Saturday, January 06, 2007

Casino Royale (2006)

Martin Campbell's pretty good at this ground-level no-frills action stuff, isn't he though? This, the best Bond film since Campbell's previous crack at the superspy (Goldeneye), is (as probably everyone knows by now) an attempt to bring the series back to basics; as much as I enjoyed the ridiculous hyperbolic insanity of the Brosnan Bonds, the move was a wise one. Daniel Craig, despite the negative vibes broadcast by certain parties, turns out to be a natural for this version of Bond -- he nails the awkwardness, cocksureness and hustling improvisation that comes with James, newly outfitted with 007 status, being thrust into life-or-death situations for the first time, yet he also exudes an air of sleek menace and quick-to-adapt intelligence. Simply put, he looks like the kind of guy who could make good use of a license to kill. His extraordinary (and oft-displayed) physical condition mirrors the condition of the film; all the bloat and fat of the last couple Bonds has been pared away, leaving behind a lean and muscular thrill machine. Campbell keeps the film moving at a taut clip (efficiency is the watchword here), and though he eventually succumbs to the temptation of shaky-cam action lensing (the final battle in the crumbling Venetian building is spatially disorienting, to say the least), he also keeps the film's energy from flagging. Then there's Eva Green, who not only provides sumptuous eye candy but demonstrates (here, of all films) that her acting chops have improved significantly since her stilted turn in The Dreamers. This should be an object lesson to Hollywood action filmmakers about how to create an exciting spectacle without resorting to hopeless excess, but I doubt the lesson will stick. Still, we'll always have Montenegro.

Grade: B+


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