Year Released: 2006
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green,
(PG-13, 144 min.)
"We must travel in the direction of our fear." John Berryman
Brash and blond, the new Bond is more cutthroat than connoisseur, substance rather than style, a man concerned with getting the job done even if he has to bloody up his tailored threads to do so. Gone is the high tech gimmickry, the eccentric evil geniuses intent on world power. Instead this gritty no nonsense film sees the real world as dangerous enough without having to fluff it up with science fiction fantasy.
The first of Ian Fleming’s novels reveals a young Bond just completing the two kills requisite for his 007 status, one a bone-crunching battle of brute power played out against the sterile white porcelains of a public toilet, the other a slicker showdown with an internal traitor in his darkened office.
Although he flubs up his first assignment after this promotion in a spectacular way, the sequence, a chase scene in Uganda, is breath taking. Probably that is because the bad guy bomb maker he is chasing is played by Sabastien Foucan, who practices a form of urban gymnastics called Parkour, a combination of running and martial arts. The camera careens in wide pans to capture a wild chase atop towering steel beams and cranes as well as heart pounding leaps back to earth. (If you’d like to see more of this amazing stuff, check out the exploits of Parkour cofounder David Belle in District B13.) Probably the most athletic Bond ever keeps up with his prey most impressively, although when the quarry runs aground at an embassy, Bond’s endgame decidedly is not.
Which is why M (Judith Dench) refers to him as a “blunt instrument” and is quite tempted to throw him to the wolves after his hide, a matter not helped by Bond’s forced entry to her apartment to hack into her computer. However, when the only way to get to the real power broker behind the terrorist financial network is in a high stakes poker tournament, she is forced to rely on Bond again, as he is the best cardsharp MI6 has got.
In the meantime he has gone some distance to prove himself, stopping a planned explosion in Miami. What makes for the pyrotechnics here is the lack of them, the teasing cinematic promise of a mega blast as a loaded petrol truck screeches through the tarmac as Bond and its suicidal driver wrest for control of the wheel.
Another memorable scene is Bond’s first meeting with doe-eyed Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), sent by her bank to protect the 10 million dollar investment they have been strong armed into making on Mr. Bond’s poker playing acumen. Their dinner in the train’s dining car is more a psyops operation than a culinary experience, and each uses Holmes’ style deductions to profile the other. Bond notes her tendency to downplay her beauty to show off her brains, while she surmises his outsider status at Oxford as well as his tendency to see women as “disposable.” Though she never lets 007 know if he has hit his mark, like his lamb, Bond admits he has been skewered.
The high stakes Poker game is in Montenegro, not Casablanca, but world-weary Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), their contact there, is Claude Rains’ Louis Renault all over again. He manipulates the corrupt police with the same deft hand, and disposes of any inconvenient bodies that pop up in between hands of poker with efficient guile. The lugubrious eyes note every line of the dazzling Vesper as she enters on cue, her riveting gown selected by Bond personally to distract the others from their game. Except, of course, she enters from his point of view and succeeds in flustering him instead of them.
Also worth noting is Mads Mikkelsen, chief baddie, Le Chiffre. He has the same drooping mild eyes of a young Peter Lorie, although his are bi-colored and one of them has the disconcerting tendency to tear blood at times. Mostly under praised by critics, I find his performance excellent, mild manners and almost effeminate gestures a fabulous foil for his ruthless machinations behind the scenes.
And did I mention romance, a very vulnerable Bond falling head over heels? That and a few other surprises from the man whose preference for shaken not stirred is given a wry twist here. Casino Royale is a riveting screen debut for Daniel Craig, who pulls the sword from the stone Sean Connery embedded so many years ago.
After giving very precise orders for the makeup of his martini, Bond floors us, if not his bartender.
“Do you want that shaken or stirred?” he asks.
“Do I look like the kind of guy who gives a damn?” Bond volleys back.
Now perhaps that exchange, more than anything else, lets us know we are dealing with a different kind of Bond. Daniel Craig is going on notice that he is not playing by anybody’s book in his recasting of the iconic spy. And perhaps that is why this new Bond works so well.
Make sure to check out The Straight Dope analysis (see link below) of Bond’s drink preferences and what it says about his personality.
Our recipe for the famous cocktail comes chapter and verse from Fleming’s 1953 Casino Royale.
In a deep champagne goblet mix three measures of Gordon”s, one of vodka, half a measure of *Kina Lellet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel.
*Kina Lillet is a brand of Vermouth.
Recipe Source: The Straight Dope