Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé
Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis, Ian Fleming (novel)
James Bond's (Daniel Craig) first "007" mission leads him to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world's terrorists. In order to stop him, and bring down the terrorist network, Bond must beat Le Chiffre in a poker game at the Casino Royale. Bond meets a beautiful British Treasury official, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who is assigned to deliver his stake for the game and watch over the government's money. But, as Bond and Vesper survive a series of lethal attacks by Le Chiffre and his henchmen, a mutual attraction develops.
$40.833 million on 3434 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 144 min.
Release Date: 3/13/2007
• “Becoming Bond” Featurette
• “James Bond: For Real” Featurette
• “Bond Girls Are Forever” Featurette
• Music Video
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
Casino Royale: Special Edition (2006)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 6, 2007)
By my reckoning, 2006’s Casino Royale stands as the second time the series’ producers really tried to “relaunch” the franchise. One can argue with my claim for the first relaunch: 1995’s GoldenEye. It was notable because it featured a new Bond in the form of Pierce Brosnan, but it didn’t differ from prior flicks to a huge degree. It came across as a relaunch mainly because it’d been six years since the last Bond flick, and it felt like a minor attempt to invigorate the series with some new talent.
On the other hand, Royale clearly acts as an attempt to change Bond and make him more relevant for the new millennium. Not only did the producers go four years between flicks – the second-longest gap after the span between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye - and a new Bond in the person of Daniel Craig, but also it took the franchise back to its beginnings via its story.
In Royale, we find a younger, less experienced Bond (Craig). At the film’s start, we see him earn his 00 status, and then the flick takes us to Uganda. We meet Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a baddie who runs investments for various shady sorts. In the meaintime, we see Bond on a mission to capture a bomb-maker connected to Le Chiffre. His harsh approach results in serious problems, especially since he ends up on the grounds of an embassy – and caught on camera.
This embarrasses the British government and lands Bond in hot water with his boss “M” (Judi Dench). Though she orders him to lay low for a while, he heads to the Caribbean to follow a lead he obtained when he took the bomb-maker’s cell phone. This eventually leads up the rope to Le Chiffre, who loses a lot of dough when he gambles his clients’ money.
With the need to raise cash to make up for this shortfall, Le Chiffre stages a very high stakes poker game in Casino Royale. “M” sends Bond to ensnare Le Chiffre in the contest, and financial specialist Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) goes along to watch the cash. The rest of the movie follows various forms of intrigue, action and romance.
Occasionally the folks behind Bond trumpet a “back to basics”, grittier approach to the series. This happened twice in the Roger Moore days with Live and Let Die and For Your Eyes Only as well as in the brief Timothy Dalton era of the late Eighties. Royale goes down this path again, though with the most satisfying results. Mind you, I dug the two Dalton flicks, but Royale reignites the series in a very compelling manner.
Much of the credit goes to Craig’s steely performance as Bond. Many criticized his casting but he proves the naysayers wrong via his strong take on the part. Craig has to give us a different kind of Bond, since he’s a work in progress. We watch his personality evolve through the film, while the other actors played Bond as an already concrete character.
Craig pulls off these challenges without self-consciousness. He doesn’t wink back at prior Bonds or overplay the character’s development. Instead, he makes the transformation natural and effective. We watch Craig pull the character together on screen and present a dynamic, compelling personality.
And a darker one. Much has been made of Royale’s choice to provide a grimmer tale, and I feared this decision might backfire. It was possible the filmmakers would go so far in that direction that the result would no longer feel like Bond.
To my delight, that never occurs. Instead, the grittiness serves the character and story, and these elements allow the flick to pack a greater emotional punch than usual. We really do find a more human Bond, and the feelings that develop serve the flick well. He’s an emotionally distant, impetuous hothead, and damned interesting to boot.
Royale really does eschew many of the series’ staples. That means no “Q”, no memorable gadgets, and only a hint of the Bond theme. The movie uses the latter in a clever manner. I won’t discuss it since it could act as a spoiler, but though we get the theme, it doesn’t come across in the normal playful, triumphant way.
And let the ladies rejoice: the eye candy that is Craig shows a lot of skin in Royale. Call me a pig if you must, but that’s the only change found here that I don’t like. Bond exposes himself all over the place but we hardly get a glance of any women in various levels of undress. That’s progress? The flick even calls back Ursula Andress’s iconic emergence from the sea in Dr. No but features a swimsuit-clad Bond instead!
Though the story lacks the usual fantasy and sheen, Royale creates an involving and taut tale. At 144 minutes, this is one of the longest Bond ever made; it runs a couple of minutes longer than 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Despite that extended running time, the flick never feels slow or leaden. It moves briskly and keeps us with it at all times.
This seems especially amazing given the static nature of the movie’s second act. Much of that segment sticks us at the poker table. Sure, the story spices things up with an action sequence or two to give us a break in the card games, but the tale remains pretty focused on folks as they sit around a table.
Despite that potential handicap, Royale stays compelling. I know that when I saw it theatrically I never felt bored or distracted, and neither problem developed during my second screening on DVD. Indeed, I found myself almost shocked at how quickly the film flew by me. Whenever I’d peek at my player, I’d feel surprised at how much of the movie had passed. This is a quick 144 minutes.
