Sunday, December 24, 2006
Coldest Blood Runs Through His Veins

Nowadays, the best way to revive an established, well-loved character is to go back to his roots and trace the origins of his past. It worked for Batman Begins, and it works for Casino Royale. I love character-driven stories, and in this latest installment (which is actually a prequel of sorts) we get a peek into the events and experiences of Bond's earlier days just when he was promoted to 007 status. What he goes through in this movie molds him into the Bond that we know.

To be honest, I'm not much of a Bond fan really. I mean, I've seen all of the Pierce Brosnan movies because I could, and not because I had to watch them. To be fair, they were well-made and stylishly produced like any good 007 flick should be, but too much of a good thing can still get old and bland after a while. This is the first Bond I've had some emotional attachment to mainly because of the range of feelings Daniel Craig was able to provide for the character. He's ruthlessly efficient when slugging it out with the bad guys, yet has a touch of dry British humor in certain scenes - for instance, it was funny when he was visibly annoyed after Versper picked out a dinner jacket for him. And a touch of drama too: he actually confesses his love (and says the "L" word!) for the leading lady in this one, as opposed to his cool and calculated seduction of the many women he has yet to meet in future trysts.

Casino Royale was well-done because it was bold enough to forego the usual wisecracking Bond persona and instead present a rookie 007 who's just about to learn just how vicious his line of work really is. This a great interpretation of the famous MI6 agent who hasn't learned all the tricks in the book just yet, and is still a bit rough around the edges. He still gets the job done, but not without making some mistakes along the way that will cost him dearly.There was one shot I liked in particular which was a close up of Bond's freshly scarred face (right after thwarting a terrorist plot to blow up an airliner).

This Bond has a brutality to him, which is established in the pre-credits bathroom scene where he beats an enemy's face to a bloody pulp. It's pretty obvious to anyone who has seen the movie, but it's still noteworthy to mention there are no gadgets used in this one (unless you count the skin-embedded tracking device/health monitor and defibrilator). That leaves Bond only with his wits, ammuntion and raw strength to contend with his foes in this adventure. This was bound to upset a few people I suppose. For instance, there was some moron whining on YouTube that didn't really get why they chose to discard the gizmos. On another note, I'm glad the villain (Le Chiffre) wasn't the cliche megalomaniacal mastermind planning world domination - he's just in it for the money.

As refreshing as it is however, there are still some key elements that were wisely kept intact so as not to alienate the fans and retain a sense of familiarity. It wouldn't be a Bond film without the exotic locations, the cars, and of course the women, so I was thankful they kept those items in their checklist.

This is getting too long so I'll cap this off with a round up of the other things I liked about the movie. First off, there's a cool twist on the traditional gunbarrel sequence by building it in to the opening credits that follow right after. This time we actually see who the ill-fated gunman is. As for the actual opening sequence itself, the stylized animation showing Bond in action departs from the usual scantily clad (or naked) women accompanying the opening credits. It's a great way of showing what ol' James is best at, and Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" complements the whole sequence (and the film's overall theme in general). It blows my mind that this is the same guy that sang "Black Hole Sun" and "Rusty Cage". Cornell's voice was the last one I expected to hear in a Bond theme but his vocal range fit the song suprisingly well. Who would have known? There were a copule more scenes I liked, namely the verbal sparring between James and Vesper upon their first meeting, and the Parkour-inspired foot chase scene with the bombmaker.

Oh, and my favorite line:

Bartender: "Would you like your Martini shaken or stirred?"

Bond: "Does it look like I give a damn?"