Wilson and Broccoli called on director Martin Campbell on that occasion (which was also Pierce Brosnan’s debut), and they have summoned him again for Casino Royale. Whether this is by pure chance or design, Campbell certainly knows how to inject some life into a movie. Probably most famous for his Zorro films, he is a consummate veteran of the action genre and he keeps the movie snapping along, with hardly a pause for breath.
Casino Royale is also better written than a lot of its predecessors. Unlike the last seven films it is actually based on one of Ian Fleming’s novels (and not just set in his “universe”). Written in 1953, it is (appropriately enough) the first novel in which the character ever appears, and is often seen as one of the darkest, edgiest Bond novels. It has been masterfully updated and adapted by 007 veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with the help of Oscar winning screenwriter Paul Haggis (of Crash fame). The dialogue is particularly excellent, full of wry humour and playful irony, and the screenwriters have had a lot of fun toying with Bond conventions like Martinis and dinner jackets.
As usual the film has attracted a superb supporting cast, with Judy Dench putting in yet another scene-stealing performance as M. In keeping with the old-school feel, the producers have cast a villain who looks every bit as evil as he is, played to oily perfection by Dane Mads Mikkelsen, complete with a cloudy eye. As far as Bond girls go, Eva Green has more spunk and intelligence than most of them put together, and just as much beauty. She is Bond’s equal, both intellectually and professionally, and shares a lot of Craig’s animal magnetism.
While it may stand head and shoulders above most 007 films, Casino Royale isn’t a perfect movie. It’s just a little too long for its own good and tends to gloss over plot details in a way that may annoy attentive viewers. By the standards of previous films it is extremely violent, with several bloody hand-to-hand battles and a rather disturbing torture scene. Though the increased violence is arguably a positive aspect for many viewers, more sensitive audiences should be wary. This is not a kid’s film – it is probably the most grownup Bond ever made.
Like all really good renovations, this new style Bond has arrived before a lot of people were willing to let go of the old one. But even if you are a staunch fan of the Dalton / Brosnan brand, you should give Craig a chance. At one point M calls him a “blunt instrument”, but watching him cut a swathe through his enemies, you can’t help but think this is the sharpest 007 we’ve had in a long, long time.
- Alistair Fairweather
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