Movie Review: Casino Royale (Bond).
"Some of these guys go to Vegas thinking they are James Bond, and then come back realizing they are more like Weird Al."
Several years ago, I overheard this put-down in the Orange County (John Wayne) airport terminal when a flight arrived from Vegas, as beaten-down gamblers drudged past with their lightened wallets and unenlightened faces.
Implicit in this quote is that Bond and poker prowess go hand-in-hand. Any doubt about this gambling connection is eviscerated by the latest installment of the Bond franchise: Casino Royale. Capitalizing on the popularity of Texas Hold-Em, poker features prominently in the film from the revamped opening credits to the plot.
I was somewhat surprised to see Paul Haggis among the three with screenwriting credits for Casino Royale. Lately, he has been associated with penning more controversial fare from Million Dollar Baby to Crash. While one wouldn't expect a Bond film to be especially edgy or erudite, this film transitions from a gadget-laden romp to a more cerebral exercise of witty dialogue and spy intrigue. While I can't be sure it came from Haggis' pen, there were some unnecessary anti-religious or traditionalist statements seemingly thrown in to ensure the audience was paying attention to the dialogue, or to advance a worldview through the actors.
For Bond aficionados, Casino Royale delivers the requisite chase and action sequences. However, they were executed with a unique flair. The foot chase scene early in the movie employed moves more reminiscent of Spider Man than Bourne Supremacy. At the end, instead of sinking a ship, they sank a building. That is not a typo--a building is sunk. Innovative. You have to give credit also for its realism; the CGI, which presumably was used, was not overt as the choppy battle scenes in say, Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Regarding the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, he nailed it. While I came into the film inclined as a fan, because I enjoyed Mr. Craig's work in Munich, he even exceeded my expectations. I look forward to more films with him in the driver's seat.
Negatively, clocking in at 144 minutes, the movie took on a life of its own, and seemed longish.
Nevertheless, enjoy the ride.
Casino Royale earns a "B+."