CASINO ROYALE. Bond like never before

The strength of Casino Royale lies in its dialogues, sharp retorts, and static scenes.


9 October 2023

I’ll admit right away that I’m not a fan of Agent 007. Movies with his involvement usually swarm with smaller or larger absurdities that, instead of evoking emotions, bring a smile of pity for the naivety of the scriptwriters. The main character, in each subsequent installment, becomes unbearably obvious and repetitive. Fancy gadgets that always turn out to be incredibly useful, yet their fate, despite reliability and confirmed usefulness, ends in the prototype phase. Increasingly futuristic cars, whose modernity reaches the limits of absurdity, beautiful women, like one-time-use cars, and the obligatory shaken, not stirred Martinis, and the classic: “The name’s Bond. (pause) James Bond” – all these elements, mandatory for series fans, have become tiresome, as how many times can you reheat the same cutlet, changing only the garnish?

Despite this, I must admit that I’ve seen most of the “James Bond saves the world” films because it is an icon of cinematography, the world’s most famous agent, the longest-running series ever (excluding Godzilla), and despite the repetitiveness, naivety, and unintended absurdity, it is usually enjoyable if you overlook many things, immerse yourself in pure entertainment, and delight in the always spectacular special effects, charming partners of Her Majesty’s best agent, captivating locations, cars we’ll never see in real life, etc. However, all of this can become tedious, and even among fans, subsequent Bond adventures (except for the uncritical fanatics) began to raise concerns. The possibilities of modern cinema in terms of special effects are virtually unlimited – does this mean that Bond’s possibilities are also unlimited? And should they be? After Die Another Day  with features close to self-parody, it seemed obvious that the series needed a breath of fresh air, a change. And here we have Casino Royale. Indeed, a Bond like never before…

First and foremost, Agent 007 underwent a similar treatment to Batman (Nolan’s version) – a return to the beginnings (Casino Royale is the first in the series of Bond adventures) and, most importantly, an approach to reality, realism, and autonomy from predecessors. Until now, the laws of the series were unbreakable; only actors changed (out of necessity). In Casino Royale, we are dealing with a completely different Bond than before. Is he better? Different, less comic-book-like, more credible. James Bond played by Craig is a man who can switch off his emotions to kill with cold blood; then he becomes a killing machine (even runs like T-1000). But he can also turn them on to love a woman. Every previous Bond was seemingly a gentleman who played cards, murdered people, drove cars, seduced women with equal grace, and then brushed them off (and they still loved him). Always ironic, charming, and infallible. Craig’s Bond bleeds, gets dirty, makes mistakes, and can be simply, beastly brutal. But sometimes, when a woman cries, he embraces her, not to undress her, but to cover her with a blanket, turn off the light, and leave. Yes, such a Bond loses a lot in uniqueness because he gets closer to many other action movie heroes (like Ethan Hunt), but after so many films where James Bond is the king of film agents in the minds of viewers worldwide, this change seems to work well for him. Changes, especially in iconic elements, always stir controversy, but such changes are necessary, especially when dealing with such a long series. However, it’s essential for innovations to be appropriate. Of course, the actor embodying Agent 007 always generates the most excitement.

Daniel Craig, despite unfavorable press and protests from fans, turns out to be an excellent Bond. In the formula of a comic-book and idealized hero created by Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan, he would probably be lost. However, in this new, more realistic incarnation, the actor seems to feel very comfortable, like in a well-fitted tuxedo, which he wears with ease. It’s also worth noting that the latest Bond is a youngster, freshly promoted, who is just finding himself in the world of big money and higher spheres, occasionally making blunders. This complicates the attempts to chronologically place the film in the series because, on the one hand, this is the first, young Bond, so he should be placed at the beginning. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the action takes place contemporaneously, as indicated by absolutely everything – hairstyles, costumes, cars, mobile phones. And if someone still had doubts, M in one scene says, “I miss the times of the Cold War.” This is the first clue that Casino Royale clearly distinguishes itself from the entire series. But not entirely – all the “staples” in the film are present, only in a changed form, distant from “Bond conventions,” closer to realism, and more motivated. So James gets a company supercar, but without a hidden console controlling onboard artillery, a catapult, and responsible for transforming this marvel into a helicopter. Bond’s girl is not just a mascot of the film but has an interesting personality. The main villain doesn’t engage in refined ways of torturing or killing the main character, who, with the help of a watch, cuts the bonds and escapes like David Copperfield. And when the waiter asks if the Martini should be shaken or stirred, he replies, “I don’t give a damn.” “Casino Royale” refers to the series, but only to prove a moment later that it is an entirely different film.

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Casino Royale is challenging to consider the best film in the series due to the loss of the characteristic atmosphere that has a massive fan base. Those who appreciate more realistic action cinema will undoubtedly leave the screening very satisfied, as the only characteristic retained in comparison to predecessors is the undeniable spectacle, especially the chase scene on the construction site, reminiscent of “Yamakasi,” remains memorable for a long time. However, the strength of Casino Royale lies in its dialogues, sharp retorts, and static scenes, like poker games (knowing the rules helps), which provide the right dose of tension. Everything is well-balanced and presented in appropriate doses, so despite the film being very long, on the one hand, it doesn’t bore, and on the other hand, it doesn’t allow the viewer to feel the saturation that accompanies many purely spectacular productions.

I don’t know if the film will appeal to James Bond fans, but certainly, Casino Royale can be recommended to its opponents. This film has been stripped of all those elements that irritated many (including me), leaving good, intelligent, but not too heavy action cinema, which optimistically allows us to look to the future – a flood of sequels awaits us, but “Casino Royale” alongside Batman Begins is proof that any series can be refreshed by creating slightly different, attractive cinema.



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