Casino Royale is Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie, and to give him the best start, the franchise is back in the hands of Martin Campbell, who directed the last best Bond, Pierce Brosnan’s debut, Goldeneye.
In the early moments of the film, the code-name Ellipsis is featured a few times but it doesn’t form much more than a convenient plot device, as are the appearances of the first bad guy, Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), his better half, Solange (Caterina Murino), and the Bodyworld exhibition courtesy of the Autopsy bloke, Dr Gunther von Hagens. It’s a nice plug for his wares but he does put on a cracking show on Channel 4 every now and again so I’ll let him off.
Before too long we get to the Casino Royale in the title, where James Bond will take part in a poker game of “big blind, small blind” (pardon?), a venture that will net the winner a potential £150 million pot out of the 10 players who’ll throw in a maximum of £15m each. One of the major competitors is this film’s big baddie, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen – Arctic, Polar), a man who acts as a private anytime-anywhere bank for the world’s biggest ‘freedom fighters’.
There’s clever interplay between Bond and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who works for the HM Treasury and takes the role as the spy’s chief squeeze in this movie. As they do battle in wordplay during their opening meeting on a train, she says that if he loses, then the government will be accused of directly financing terrorism. Hmm… after supplying Saddam Hussein with weapons for many years, what’s new?
In Casino Royale, we see a more human side to Bond as he becomes entwined with the mind of Vesper and there’s a definite downplaying of the OTT action we’ve had in recent years, so no wristwatches that do everything, no invisible cars… in fact, no Q!
There’s also no Miss Moneypenny, but we are introduced to Jeffrey Wright (from the intriguing Broken Flowers) as Felix Leiter, a character who seemed to die in Bond films each time but doesn’t get involved in any action scenes here and will return in November 2008 for the next episode, Quantum of Solace (what a dumb title!) and while Daniel’s playing at being a card-sharp he and Vesper are aided by a contact called Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini).
The climatic scene proves that you don’t need to destroy the whole world to create a spectacle, as they do a fantastic job of that in a segment of Venice.
This single-disc edition has no extras to speak of. There’s no DTS soundtrack either? We do get an Audio Descriptive track, but surely DTS 5.1 trumps over that, if not the Dolby Digital one!
If you go for the 2-disc Special Edition or the Blu-Ray version then you’ll get some featurettes entitled Becoming Bond, James Bond For Real and Bond Girls Are Forever, plus the music video for the official song. That said, the opening titles have their part to play in the playing cards-themed plot, but Chris Cornell‘s “You Know My Name” theme is dreadful and easily forgettable.
There are a few trailers on the main disc prior to reaching the main menu, but when you pay for a DVD you really don’t want these shoved in where you don’t want them. Put them in the ‘extras’ section. This is not the age of the rental video!
Running time: 127 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Released: September 17th 2007
Cat.no: 23751 DVD
Region(s): 2, PAL
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX, DTS 5.1 ES
Subtitles: English SDH, Hindi
Widescreen: English for the hard of hearing, Hindi
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Lee Tamahori
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G Wilson
Screenplay: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Music: David Arnold
James Bond: Daniel Craig
Vesper Lynd: Eva Green
Le Chiffre: Mads Mikkelsen
M: Judi Dench
Felix Leiter: Jeffrey Wright
Mathis: Giancarlo Giannini
Solange: Caterina Murino
Alex Dimitrios: Simon Abkarian
Steven Obanno: Isaach de Bankole
Mr White: Jesper Christensen
Valenka: Ivana Milicevic
Villiers: Tobias Menzies
Dryden: Malcolm Sinclair
Mendel: Ludger Pistor
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.