From top to bottom, I find a lot to like in Casino Royale and very little to criticize. It’s easily the best Bond flick in years and it accomplishes the daunting cast of reworking the series. I can’t wait to see where Bond goes next.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B
Casino Royale appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick offered a good transfer that just barely fell below “A” level.
Sharpness almost always seemed strong. A smidgen of softness impacted on wider shots, but those elements occurred infrequently. The majority of the flick looked detailed and well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and only a little light edge enhancement could be seen. Source flaws were absent, though some mild artifacting occasionally appeared.
In keeping with its gritty tone, Royale went with a fairly subdued palette. At times it showed richer tones, especially in the glamorous Casino Royale setting. However, colors usually looked a bit low-key and pale, which kept with the flick’s design. Blacks appeared dense and tight, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. Overall, the image was very satisfying.
Matters worked even better with the terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Casino Royale. The movie offered a consistently vivid soundfield. Of course, the various action sequences brought the movie to life the best. I especially liked the dramatic scene at the Miami Airport, as various elements formed a dynamic setting. The rest of the movie also fleshed out the environment to a satisfying degree, and this was a good five-channel setting.
Audio quality also seemed positive. Speech came across as natural and crisp, with no edginess or other issues. Music appeared vivid and dynamic, and effects fell into the same category. Those elements sounded accurate and full, and I noticed no distortion or other problems. The audio worked very well for the movie.
A smattering of extras rounds out the set. All of them appear on DVD Two. Becoming Bond runs 26 minutes, 15 seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from director Martin Campbell, producers Dana Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, casting director Debbie McWilliams, screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, stunt coordinator Gary Powell, stunt double Ben Cooke, and actors Daniel Craig, Caterino Murino, Jeffrey Wright, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Sebastien Foucan, and Mads Mikkelsen. The program looks at the novel’s path to the screen and its adaptation, finding a new Bond and how Craig landed the part, shooting in Prague and the Bahamas, Craig’s training, characters and performances, reactions to Craig’s casting, stunts and effects, and filming specific sequences.
While the title of the show implies a focus on Craig’s performance, “Becoming” really acts as a general “making of” piece. The program does give us a few glimpses of the Craig-specific side but those don’t dominate. Instead, it goes into various production components. Though not as comprehensive as I’d like – and presented in a somewhat scattershot manner – “Becoming” provides a decent overview.
James Bond: For Real fills 23 minutes and 31 seconds. It features Craig, Powell, Wilson, Foucan, Cooke, Green,special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, art director Peter Francis, freerunners John Kirr and Curtis Small, stunt driver Adam Kirley, second unit special effects floor supervisor Ian Lowe, second unit assistant director Terry Madden, and second unit director Alex Witt. “Real” examines the movie’s various stunt sequences. We learn of location choices and the nuts and bolts of many difficult scenes. The show goes into the elements with appropriate detail and allows us to get a good look at this side of the production.
Fun fact you won’t learn from this DVD: Foucan performed as part of Madonna’s troupe during her 2006 Confessions Tour.
Next comes the 48-minute, 54-second Bond Girls Are Forever. A 2006 TV special hosted by Maryam d’Abo, it includes notes from Dench, Green, Murino and actors Halle Berry, Jill St. John, Ursula Andress, Luciana Paluzzi, Honor Blackman, Jane Seymour, Maud Adams, Lois Childs, Carey Lowell, Michelle Yeoh, Samantha Bond, and Rosamund Pike. All of the actors reflect on their Bond experiences and the general legacies of the series.
“Forever” spans the realm of promotional fluff and interesting retrospective, but it usually stays in the latter vein. The frequent use of movie clips mean that the show clearly wants to promote the franchise, but the actors take on questions we don’t normally see addressed in this kind of piece. I especially like the chat between d’Abo and Lowell about working with Timothy Dalton. The program turns into a reasonably intriguing and enjoyable documentary.
We also find a music video. Created for Chris Cornell’s theme song “You Know My Name”, it presents a mix of movie clips and shots of a lip-synching Cornell. We also get a minor spy story that involves Cornell, but it doesn’t take much of the piece’s time. The song’s decent, but this is a forgettable video.
DVD One opens with ads for Spider-Man 3, The Pursuit of Happyness and The Holiday. Over on DVD Two, we find these same clips plus additional Previews for Premonition, Rocky Balboa, and Spider-Man 2.1. No trailer for Casino Royale appears on the DVD.
Quick Tip: It may be worth noting that Texas Hold 'Em Poker is a more enjoyable game in real life than how it is depicted in this rather slow part of Casino Royale. There are myriad opportunities to try out Hold 'Em for free on the Internet. Give it a try and find out today.
The Bond franchise takes a darker path with 2006’s Casino Royale. It commits to a harsher reality and turns into one of the series’ most satisfying entries. The DVD presents very good picture and audio along with a few interesting extras. This is a pretty solid release for a terrific movie.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6 Stars|| Number of Votes: 85|