Sunday, November 26, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

Warning: There will be some spoilers in this post, but they’ll be minor. I’ll put anything that’s a spoiler into a pop-up, so if you don’t want to ruin anything, don’t click the pop-ups.

As most—if not all—of my readers know, I’m a big James Bond fan. So I was really looking forward to the release of Casino Royale, and hoping to see it in the theatre. (There have been a number of movies that I’d hoped to see in the theatre, lately, but I don’t usually get to.)

But tonight, Andrea had plans that didn’t include me, and since I was going to be eating alone, I was trying to think of something to have for supper, that she wouldn’t like. It suddenly occurred to me: Forget about supper, go see a movie that she wouldn’t like! So I got my chance.

Enough preamble. I loved this movie. I think it might have been one of the best Bond movies, although, of course, I expect a million 007 fans out there would disagree with me, and I really don’t care to argue the point. It seemed like a more “grown up” Bond movie; it still had all of the elements that make a 007 movie a 007 movie, but it also felt more… mature, I guess. I think the first thing that hinted to me that this would be a slightly different Bond was the opening credits; there weren’t silhouettes of naked women! I was quite pleasantly surprised.

As you probably already know, if you care about such things, this movie is a “James Bond prequel”. It takes place at the beginning of his career, right after he’s obtained “double-oh” status. (i.e., his license to kill.) I thought that was a great idea; the movie is based on Ian Fleming’s first book, so why not make it Bond’s first adventure? I also thought this was a good way to introduce a new actor, to play Bond. And I think Daniel Craig did a very good job, as Bond. (Most of the people I talked to, who saw the movie, agreed with me, except that numerous people thought it was odd to see a blonde James Bond. Personally, it wasn’t much of a problem, for me.)

Unfortunately, they created some minor inconsistencies for themselves, by doing this. First of all, they have Judi Dench playing M again—except that Judi Dench wasn’t supposed to have been Bond’s superior since the beginning. Remember the scene in GoldenEye, when she has that little talk with Bond, about whether he’s comfortable working for a woman? No? Okay, neither do I, then.

The other thing, which I think is very minor, is that Casino Royale seems to be taking place now, not 20 or 30 or whatever years ago. But since they’re doing their best not to have Bond ever age, I guess that’s not an issue, is it? So back to the review…

Overall, I think this was a good spy movie. Even people who don’t watch the Bond movies might enjoy this one; it’s more realistic, and slightly less sexist than usual. (Not much, but a little.) For example, there are some love interests for him in this one—you know it’s a Bond film because there isn’t “a” love interest, there are multiple love interests—but only two, and he only actually ends up sleeping with one of them.

On the minus side, when it comes to sexism, the scenes with Caterina Murino are about as sexist as you can get. Scenes of her riding horse back, in a bikini, for no apparent reason except that… well… they wanted to have scenes of a beautiful woman riding horseback in a bikini. And then they’ve got Ivana Milicevic as one of the villains, and she has no purpose in the movie except to wear an outfit that was mostly missing. (I think they actually forgot to dress her, and somebody just throw a belt over her chest, to cover her up.) She really doesn’t have a role in this movie; she’s only in a few scenes, and even in some of those scenes, she’s not actually part of it; she’s just in the background, with the extras.

Another thing I found very interesting about this movie was the music. It wasn’t your typical Bond-esque music. When he would do something very Bond-like, I’d always be expecting the James Bond guitar riff to play, but it didn’t happen. I realized, at the end of the movie, why this was, and I actually agree with their decision, but it was still odd, on first viewing.

There’s probably other things I’d like to say, but suffice it to say that the Bond series is growing up, and I think they did it well. It took some guts to do some of the things they did—making a prequel, holding back on the Bond music, having less sex—and personally, I think it paid off.