Casino Royale ***
Alright everyone? Are you ready for a big shocker? "Casino Royale" is my first trip into the world of James Bond. That's right. I've never seen a single second of any James Bond film, all twenty something of them, until the first few seconds on this. What's been stopping me? I don't know. Lack of interest, I guess. What got me started? Well, it is a prequel. I always hate walking into the middle of series not knowing anything about it. Sure I didn't get the "in-jokes," but at least I know the origins. That and the lack of an admission ticket. No matter what the reasons were that I saw this, I am glad either way, because "Casino Royale" is two and a half hours of pure entertainment, romance, sexual energy, and the most intense poker game I've ever seen. The card game here gives the one in "The Sting" a run for its money. And its great to see Daniel Craig(you know, that guy from "Layer Cake." Oh, you didn't see that. Well, you should) finally getting some recognition. While he's been better in other films, it is a little upsetting that he'll probably be forever known as James Bond now, but at least his name will be mentioned among conversation. And it's also great to see the B-E-A-U-tiful Eva Green get a bit acclaim(you know, that girl from "Kingdom of Heaven." Oh, you didn't see that either. Where have you been, man?)
Even if you've never seen a James Bond film before, you know what he is. The name has become some sort of a popularity, and the theme music is something that is often hummed whenever in an intense situation. Well, if you don't know much about Bond, see the first few minutes of this, and you'll learn how Bond became a 007. You need two kills to be a double O, and now that he's accomplished that(which seems like a very easy task, considering some of the other things that these agents do) he's ready for his first mission. On foreign grounds, Bond ends up killing an unarmed bomber, which doesn't make him look pretty in the eyes of M-his superior. Bond decides to figure out what other people are involved with the bomber. Bond finds himself in the acquaintance of Le Chiffre, an banker for international terrorists. M lets Bond know that Le Chiffre will be playing a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale-if Bond looses and Le Chiffre wins, than Bond just aided in giving money to terrorists-so Bond makes it his utmost goal to make sure he wins that game. But then, disaster strikes, and Bond falls in love with fellow secret agent Vesper Lynd(he even makes his secret pass code, which needs to be six letters long, her name. Sweet.)
Now it's important to understand, and I didn't understand this until well after the movie was done, that "Casino Royale" is not a continuation of the previous Bond films. It isn't even a prequel to that series. It can't be. M mentions September 11th at one point. It's the beginning of a brand new series of Bond films. The old ones are history. That ship has sailed. This is the beginning of the beginning, which means that I jumped on board in the nick of time. Unfortunately, I can't compare this to the other Bonds, but I can safely say that this is one hell of an action ride. It's intense-the first few minutes alone start off with a bang. The card game, even when there is not a single gunshot or chase in sight, is intense in itself-and I don't even know that much about poker. Daniel Craig is the perfect balance between menacing and charming-I didn't know if I hated him or adored him. It's very realistic-more so than all the spoofs will have this made out to be-Bond gets all bloodied up at times, the villain is real, and I actually didn't have to hear a long and rambling speech by the villain just as he's about to kill the hero, and then is stopped in the nick of time. But this is a new world, and a new Bond.
"Casino Royale" is clearly not a masterpiece, but the only real visible flaw falls in the running times. This seems to believe that in order to be a big film for the end of the year, it has to be close to three hours. Not necessary. Towards the end, Bond and Vesper begin their little relationship, and they kiss and swim and sail boats, and that went on for roughly twenty minutes-or about ten minutes too long. But it sucks back into action quickly after, so it's well worth getting through. "Casino Royale" works on its own, you don't need to know much about Bond to get into it. But since I'm an idiot, I'm probably one of the few that even bothered seeing it without being exposed to James Bond of the past. Oh well, we all have our little secrets. It's not perfect, but "Casino Royale" is the ultimate action film around, and an extremely entertaining one at that.