Casino Royale review (yep, spoiler free)

Maybe not 100% spoiler free like agent Bladerunner’s post, but I did the best I could. If you REALLY want to play it safe, just skip my inane babbling, like most rational folks do anyways.

It is to Bond what Batman Begins was to that pointless crapfest series of movies. Both movies dealt with the beginnings of their characters, not worrying so much about continuity with what had been done before/after them. This works for me. The latest set of Star Wars movies are a good example of why you don’t want to try to stick within the framework you already set up too much. Yeah, prequels are hard, but this one got it right in many ways. Is it a must see in the theater, I don’t know? If you have a nice home system you won’t loose too much, so if your schedule is full there may be other movies out this season that I would put before this, but definitely catch it on Netflix, as it really was quite enjoyable.

Problem is, I can’t exactly figure out what to say about it that is good. I have a few complaints I can start with, but I will try to come back to what is good. First, there seemed to be 4 different directors and writers, or maybe they broke up the movie between different production groups for style reasons, I am not sure Interesting, but I don’t know if it really works. The continuity between the different parts was just not there for me, and I didn’t feel like it was my fault because I am not sophisticated, but rather, I felt like someone was trying to demonstrate skills that they clearly had, but maybe they should have saved for another film. Maybe some of you smarter folks will appreciate that aspect of it more than I did.

Second, as many of you already know, for me casting is one of the most critical parts of movie making. In my opinion, this casting was brilliant…. mostly. Daniel Craig was amazing. He was nothing like any of the previous bonds, and that is fine by me. I enjoyed many of those films, but they really were becoming caricatures of themselves. The one liners and catch phrases were becoming more of what defined the movies than the story and action. This one dropped all of that (including sadly, some of my favorite stuff, but discussing that may be a spoiler to some of you purists, so I will talk about that at a later date). The few one liners where delivered with a completely different style and approach, that they actually worked. The bad guys were SOOOOO bad and the rest were all great, perfectly cast for their roles, with a few that really stole the show for a few minutes (Jeffrey Wright and the guy that played the banker both stood out to me). Judi Dench as M was superb. If she gets any better I might start developing a thing for much older women, which is good, because I seem to be aging myself for some reason. Which leads me to the leading woman, my biggest complaint. Ok, in a bond movie there are usually a few women, and there are here as well, don’t worry, but the main chick just didn’t do it for me. She was hot, sure, and seemed to be quite a talented actress, but I didn’t buy her in her role, and I didn’t feel any chemistry between her and Bond, though that may have been on purpose for story reasons that I am not smart enough to follow. Maybe she nailed her part, but if so, maybe that part needed a bit more refinement, but then again, they don’t let me make many big budget movies, so I may be missing something here.

So, what did I like about it? Well, it was just a great film. Despite its incongruous nature to us lowbrow types, it was enjoyable as hell to watch, even if you have to check your ticket to make sure you are in the correct theater. The intro was the best ever for a bond flick, in its own way. With a single exception (in my opinion) the casting was superb. The parts I missed about the old ones, I got over, and the new parts that would not have worked at all in the old Bond movies where a nice change of perspective to the series. I am truly looking forward to the next one. I wouldn’t suggest it for kids (nothing there for them) and I wouldn’t suggest it to my Dad, who is a big bond fan, but for the rest of you I would give it some witty affirmation of a positive nature.

6 thoughts on “Casino Royale review (yep, spoiler free)”

  1. No spoilers comment:

    Wow, that’s a pretty strong response, negative. The movie was OK, nothing out of this world. But the initial scenes were very well done. And the human stunts were quite good.

    I agree that the usual Bond stuff was missing, and was sorely missed. A departure of sorts, but this was tried before with better results. “For Your Eyes Only” went there partway, and “In Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was similarly lean. But they both kept enough crowd-pleasing elements to make the experiment palatable. “Casino Royale” is more like a hard slap at the face with a wet, droopy towel.

