Casino Royale Review

Casino Royale (2006) Written by Ian Fleming | Directed by Martin Campbell

Summary – Part I: The Story

Casino Royale tells the story of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), an Albanian mathematical genius and chess prodigy turned shady personal banker, that funds terrorist and rebel groups for a heavy profit by investing their money into stocks. Le Chiffre inevitably gets in over his head and loses all the investment money. In order to win it back and keep himself from being killed, he has to challenge MI6’s James Bond in a supreme game of Poker at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Simultaneously, James Bond has just gained 007 status, and while he’s an astute agent in areas of blunt aggression and tactic, he is naive and arrogant. He loses his focus when he falls in love with a foreign liaison agent from Her Majesty’s Treasury, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green.) Bond is now faced with the challenge to beat Le Chiffre (French for “The Number”) at his own game, with the unknown disadvantage of cupid’s arrow, and survive his first mission that can only be won with the knowledge that absolutely no one can be trusted.

Summary – Part II: The “It” Factor

Casino Royale is such a special film because it’s the genesis of Daniel Craig as the new face and energy of the 007 franchise, and in my opinion, the best Bond to date. There are three main reasons this character has been unique. 

For starters, Daniel Craig’s James Bond is all killer, no filler. He will punch you in the face. He will shoot his mark mid-sentence. He does not small talk his way through. He skips to the chase, win or lose, and in each moment, he’s willing to go full-send to get what he wants. While Bond films have always encompassed British opulence, sophistication & elegance, Daniel adds a new emotional layer to those experiences, which leads us to the second reason this adaption is appealing. Underneath the lavish Aston Martins, five star hotels, Omega watches, tailored wardrobe, and fancy martinis, Daniel Craig’s Bond does not come from money. There’s an underlying disdain for high-snob society that makes his rebellious nature one that separates him from the others.

The third and final distinguishing element of this character is that the driving forces of Daniel as a 007 agent – his loyalty and love of country – are more about righting the wrongs of the world to heal the pain he himself has endured. He uses intuition and experience as a compass as opposed to blindly following orders because justice is personal for him. This is not a rebellion born of a person bored with affluence and power. This rebellion was birthed with the experience as an orphan, and at someone else’s expense, receiving a prestigious college education granting him access to the higher echelons of society. This is the rebellion of someone who knows what it’s like on both sides of classism; someone who knows what it’s like to be a nobody in the world’s eyes and how quickly that can change when aristocracy takes precedence. This background gives him the advantage to see things that those in his social class cannot, and to challenge the status quo, especially that of a government agent, in ways uncharted by his predecessors. Often times, breaking the rules, challenging authority and speaking truth to power are frowned upon, especially by someone from the lower-class of life. But here, Daniel Craig showcases the beauty of surviving this dynamic, and how these experiences fuel him to be the best 007 agent to ever do it.     

Bullet #1: Cinematography Rating: 5/5 

Although most of the movie was shot in Prague using a studio set, I will refer to the scene locations as they are listed in the movie. Both Uganda & Madagascar feel tropical & rebellious. I was happy that the first few scenes showcased strong Black men. I personally love feeling that Africa is being showcased for its beauty, so the intro to Steven Obanno, (Isaach de Bankolé) and Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) are some of my favorite moments. I also really like the instant spy vibes of the opening scene shot elegantly in black & white with Dyden (Malcolm Sinclair.) The Nassau scenes showcase the beautiful beach and country club atmosphere. Here, as a viewer, you feel that opulence and higher echelon energy really flowing for the first time in the film and this is where you get to see that James isn’t really here for the rich-folk antics. Seeing him crashing the Range Rover into another car for the fun of it and also using it as a convenient distraction to review security tapes really makes my spirit happy. The cinematic jewel of the movie is at the Casino Royale. These scenes are my favorite and are the most beautifully shot moments that keep me re-watching. The movie also covers gorgeous shots in Venice and closes with a visit to Mr. White’s home for the final scene where 007 gets to sing his infamous “The name’s Bond. James Bond.”     

