Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"CASINO ROYALE"

Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelson, Dame Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini

Cinema 4, Shang Cineplex


Shaken not Stirred



I grew up watching Roger Moore prance his way around the world as James Bond with his fancy cars, his hi tech gadgets, bedding women left and right, drinking his 'shaken not stirred' Martinis, fighting evil villains without getting his hair disheleved and getting himself into silly situations which border on the funny to the down right ridiculous. Then came Pierce Brosnan with his dashing debonair looks with the same premise so I lost interest in the whole Bond franchise. Because let's face it, in this day and age of modern technology, his gadgets seemed pretty lame, his promiscuous behavior is recklessly dangerous in this AIDS afflicted world and after the Cold War ended, James Bond was pretty much left without believable villains to chase across the world. Besides for me, Pierce Brosnan will always be Remington Steele not James Bond.

But "Casino Royale" managed to pique my interest back into the dark world of espionage. It is a reboot or sort of like a prequel into the life of the secret agent, James Bond. He just got promoted to his 007 status after getting his 2 kills. He is still raw, unrefined and quite thug like in his demeanor. Not consciously aware of the protocol involved in international relations, he lets his emotions cloud his judgment, he is recklessly imprudent, not quite observant nor mentally alert. Yet in the same breath, this makes him only human so he is more fascinating to watch as he grapples with his inner conflicts. He is also willing to get his hands dirtied, adding scars to his already craggy appearance, and boy can he run real fast. Did you see how fast he can run? Swooshing away like a speeding bullet. But no he isn't Superman, he is merely human.

So while I did enjoy the more in depth glimpse into the personality of the secret agent, I thought that the movie was too long to sustain much interest in the complex storyline. The way the plot just folded up pretty quickly towards the end is a bit awkward. It is almost like the director realized they had gone over the standard 90 minutes so they had to kill off the unsavory characters, one by one. What's up with the music during certain action filled scenes? It was too freaking loud at times that I had to literally cover my ears so I won't get deaf.

But the locales were top notch. Very panoramic! From the hot, humid poverty stricken atmosphere of Madagascar in Africa to Montenegro in Eastern Europe with its colorful houses and tiny cobblestone streets nestled within the mountains. The San Marco Square in Venice with its pigeons, teeming with tourists and locals and the gondolas weaving in and out of the canals. The sandy beaches of the Bahamas with its palm trees swaying in the wind to the breathtakingly calming ambiance of Lake Como in Italy -they were such a fantastic cinematic visual feast.

The graphic digitally mastered opening titles with the playing cards with Chris Cornell signing "You Know my Name" was a neat trick because the main game they played in the Casino was poker.

An international cast of actors gave credible performances. The main protagonist, Le Chiffre is eerie and cunning complete with a bleeding eye. Mads Mikkelsen's portrayal was subdued, not overacting to turn his villain character into a caricature. French Eva Green cleaned up pretty well for her role here as the alluring Vesper Lynd as opposed to her decrepit appearance in "Kingdom of Heaven". Dame Judi Dench is still a formidable presence on screen, her portrayal of M is authoritative yet warm and nurturing too. Of course, kudos goes to Daniel Craig. In his biggest role to date in his rather lackluster career, his James Bond is endearingly flawed with a nice mix of raw energy coupled with an emotionally charged persona that can pierce through the screen.

So make no doubt about it, James Bond is back with a vengeance and dare I say ... It is about time too!

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