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Casino Royale (2006)

Reviewed on 2006 November 17

This was the best Bond movie I’ve seen.

I always thought Daniel Craig was a good actor and good to look at, but when he was announced as the sixth official 007 I wondered what kind of a Bond he’d be. As it turns out he slid into the role like a pair of broken-in jeans. The man is whoop-ass personified and I don’t remember any other Bond getting quite as beaten-up or bloodied. The movie differs from other Bond films in other ways too. The pre-title sequence doesn’t open with the traditional gun barrel; it’s filmed in gritty black and white and shows a ruthless Bond ready to settle a score. The main titles didn’t have the Maurice Binder women in them either — instead we see stylized images of Bond and villains. It’s all new and yet still somehow conveys a retro spy film feel.

After doing a little butt-kicking in Madagascar, Bond once again answers to M (Dame Judi Dench) and ultimately gets his assignment: an extreme Texas holdem game at Casino Royale, Montenegro. The multi-million dollar pot needs to be intercepted by MI6 to keep it from the hands of terrorists. Among the high rollers is Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who reads people as well as Bond and therefore seldom loses. Because of the stakes involved Bond gets a partner, the acerbic Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). Vesper isn’t a warm Bond girl but she’s the smartest one, giving Bond back some of his attitude while she watches his back. I’ll be the first to admit that a movie built around a Texas Hold ’Em game doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but this works. The action and script zip it along and the cinematography is beautiful.

Craig’s Bond is necessarily harsh, at one point a contented smile creeping across his face as he dispatches a bad guy. Here is the cold, hard Bond of the Fleming novels. He enjoys his martinis and gadgets but all he cares about is getting the job done and crushing anything in his way. Gone too are all the silly jokes cracked by the previous Bonds, making the one funny thing he says to Le Chiffre all the more rewarding. The other standard Bond film goodies are there — wild chases, scenic locations, and freakishly handsome rich people. And where do these women get their clothes? Le Chiffre is a good villain too. Mikkelsen is a handsome man in real life but when he’s sweating away as Le Chiffre he’s wonderfully creepy. My only complaint is that the Vesper character wasn’t very likable. Honor Blackman was hard as nails as Pussy Galore and yet her character was charming. Vesper Lynd was just kinda there, but I think that’s the only weak part of the otherwise wonderful movie.

I give Casino Royale three morsels and a classic martini.


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