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Laramie Movie Scope:
Casino Royale

A new beginning for James Bond

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 18, 2006 -- Perhaps it is fitting that the 21st James Bond movie, the second of the 21st Century, return to its roots. This latest Bond film, “Casino Royale” (the second motion picture adaptation of the book by Ian Flemming) is the first Bond film in a long time to return to an anti-hero much like the one imagined by Ian Flemming during the 20th Century's Cold War. This time, he's fighting terrorists.

Daniel Craig (“Layer Cake”) stars as super secret agent James Bond in this film based on the first James Bond book, and this time, both the character and the story follow the book more closely (closely enough that the original book is being re-issued to coincide with the opening of the film, rather than the usual practice of novelizing the movie itself). As the story opens, Bond has just achieved his double-0 ranking, the license to kill, by dispatching a traitor. Judi Dench returns as Bond's boss, M, and administers a tongue-lashing to Bond after mission in Madagascar goes awry and attracts unwanted publicity for the British Secret Service. In typical fashion, Bond goes off on his own to follow a lead from the Madagascar mission. He begins to track down the mysterious international money launderer Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen of “King Arthur”). Working his way up a food chain of thugs, Bond thwarts a plot by Le Chiffre to manipulate the stock market. This puts Le Chiffre in a tough spot, but Bond must beat Le Chiffre in a high-stakes game of Texas Hold'em at Casino Royale to make sure that Le Chiffre does not escape his fate.

Along the way, Bond falls in love with the beautiful government accountant Vesper Lynd (Eva Green of “Kingdom of Heaven”). That's when the plot gets more complicated, wheels within wheels. The acting is top notch in the film with Craig doing a marvelous job as the no-nonsense tough guy and Mikkelsen creates an effective villain. The stunts, always a signature feature of this series, are excellent, without the use of a lot of car chases and high-tech gadgets. An extended fight and foot chase through a construction site is spectacular. There is a lot of fat in this film, though. It could have been trimmed by 20 minutes or so without sacrificing much. The card games go on to long, and so do some of the fights. There are a variety of places the film could have ended. Just when you think it is over, it goes on some more. There aren't as many endings as “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” but there are few too many.

Perhaps the reason that the James Bond movie saga has come full circle 44 years after it started is that its ruthless anti-hero, born during the cold war, has come back into fashion once again because of the so-called “war on terror.” Britain has found itself a reluctant player in this terror war. This latest war, much like the cold war, is ripe with opportunities for a testosterone-laden, death-dealing adventurer who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

The Bond franchise drew is sustenance from cold war fear, but as that conflict sputtered out, it required more and more outrageous megalomaniacal villains bent on world destruction. The plots became so outrageous the films became easy targets for satirists in such films as the Austin Powers series and the Flint series. As the cold war drew to a close, the Bond hero evolved, becoming more of a gentleman, more refined, less apt to resort to brute force.

Now, with terrorists, we once again have ready-made villains for the movies. Who needs to invent monsters when there are real monsters ready to kill us all? The old Bond, the original Bond, is once again a man of this time. Once more, we have a hero ruthless enough to deal with terrorists by descending to their level. It is no accident the new Bond is played by an actor who usually plays villains and criminals. It is getting harder these days to tell the good guys from the bad guys. If Congress OK's torture and U.S. troops kill civilians, then what is it that sets us apart from the bad guys? Surely not our good intentions. There is no question this new James Bond, who really is the original James Bond, is an anti-hero who reflects who we are. While the film is overlong and has a few too many endings, it is a worthy addition to the long-running series of Bond films. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)