Casino Royale (2006)
Casino Royale is up there with my favourite Bond films. A brilliant reinvention of a franchise that sorely needed it. Daniel Craig as James Bond was a very smart move and the ferocity he brings to the role redefines the character enough that it feels new and familiar at the same time. Even the theme song is fresh and in a new style.
The movie begins with a cold open that is up there with the best of the Bond cold openings. James kills two mean and earns his ‘double-0’ status. The scene also makes brilliant use of the classic gun barrel sequence, melding it into the action. Chris Cornell’s theme song ‘You Know My Name’ thunders in over a montage of beautifully animated playing cards and bullets. Moving from one impressive scene to another, Bond’s parkour chase with a bomb maker has some amazing stunt choreography and seeing Daniel Craig literally run through a dry wall shows him to instantly be a more physical Bond.
Speaking of physical, Craig looks the part too, having obviously been working out for a long time. It just adds to the sense that this is a real agent who could single-handedly take out all the bad guys. The bad guy in this case is the always awesome Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, the blood-crying, poker-playing, stock-manipulating mad man that Bond must beat in a high-stakes poker game to stop. Watching extended scenes of poker may sound boring, but it isn’t. Broken up with brutal fights and romance between Bond and Vesper Lynd, who is played by Eva Green. Their relationship is one of the most well played out in any of the Bond films and you really feel the connection between them. Judi Dench as M it goes without saying is amazing and the reintroduction of Felix Leiter as played by Jeffrey Wright is equally welcome.
And as if this film wasn’t awesome enough, the very final scene where Craig first utters the words “Bond. James Bond.” is truly joyful. It just sums up how awesome this film really is. After the near death of the franchise following the Brosnan films, Casino Royale breathes life back into it and supercharges it going forward. One of the best Bond films and it isn’t hard to argue.
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Nowhere near as good as it’s predecessor, this direct sequel feels like it rushes through the story so fast that there’s no time to take it all in. Add to that a villain that seems menacing enough but has no actual sense of danger or ferocity about him and it makes up a somewhat lackluster film. Most of the action scenes are pretty decent, particularly the opening sequence.
The films opens mere minutes after Casino Royale ended. Bond, with Mr. White in tow, speeds along roads in his Aston Martin pursued by multiple henchmen vehicles. It’s a fast paced, tension filled car chase that is up there with the best in the series. It is unrelenting and keeps up the brutality Craig brought with him to the role last time round. From there the movie dips in quality a bit, starting with the awful theme song ‘Another Way to Die’ by Jack White and Alicia Keys. The song is bland, boring and just a really weird choice. The film then skips from beat to beat, making strange jumps and the villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) lays out his strange, all to realistic, plan to take control of a load of water to sell for massive prices. I think. His organisation, Quantum, were the ones behind the tragic events of the last movie and Bond tirelessly tracks them down to seek revenge.
This is a Bond film that tries to be more arty than most others. The locations and cinematography and the themes are deeper and the plot deals with themes of revenge and control but it just doesn’t quite pull it off very well. Add to that the editing of the film which is extremely quick and erratic, making it difficult to follow in some of the action scenes. New Bond girl Olga Kurylenko is good enough. The emotion is there but again the story and script let her, and everyone else, down.
The film isn’t exactly bad. It also fares better when watched soon after Casino Royale as a four hour long marathon as the continuation of the story is effective enough. But it just never really clicks on screen. Worth a watch, but in the lower half of Bond films.
JACK’S SCORE: 3/5
First things first. I like Skyfall but I think it is massively overrated. There, I said it. This is a movie that is shot beautifully, acted amazingly, choreographed impressively but is let down by a rather stupid story. It’s ‘The Dark Knight’ story is what I’m talking about, where the villain plans to get captured as part of their plan.
That villain is Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem. Silva is up there with some of the best Bond villains. An ex-agent left to die in captivity who now has a personal vendetta against Judi Dench’s M. His first scene, a slow, long take where he enters from one end of a long room and slowly strides to the other whilst telling a story about rats is incredible. You instantly feel his presence. He is sinister and cunning and very dangerous. That being said, his plan is the weak point of the film. He plans for years how to kill M, knowing exactly where and when people will come for him, knowing he would be captured and where M will be at the precise moment he escapes. He meticulously plans everything and then runs into a room firing a gun wildly and completely misses M. The plan was silly enough up until that point but to complete it in that way is ridiculous. That’s is my main problem with this film.
The rest of the film is pretty great though! The cinematography is incredible, from the opening scene to the final, Home Alone style battle. One scene in particular that features Bond fighting an assassin whilst silhouetted in front of a motion billboard looks incredible. The Aston Martin DB5 also makes a very welcome reappearance, stealing a great little scene between Bond and M and an ‘ejector seat button’. Naomie Harris makes her first appearance as a new and improved Moneypenny, getting in on the action herself during the opening sequence. Ralph Fiennes also appears as Mallory, a tough talking committee man who won’t have any of Bond’s nonsense. However, without a doubt my favourite scene and one that makes me very very happy is the final scene. SPOILERS: It involves Bond, Mallory as M, Harris as Moneypenny, a fancy new (or is it old?) office and a folder marked ‘Top Secret’. It marks a return to the Bond films of old and is very exciting indeed.
Skyfall is a good film, it just gets caught up in itself and tries to be too clever at times. Still very worth a watch and definitely a strong entry into the James Bond franchise. Plus it has a brilliant theme song performed amazingly by Adele. Top class.
JACK’S SCORE: 4/5