‘Casino Royal’ DVD Review **** 041007


The Work = ****
The latest James Bond film presents a new Bond played by Daniel Craig. Craig’s Bond is a mostly successful retelling of the legendary character. ‘Casino Royal’ starts as Bond is just getting his status as a “00” agent, thereby giving him the license to kill. Craig plays Bond as a cocky, overconfident man who seems to have closed himself off from emotion after a rough life. While the new Bond and the film as a whole have riled many fans of the Bond novels and films, I enjoyed it and am recommending it.

By starting Bond off as a younger agent ‘Casino Royal’ accomplishes two things: 1) it eases the adjustment to a new actor filling the legendary role and 2) it gives Bond just a tad bit more of a back story than I was expecting. The result is I genuinely liked the story of Bond in ‘Casino Royal’ and it kept me interested in the film through its lengthy runtime and sometimes confusing plot. Craig is a good actor who finds a soul in his character and I was surprised how wrapped up I became in his struggles.

Now is as good a time as any to say I am not the most hard core Bond fan. I always seem to enjoy Bond movies but I can’t remember every detail of every movie and there are probably one or two Bond films that I still have not seen (or have only seen part of them). Thus, the changes brought to the series with ‘Casino Royal’ did not bother me. I like Craig and thought he was a fine choice for the role. Some have said he was miscast and there is apparently quite a bit of resentment from a portion of Bond fans. I was glad that an actor who was able to give a sense of depth to the role was selected. Add to that Craig has buffed up and looks like the most physically convincing Bond since Connery.

Director Martin Campbell and crew have made a film that is perhaps too long but still works. Campbell has helmed a few films I enjoyed (in particular ‘Mask of Zorro’) and he even directed a previous Bond film, ‘GoldenEye’. Here he creates several successful set pieces and crafts an engaging feature. A chase through a construction site is perhaps a highpoint of the film but several other sequences stand out, including a fight down a stairwell.

I mentioned before that the plot became somewhat confusing. Here we find Bond tailing a money launderer. His target is a middle man and as he picks off different adversaries, the real villains begin to emerge. I wish Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) (one of the key players) had more screen time than he does as he is a fairly memorable character. A rivalry that rages between he and Bond never quite reaches the apex I was hoping for.

Then, in the final act of ‘Casino Royal’, loyalties are switched, and villains are double crossed. I’ve seen the film a few times and I think I more or less understand everything that transpires but it is still somewhat vague. I think that a bit stronger last quarter for the villains in ‘Casino Royal’ would have made the film more satisfying. Having Le Chiffre around more may have helped. If the villains and their motivations get confusing, Bond’s story does not. It is his struggles and relationship with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) that keeps me entangled in ‘Casino Royal’.

DVD = ****

The Look
‘Casino Royal’ gets a great 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on DVD. The picture is clear with high levels of detail. The stylized colors come through well and I would say this is a pretty top notch transfer. I do want to make a note of mentioning the DVD menus which are not so hot and don’t look anything like the stylized Bond menus on the rest of the Bond DVDs. Not a big deal but I thought I would mention it anyway.

The Sound
‘Casino Royal’ has 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack as well as a French Dolby Surround track and a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track. I only listened to the 5.1 English track and it sounded pretty good to me. The DVD has English, French, and Spanish subtitles and also has Closed Captioning.

The Bonus
All the extra features are contained on the second DVD and are mostly disappointing. Considering how many times Bond movies get released on DVD I am just going to go ahead and assume there will be a reissue of ‘Casino Royal’ with better features and different menus. I predict the new release will come around the time of, oh say, the next Bond movie. The first feature is a promotional 25 minute featurette called “Becoming Bond”. While there are some good bits of interviews and behind the scenes footage, the promotional nature of the material takes away from any real insight into the production. Add to that some comments about how close the film is to the book that are sure to upset fans of the source material (actually since I have never read the original novel, I am taking fans at their word that ‘Casino Royal’ doesn’t stick all that close to the book). Next up is a slightly shorter featurette “James Bond: For Real” that looks at some of the stunt work in the film. Made in a similar promotional manner to the previous featurette this has “promotional” stamped all over it and doesn’t go into too much depth about the stunt work. That said there is still some interesting stuff here and both featurettes are enjoyable enough.

Now here is the catch: the two featurettes are really all you will find for ‘Casino Royal’ related material. This is a real bummer, especially considering the reworked nature of the film. Not only that but the film studio didn’t even include the trailer for ‘Casino Royal’. Ditching the trailer is always a pet peeve of mine... So what is left? A featurette clocking in at just under an hour called “Bond Women are Forever”. Released around the time of the previous Bond flic ‘Die Another Day’, the doc’ feels out of place here and is only mildly interesting. Focusing on some of the ladies from the Bond films, there are a few nice moments but for the most part this is pure Bond fluff. That is the end of the bonus material (unless you count some random trailers included on the DVD). Shame. I am probably giving this DVD too high a recommendation but based on the film’s transfer and the two featurettes I am grudgingly giving this a four star rating.

All Together = ****
All told I liked ‘Casino Royal’. The film was maybe a bit too long and some of the plot, especially towards the end, was a bit confusing but on the whole it works. Craig is a new Bond and frankly I like him in the role. He had the difficult task of carrying the film and I felt he did it in style. I should note that this is also available as a Blu-ray disc which if you can play is going to be preferable to this DVD.


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