By Morgan Habedank, Guest Film Critic
I have never been a huge Bond fan. I think I am too young to have understood and appreciated the mystique associated with Sean Connery in Dr. No or Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me. The Bond movies of my era – the Pierce Brosnan era - have been very forgettable. Of the four titles from this era, Goldeneye is the only one that sparks any emotion. And sadly enough, this emotion has absolutely no connection to the film itself. In fact, I have never seen Goldeneye and I have absolutely zero desire to ever see it. Instead, the emotion is derived from the many, many, many hours spent huddled around a small television in a stinky dorm room with 15 other dudes playing pistols, licensed to kill, in the basement. The fondest memory being the controversial finish to a round late one evening which led to a rollicking fist-fight culminated by the arrival of BYU’s Finest.
When I first heard that MGM was releasing another Bond title my first reaction was one of ambivalence. Then I heard that Daniel Craig was attached and my interest was instantly piqued. I have had a semi-man-crush on Daniel Craig ever since seeing him in the excellent British gangster thriller Layer Cake. But even then, my interest was still just piqued. I wasn’t insisting on seeing it opening night. As the release date approached I began to hear rumblings that Casino Royale was going to be the re-birth of the franchise. Gone were the exploding watches and invisible cars. Cheesy innuendo and over-the-top special effects were being replaced by gritty action and inner turmoil. After hearing these rumors I actually began to get a little excited. I am a sucker for gritty action which involves characters with depth, i.e. Jason Bourne.
And then I saw the trailer. I was left breathless and on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t even concentrate on the actual feature at hand. All I could think about was the gritty opening sequence to the trailer. The piercing blue eyes of Daniel Craig. The haunting voice over of M. I was hooked. And I was shocked. I was actually excited to see a Bond movie.
And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. For those of you who have read my reviews in the past, you know that the key to an enjoyable viewing experience for me is to feel some sort of emotion while watching the film. I need to be “sucked in.” Well, the opening sequence was phenomenal. A gritty, emotional, glimpse into Bond’s inner psyche and how he became a double 0. The opening sequence was then followed by an excellent parkour based foot chase which was culminated by a fantastic shoot-out/stand-off. Much of this scene was stolen from District B13 and was not quite as exciting. I would have done the editing differently to ratchet up the intensity but I am not complaining. I was on the edge of my seat and locked in from that point on.
I don’t want to spoil the movie for anybody so I will simply say that this movie has a little something for both the men and the ladies. There is action and intrigue as well as gambling for the men. Also, one of the best movie villains I have seen in a long time. And for the ladies, well Daniel Craig takes his shirt off multiple times (and now my semi- man-crush is now a full-on man-crush). Plus, the story surrounding Bond and his love interest is developed very nicely. If you and that special someone are looking for an enjoyable evening at the local Cineplex then Casino Royale is the perfect choice. Neither party will be disappointed.
With that being said, the movie was not without its flaws in my opinion. With a few minor changes, one of which was mentioned above, this movie could go from a solid A to an A+ in my opinion. Without giving anything away, I would have modified the poker scenes and changed a few things about the last 15 minutes. If you would like to know what these minor modifications would have been, just shoot me an email and I would be happy to discuss them with you.
Finally, a word of caution for the faint of heart, there is a very awkward yet intense torture scene towards the end. Consider yourself warned.