Bullet #2: Wardrobe Rating: 5/5 

Who run the world? Girls! Please put your hands together for Costume Designer Lindy Hemming, who absolutely SLAYED the wardrobe for this movie. The creme de la creme fashion moment is without a doubt, Solange Dimitrios (Caterina Murino) after the poker game her husband loses to Bond. This dress looks like it  feels like heaven to touch. It begs to be taken off seductively. Give. Me. This. Dress!!    Bond shines in each scene, covered in beautiful linens, fancy trench coats, and of course the crisp white French cuff shirts with white suspenders and the tailored-to-a-tee suits and dinner jackets. Vesper Lynd also has several cat-walk moments, most of which are perfectly androgynous. My favorite, however, is the purple gown.    

Bullet #3: Action Rating: 5/5      

Casino Royale is pretty turnt’ up. At about 20 min intervals, for the duration of the movie, there’s something popping off. You will get your taste of thrills. From the beautiful classic cars and their most current successors, to some of the best Bond girls, and a journey through cat and mouse chases in Africa, Nassau, Miami, Montenegro and Venice. There are sub-machine guns, machetes, tractors, tanks, bombs, Jason Bourne-esque tracking implants & torture rooms. There are few moments of lasting quiet and calm. 

Bullet #4: Music Rating: 5/5

First things first, rest in peace Chris Cornell. For real. (J. Cole voice) “You Know My Name” is easily my favorite Bond theme song of all times. No one will ever beat it. The raspiness in his voice. The connectivity to the character. The accuracy of the beast that is being a mercenary to a government that will dispose of you once you’re depleted and the allure that you will survive unscathed. It’s perfect. Throughout the movie, the orchestra does a phenomenal job of upholding the theme melody in pivotal moments and in scene transitions. It is strung together beautifully. Major props to co-writer and Casino Royale full movie score composer, David Arnold.

Bullet #5: Favorite Scenes: 5/5     

There are many favorite scenes to choose from. Here are the ones you need in your life:

 1. The Valet Scene!

This is a rich-man’s doorbell ditch and secretly on my mischievous things to do  bucket-list.

2. M Got Game!

When James breaks into M’s home to dig deeper into ELLIPSIS, they have a conversation and she gives him a few words of advice that he won’t understand until the end of the movie. M: “This may be too much for a blunt instrument to understand, but arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand-in-hand.” JAMES: “So you want me to be half monk, half hit-man?” M: “Any thug can kill. I want you to take your ego out of the equation and judge the situation dispassionately.” I love this exchange. It is a very fancy way of saying “Get out of your feelings”

Another favorite quote from M in this movie is “Sometimes we pay so much attention to our enemies, we forget to watch our friends as well.” I think both quotes are good to keep in our back pockets. We’re not all hit-men, but the concept is universal.

3. Til Poker Do Us Part: 

I must admit, the top photo may resonate as a bit morbid, but I loved the  skeleton museum scene. The correlation between the films themes of poker being the coin-toss for life or death, both metaphorically and literally is such a great visual analogy. The art direction for the opening scene also used the cards so well as a prop to introduce how poker and mercenary go hand-in-hand. The colors are so harmonious and fit the mood like a glove. I want to take this moment to really celebrate Daniel Kleinman, William Bartlett & Johnnie Frankel. Together, these three men pulled off one of the best visuals to open a movie in this genre.

4. Love on the Montenegro Express:

The scene that introduces Bond to Vesper Lynd is a jewel. Their interaction is crisp. An intellectual snack of cat & mouse. It establishes that there will be conflict later in the movie between these two. Vesper is very feminist, and reminds Bond that his charming antics have not slipped through her mental grasp. She is seemingly different from the beautiful but vapid Solange Dimitrios – and will not be whisked away for a one night stand that took only a lazy pick-up line & a bottle of champagne. For a moment in this two hour plus film, she gives James a run for his money, but the differences between Vesper & Solange are short lived, as Vesper’s thoroughness & determination are not entirely motivated by her affection for Bond. When character alone is judged in the movie’s final moments, you will take note that James was sincere and had a deeper loyalty to truth than Vesper. 

5. A little to the left!

My final favorite moment is when Bond is being tortured by Le Chiffre. Him taking a sadist approach to the torture was really fun because it forced Le Chiffre to really lose his cool, which is something that most villains aren’t supposed to do. It lets you know the protagonist is having an effect and that our deep human quest for good to beat evil is coming into play. James sticks to the code. In the streets, there’s a gold star for this type of loyalty. JAMES: “A little to the left. No. To the  right.” “The world will know you died scratching my balls.”

This completes my review of Casino Royale. If you’re not already, please follow our instagram for more content. @filmmesnoire. 

Written by Deja

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