Gut Reaction: Casino Royale

World / Independent Film

From Jurgen Fauth & Marcy Dermansky,

Gut Reaction: Casino Royale
Everybody’s wondering whether or not Daniel Craig makes a
good James Bond, but of course he’ll do nicely. The truth is,
the role of 007 doesn’t really take much more than a cold
stare and the capacity to look snazzy in a dinner jacket. The
real question: what about Eva Green? We’ve adored the
French ingenue since her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The
Dreamers, and truth be told, she was the real reason we
attended yesterday’s screening at New York’s Ziegfeld
theater. Casino Royale starts out very strong, with gritty
bathroom fights and a breathtaking, Ong-Bak-inspired chase
through a construction site.

Just when the film starts losing steam, Green appears to save
the spy from his own smugness. As Vesper Lynd, the smart
but reserved accountant who lords over Bond’s finances
while he plays high-stakes poker for terrorist funds, Green’s
not only the most intriguing Bond girl since Sophie Marceau,
she’s also the most important since George Lazenby got
hitched to Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Their banter’s charming, the outfits are glamorous, the
villian’s creepy, and the locations are splendid as always
(even if they borrow Natalie Portman’s space retreat from
Attack of the Clones.)

In other words, the ingredients are right, and Casino Royale
had the potential for a truly great Bond movie. The franchise,
which is really an endless series of remakes, always tends
toward bigger, louder, and more cartoonish installments (Die
Another Day was a superhero comic book), and every decade
or so, the producers feel obliged to dial down the nonsense
and reintroduce grit and a real sense of danger. Director
Martin Campbell succeeds on this score, but he doesn’t know
when to stop.

If Casino Royale had kept to a lean, mean 90 minutes, it could
have been the perfect James Bond flick. But it just keeps on
going, and after two and a half hours, all the drama and
tragedy Campbell is obviously aiming for have bled from the
movie, leaving us with nothing more but a headache and the
familiar catchphrase. You’d be better off–and you’d see more
of Eva Green–if you just rewatched The Dreamers, twice. 2
stars. [posted by Jürgen]

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