#17- Casino Royale (2006)

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This post was written by guest writer Bryan Hernandez

Who's List This Was On:
- Bryan Hernandez: #9
- The 'Bright' One: #10

Directed By: Martin Campbell
Written By: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench,Mads Mikkelsen, and Jeffrey Wright
Based Upon: The book Casino Royale by Jason Fleming

The Plot

Daniel Craig portrays the classic character James Bond in a re-boot of the series. Casino Royale is an origin story of how James Bond becomes JAMES BOND and 007. Bond uncovers a terrorist plot created by Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen) and Bond must play in an international high stakes Texas Hold 'Em tournament started by Le Chiffre in order to get a better grasp on the terrorists plans.

Why This Movie Is Great

Hollywood seems to be all about the gritty re-boot these days. While this trend could be a breeding ground for some top-notch crap, film audiences can thank it for several fine motion pictures. Casino Royale is a perfect example.

For those of you know don’t know myself, I am a certified James Bond fanatic. In what has been called “an ostentatious display of wealth,” I own every single movie in an extensive box set, a custom tailored Goldfinger-esque white tux jacket, several real bowties, and both Omega watches worn by 007. Mr. Bond and his creator Ian Fleming can do practically no wrong in my eyes. That being said, Die Another Day is an abomination of a film. Bond villains, plots, and settings have always been far fetched, but Die Another Day approached another level. After 1995’s Goldeneye, the series went into free fall, releasing three films of decreasing quality, culminating in the disaster of Die Another Day. Casino Royale represents the coup de grĂ¢ce that the series needed (and that fans like me had been craving). Casino injected some much needed realism and relevance into one of the greatest franchises of all time.

Sure Casino Royale capitalizes on some of Hollywood’s favorite money making techniques for creating a sure-fire and high-grossing modern action movie. The shaky “JitterCam” cinematography and highly choreographed fight scenes are straight out of the Bourne movies. What sets Casino apart from both other modern action movies as well as the rest of the franchise is new Bond actor Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the timeless 007 character.

Long time Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took a big chance casting Craig as James Bond; the media outcry over the casting of a blonde James Bond almost sunk the film before filming. In true Bond fashion, however, the gamble paid off in spades. Casino Royale is actually the first Bond story to be written by Fleming, and Craig is tasked with taking the Bond character from his earlier, rough and raw days. The film opens before Bond even obtains his ubiquitous “Double 0” status. Audiences used to the polished, suave, and sophisticated Bonds of Connery, Brosnan, et.al. did not recognize this agent. It is up to Craig to convincingly create a course and blunt Bond and then evolve his creation into the debonair agent audiences know and love.

Casino takes the audience on that journey, with Craig perfectly balancing the “blunt instrument” Bond with the slick and sophisticated one. The story is engaging, with appropriate pauses that not only entertain, but also seamlessly advance the plot of this specific Bond adventure while simultaneously establishing the background of the entire Bond franchise. The perfect example is Bond’s first on-screen card game, in which he slyly wins his wealthy opponent’s Aston Martin DB5... thus establishing Bond’s gambling prowess and obtaining pertinent mission information (plot-specific) as well as the origin of Bond’s famous Aston and his infamous luck (franchise-specific).

All of the necessary elements of the classic Bond film are present, from the action, the cars, the girls, the guns, and the quick one-liners delivered with a smirk. What puts this film over the top is the new, darker edge Craig brings to the Bond character... one that evolves in the second installment of the re-booted Bond, Quantum of Solace and, hopefully continues in the latest installment Skyfall, due out in fall of 2012.

Whether you’re new to the James Bond franchise or a seasoned veteran of 007’s exploits, Casino Royale is not just a great James Bond film, it is a great film in general. Period.