Some time ago when it was announced that the actor Daniel Craig would be the next to impersonate the historical and popular character of James Bond most funs of the series started a mutiny. Daniel Craig wasn’t sophisticated and sleek enough for them. He didn’t have the appearance of a man of the world, of a gentlemen. On the other hand Craig’s face has many straight and angle lines that express well the hidden possibility of violence. He is ideal therefore for a James Bond not so well trained to the ways of the world, not so well trained to disguise his true nature, the nature of a raw killer. Eventually most fans, having seen the film have to agree that for this James Bond Daniel Craig was an ideal choice.
The James Bond series usually have basically no story but very impressive and stylish scenes. Casino Royal is no exception. In his first mission as 007 he has to compete in Poker with the terrorist Banker and win. The first half the movie builds up to the poker game. Then the rest is about James Bond’s love story with his colleague from the British government. As the action flows in the first half the film is bearable but when the romance starts the script falls form the one cliché on to the other. The fact that James Bond, the notorious womanizer, fells in love is a first for the character and the series. From the begging of the film a suspicious viewer can tell exactly how this romance will develop and end. Supposedly this film and this story is the one that sets and justifies the characteristics of James Bond personality, the fact that he uses women and expects betrayal from their part.
Leaving the plot aside we come to the good parts of a James Bond film: the stylish aesthetics of the film. The first sequence before the titles is surprisingly good. Filmed in black and white, with high contrast and deep shadows reminds us the noir style of the late 40s. The noir style however has a modern clarity with cold tint than couldn’t be achieved with the film equipment of the 40’s. I thought the idea of adopting the noir style for the sequence of the past was quite ingenious. The specific style is well connected in the minds of the educated spectators with the late 40’s and early 50’s and it signifies the particular historical era, when the cold war arose. Lets not forget that James Bond as an agent is truly the product of the particular historical circumstance.
Another astonishing sequence is the one of the chase. This sequence replaced the most spectacular sequences that traditionally set the beginning of the story in the Bond series. Instead of the ludicrous scenes of the land Bonds where the hero used to jump off a cliff and catch the plane, or doing wind surfing on melting icebergs, the scene of the chase manages to be impressive believable and not at all ridiculous. The chased man is done by an athlete specialized in running with acrobatic moves in the city landscape. The fact that he actually does what he is filmed doing makes the sequence seem more realistic and therefore more impressive. The editing in the specific scene is superb creating the intense rhythm that a good chase scene demands. The third impressive element in the film is the titles themselves. Titles also have a long history in the series. They are always highly stylish, long and accompanied by a song that automatically becomes classic. The titles of Casino Royale play with the symbols of the cards. Highly graphic with intense colors, I believe, are probably some of the best titles ever.
All and all for a Bond film Casino Royal is pretty good. Even it practically has no plot aesthetically manages to create an interesting proposal and renew the Bond series. Darker and more realistic than the most Bonds succeeds at surpassing the period of the self parody and ludicrous excess that characterized the Bonds of the 90’s. Casino Royal is definitely not a good film but it is a good Bond film. Have fun!
Check the first sequence in the noir style and the titles...