"Casino Royale," despite its occasional excesses and minor faults is a fitting rebirth for this classic action hero.
James Bond 21 - Casino Royale: Three-Disc Collector's Edition (2006, DVD)
Directors: Martin Campbell
Producers: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
Writers: Neal Purvis (screenplay) & Robert Wade (screenplay) and Paul Haggis (screenplay) Ian Fleming (novel)
Features: * Commentaries * Featurettes * Documentaries * Deleted Material * Music Video * Trailers
Daniel Craig ... James Bond
Eva Green ... Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen ... Le Chiffre
Judi Dench ... M
Jeffrey Wright ... Felix Leiter
Giancarlo Giannini ... Mathis
Caterina Murino ... Solange
Simon Abkarian ... Alex Dimitrios
Jesper Christensen ... Mr. White
Ivana Milicevic ... Valenka
Casino Royale: Three-Disc Collector's Edition DVD Review
It’s not hard to see why producers sought to reinvent Bond after the dismal reception of the truly dire Brosnan Bond outing, "Die Another Day." After twenty pictures, the franchise was starting to show some obvious wear and tear. Sure, it still performed well at the box office, but the writing was on the wall--Bond was a dying franchise.
Not since Martin Campbell’s "Goldeneye," had the series felt fresh or rejuvenating. "Tomorrow Never Dies" was tiresome and overblown. "The World is Not Enough" was too silly for its own good and, well, "Die Another Day" represents everything that could go wrong with a Bond adventure. With Matt Damon jumping, punching and kicking his way to freedom in the "Bourne" series and the scent of a post-9/11 world still in the air, Bond needed to feel fresh and relevant again.
Cue Daniel Craig.
To put it lightly, Craig seemed an odd choice. And he is. He’s not debonair, but brutal and thuggish. He doesn’t have black hair or the sharp wit of Moore’s Bond, or even Connery’s Bond. But he’s everything Bond needs to be. Instead of retooling the same old adventures, Bond producers sought to bring emotionality to the franchise, giving the character of Bond a livelier persona. Craig, with his brooding grin, uncomfortable posture and doubting eyes, was the right man for the job. And what better way to do so, then to reintroduce the character through a structural reboot, even returning to the series’ last great director, Martin Campbell.
The result is a lively, energetic three-act opera of action, intensity and tragedy. The film opens with a high-impact chase that never seems to let up, even after the chase has long ended. Bond is then sent to an upscale casino to play a game of poker against a banker working for an underground terrorist group responsible for arms dealing in terrorist nations. The object: get the banker, Le Chiffre (the uninspiring Mads Mikkelson), to deal away his investors’ money and turn against his backers. Along the way, Bond falls for MI:6’s broker, Vesper Lynd (the complex and dazzling Eva Green) and meets up with CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright, fitting into the character as though he’s played it for 20 years).
Thanks to Martin Campbell’s taut direction, the film moves swiftly from act-to-act despite being incredibly overlong. The film could have easily been trimmed to a slimmer two hours, with the final act placed at the beginning of the next Bond adventure. Instead, Campbell gleefully plays around with the various settings, always providing intrigue and mystery as well as the glorious promise of a new "evil" organization, the likes of which we have not seen since the golden age of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.
While the film does occasionally indulge too much in its over-the-top nature, the script, from Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, keeps the characters grounded in reality as much as possible. Craig is never too brutish or too quipy like his former counterparts and while he doesn’t always share their iconic look and styles, Craig’s Bond adds his own zest and flair with similar iconic results. Here, Bond is a man who feels pain, both on the surface and inside and it’s this strikingly refreshing emotional core that makes "Casino Royale," despite its occasional excesses and minor faults, a fitting rebirth for this classic character.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A
Film Value: A-
Sony presents "Casino Royale" in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This appears to be the very same transfer used for the two-disc DVD set released in 2007. Colors are strong and stable. The black-and-white scene is grainy, but intentionally so. The picture is fairly sharp and contrast is nearly perfect. Compared to the 2007 Blu-ray version, the film is notably less detailed with a few sparks of edge enhancement and digital compression. But on the whole, this is a mostly stellar release that matches the look and feel of the MGM releases. Good job, Sony.
"Casino Royale" sports an aggressive, finely mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track. While not as robust as MGM’s DTS mix for "Die Another Day," the track here isn’t as overbearing, either. Discrete effects are well placed and organic with the crisp, clean dialogue. Fans should be pleased.
Sony had originally released "Casino Royale" back in 2007 with a mostly disappointing two-disc set. I reluctantly bought the disc, but knew it would eventually be replaced by a better special edition. And it has, this new special edition adds loads of new special features for fans to enjoy. Supplements on this new three-disc set include:
• Commentaries -- Two brand new commentaries have been added to this set. The first is a commentary from Martin Campbell and Michael W. Wilson (this track is a PiP track on the Blu-ray disc). It’s rather informative and engaging, but not particularly scene-specific as the two jaunt into varying directions. Overall, it’s a good listen, but a bit sporadic. Even more sporadic is the disjointed crew commentary which features nearly a dozen voices poorly mixed together with no real rhyme or reason (or a fair introduction for each incoming crew member). A lot of ground is covered here though, and fans are sure to enjoy the plentiful insight.
• Featurettes: ‘Becoming Bond,’ ‘Bond Girls are Forever’ and ‘James Bond: For Real’ -- These are the same featurettes found on the previous DVD release. Fans are sure to delight in the more retrospective material here, but the newer stuff is merely graces the surface of this production. The material runs about 100 minutes total.
• Music Video -- Chris Cornell’s memorable song, in music video form.
• Featurettes: ‘The Road to Casino Royale,’ ‘Ian Flemings Incredible Creation,’ ‘James Bond in the Bahamas,’ ‘Ian Fleming: The Secret Road to Paradise,’ ‘Death in Venice’ and ‘The Art of Freerun’ -- Running nearly the length of the film, these six featurettes cover an exhaustive amount of material, from the origins of James Bond to more minute details like the shooting of the freerun chase or location shooting in Venice. It’s not quite as meaty as a full length documentary would have been, but the material presented is commendable and well worth checking out.
• Deleted Material -- Eight minutes worth of fairly interesting, but passable added bits. Worth a look.
• Storyboard Sequences -- Two script-to-scene storyboard sequences are included for the plane chase and the freerun chase.
• Filmmaker Profiles -- Finally, the set concludes with several conversations with the film’s various intengral crew members, including director Martin Campbell and composer David Arnold. About 50 minutes worth of interviews are found here.
Sony presents this three-disc set in a gorgeous cardboard sleeve that comfortably houses the discs and a collectible booklet. It doesn’t match the MGM box sets all that well, but this is a reboot of the Bond franchise--it doesn’t really need to.
Bond is reborn through the taut, emotionally grounded performance of its key star, Daniel Craig, who breathes new life into the dying character. The film itself is a bit bloated and occasionally over-the-top, but what Bond adventure isn’t? This new DVD tops the 2007 release in almost every way making it a worthy upgrade for fans of this classic, never-ending action franchise. Folks with Blu-ray players might want to check out the Blu-ray special edition.
DVD Report Card:
Recommendation: Worth owning.
On DVD and Blu-ray disc: October 21, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer