interviews with past 007 actresses like Ursula Andress, Luciana Paluzzi, Jill St. John, Halle Berry, and scores of others. It's also an interesting insight to see how the Bond films evolved with their treatments of the Bond girl character through each decade.
Rounding off the special features finally is the video for Casino Royale's theme song "You Know My Name"Â performed by former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. The video is relatively simple, with a constant barrage of clips from the film, but the song is a highly energetic mix of rock and the traditional 007 score and really sets the pace for the new vitality in the film.
After being for so long the only book to elude the EON Films banner, Casino Royale's late adaptation manages to work in the studio's favor as it succeeds both in highly revitalizing the 45 year-old film franchise as a whole as well as reintroduce the story for a 21st century audience. It returns the 007 story to its literary roots and it's this critic's hope that it will set the pace for a more faithful, at least in atmosphere, film series of the iconic character.
Movie Grade: A-
Special Features Grade: A
Overall Grade: A