Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Jesper Christensen, Judi Dench
Film matched beverage: Vesper Martini
Synopsis: Finally, after years of legal wrangling, Eon got to make Casino Royale, the very first Bond novel that Ian Fleming ever wrote. Being a beginning for Bond in popular culture, they made this film a new beginning for the franchise. Indeed, they went full reboot mode, and to great effect. New film, new start, new Bond. And Daniel Craig made the role his own…. I have previously reviewed this film as part of the 30 Day Film Challenge, though in spirit of the 50th anniversary and the release of the Blu-Ray box set, I thought it appropriate to share my current thoughts on the film. Last time I reviewed it, I did not have the advantage of discussing it in terms of high-definition home cinema. For all these reasons, I considered it high time to revisit it and see if any changes have resulted from the passage of time. My conclusion…. not many changes of opinion at all have occurred. If anything, in high-def, I find even more to appreciate about the film than before.
This film perhaps gets closest to delivering the James Bond of the novels. While still a capable man of action that considers women little more than disposable pleasures, there is also a man scarred by his occupation. The pre-credits sequence really highlights this, showing the Bond really struggles to make his first kill, and the look on his face shows that this has a lot more to do with moral ambiguity rather than the actual difficulty of the fight. This idea is strongly carried throughout, and ably performed by Craig. He make’s Bond’s alcohol interests less about class and more about desperate need. He is also very much the blunt instrument that M describes, with hint of the character who is to come, but still some rough edges to be smoothed over. This is true Fleming, how the character was written. While suave on the outside, the readers had a glimpse at his inner turmoil, only briefly seen in the Dalton era on film, and a bit in Campbell’s previous effort as director, GoldenEye.
This is also the perfect way to introduce the Vesper Lynd storyline, so it was an intelligent decision by all involved. Even in the novels, Vesper has a lasting impact on Bond, so it is appropriate to see that relationship evolve, right from the initial stages when Bind has little respect for women right until Vesper becomes one of the two unforgettable ones in his life. *SPOILER ALERT* The tragic evolution of this story is one of the great things of the book, and as such it is brilliant that they retained the final line of the book. “The job is done, and the bitch is dead” was brilliant not for the fact it had shock value with the swearing, but in subtext it oozes so much hurt and betrayal that he feels in her passing. I like that they used this moment to solidify the relationship between Bond and M as well, which has always been a strength of the entire film franchise.
On top of all this , the high=definition is spectacular, especially given that tis was one of the first Bond films ever released on Blu-Ray. The spectacular scenery really comes to life, and every nuance in every performance is extremely clear. Until now, I never had upgraded my DVD copy to Blu-Ray, and given I know the film so well I could really tell the difference. I can’t believe I ever settled for anything less.
This was the strongest Bond film in a long time, and a really impressive introduction for Craig. Pity I do not look forward to re-reviewing Quantum of Solace with the same passion.
5 stars out of 5
Vesper Martini recipe
1 part vodka
0.5 parts Lillet Blanc (formerly Kina Lillet)
Shaken over ice, and served in a martini glass with a thin slice of lemon peel.
Note: Kina Lillet is known to have been more bitter than Lillet Blanc. For a more authentic taste, one may like to add a few drops of Agnostura Bitters.