  2. Well I just loved this movie. I completely agree with your Batman Begins comparison, that’s just what I thought after leaving the theatre. I loved the gritty realism in opposition to the over-the-top productions they recently made (I still haven’t seen Die Another Day). Daniel Craig was brilliant, hard-edged, cold, with a wry sense of humor, just as you’d expect a government assassin to be. I didn’t miss the impossible sci-fi gadgets and gizmos at all. Perhaps it was the films based on John Le Carre novels ( that made me better appreciate real spy work. Also, as a technofile, I enjoy films that don’t make me work so hard to suspend my disbelief. And I’m thrilled about the return of the Aston Martin! Bond driving anything else is just wrong.

    The Bond girls were gorgeous, and I guess I didn’t have a problem with Eva Green since I’ve been drooling over her since The Dreamers. There she plays a gorgeous, confident, seductive French girl with a fabulous accent and one of the most perfect bodies in the history of women (and thanks to something called the Internet, I am an authority on the subject). That film might be hard to sit, though, though, as it’s rather artsy and we see too many male parts. But she also plays the object of Orlando Bloom’s (and my) desire in Kingdom of Heaven, which I quite enjoyed the whole way through.

    As for continuity, you have my full sympathies. I didn’t see continuity errors as much as rapid-fire explanations. There were a few times when I thought, “Wow, they just explained a major plot point very quickly! If I didn’t catch that, I’d be lost!” The expository dialogue was quick, and frequently unexpected. While I in no way endorse your option to skip this in the theatre (the foot chase scene alone needs the big screen), I can certainly see how one might want to catch this on DVD, where you can rewind over missed dialogue and pause and think about what was just said, discussing it with members of The Crack Team if need be.

  3. People complained about Texas HoldEm taking the place of Chemin de Fer (or Baccarat?) in the big card game scenes. I did not have a problem. You need to have a certain amount of card-playing expertise, and I don’t think there are too many people out there playing exotic casino games. But everyone knows HoldEm and can follow along with the strategy outlined in the movie. Yet we still had a knowledgeable by-stander providing constant commentary, just in case we have not watched any of the 2,000 hours of HoldEm playing all over cable.

    Movie was good but did not leave me awestruck, as “Batman Begins” did. I do hope that they get back to the usual formula in the next movie, with the gritty edge that has been established. A lot of the better classic movies did this and were successful and enjoyable in their own right. But yeah, I could do with a limit of two funny dialogue quips per movie. Even Connery did them, and was quite successful; there was enough character development to support it.

  4. Right, Baccarat was the fancy-pants game of the idle, “old money” rich back in the ’50s and ’60s, as films from that era have taught me. But a lot of today’s multi-millionaires and billionaires – the kind who might enter a $10M tournament – are nouveau riche, and hence much more familiar with hold ’em than Baccarat. So it was a sign of the times, like that gorgeous DB9.

    What exactly is the usual formula? I assume it’s a return to scientifically impossible gadgets and over-the-top villains with island fortresses populated by armies of uniformed mercenaries and elaborate killing machines. I understand that’s the heritage, but personally, I’m happy it’s becoming much more grounded.

  5. Old: Wolrd-weary secret agent moves thru his next mission with a sense of boredom and
    New: just a little bit more cruelty. Along the way, he uses

    Old: fantastic new gadgets and car-accessories,
    New: which he initially disdains as he rightly should.
    Old: But he ends up using them in innovative ways and saving his skin.

    Old and New: Along the way he meets mysterious, knowledgeable contacts which
    Old and New: are inexplicably taken out of the movie with no explanation!!

    Old: Great villains like Oddjob (skip Jaws)
    New: Boring real-world villains that will hopefully hire the old, colorful villains.

    Old: Q branch puts on a high-tech show
    New: Q branch now housed in Fry’s Electronics, unbeknownst to customers.

    Old: James dallies with some amazing looking ladies.
    New: James is taken to court for palimony, as part of a new conspiracy to kill him.

    Old: Gotta have a car chase that takes you all over exotic locations.
    New: The Amazing Human Chase stays in one location for too long. A limitation of our human range.

    Old: Throw in a couple of gag lines for us to use after the movie.
    New: Throw in a couple of HoldEm strategy tips that we will never use, on hands that will never come up.

    Old: Amazing movie and title score. Go retro, like “The Incredibles” did.
    New: Was there music in this last movie??

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