Saturday, January 1, 2011

Casino Royale. B+

I don't know what's more surprising, the fact that Casino Royale is such a radical shift from the James Bond tradition, or that I'd never actually seen the movie until a few days ago. The second revelation is a result of notion that sometimes you can see a movie without actually seeing it. I'd read and heard so many things about the film, seen so many pictures and trailers, had the ending spoiled before my ears, and actually seen the first 15 minutes a few years back, that it seemed like I had already watched the movie. Plus, I saw Quantum of Solace, which picks up just where Royale cuts off. With so many other movies to see, I didn't feel obliged to sit through Casino Royale when I already knew so much about it. Yet for a reason I'll reveal in an upcoming post, I was forced to sit down and watch the movie in full, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it. I feel like I'm the only person on the planet who hadn't seen it, so I'll avoid stating the obvious points about the film. However I would like to comment on a few scenes that I loved. The chase sequence at the beginning when Bond is pursuing a scared black man is my pick for the best chase scene in Bond history. I may be overlooking a few great ones, but for now this was the one that left me most impressed and exhilarated. It's not a flashy chase with cars or boats. Rather it's all on foot, and full of amazing stunt work as the chaser and the chased constantly climb and, leap, and jump around on buildings and a massive construction site. The other scene I loved was the first encounter between Bond and his love interest, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). We immediately see great chemistry between the two, the stunning beauty of one of the finest Bond girls, and most importantly that the relationship between them will be more complicated and emotionally complete than the romance in previous films in the franchise. Casino Royale is not built on a smooth platform like most James Bond movies are. There's no predictable trajectory because the film tells its story in three mostly distinct parts. There's the beginning, which is action filled because Bond is earning his license to kill. There's the long sequence at the casino, which may be the most charming and pleasing section of the movie. And then there's the unusual third act that mixes a brutal torture scene with a an outburst of love between Bond and Vesper. Then the tragedy ensues, and that leads to Quantum of Solace. Now I only hope that the studio can get its act together and make at least one more Bond movie. With such a grand introduction to the new 007, it would be a shame for it to be all over so soon.

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