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"Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half of Kina Lillet, shake it over ice, then add a thin slice of lemon peel." That's the cocktail order placed by James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Casino Royale (2006). When he later tells the good-looking Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) he's thinking of naming the drink after her, she asks, "Because of the bitter aftertaste?"
But the romance between Bond and Vesper is only one of several things that make Casino Royale so enjoyable. Another is the carefully structured plot, which has intriguing twists and turns, but is very satisfying. The movie avoids farfetched gadgetry and credibility-defying special effects, but there are still exciting action sequences, relying primarily on extraordinary stunt work, that are well-integrated into the story.
And who would have thought that a guest at a fancy resort hotel could mistake James Bond for a parking valet? But that happens in Casino Royale because here he is still at the beginning of his career as Agent 007. His boss M (Judi Dench) refers to him as "a blunt instrument" and observes that "arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand-in-hand." He's rough around the edges and has not yet developed into the sophisticated, elegant man he will become. One of the film's strengths is that we can see Bond change.
A Franchise Reboot With a New Incarnation of James Bond
The idea for Casino Royale is to set the story in 2006, yet have Bond be new in his job with the British Secret Intelligence Service. As Vesper says in her first meeting with him, "MI6 looks for maladjusted young men that give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect Queen and country. You know, former SAS types with easy smiles and expensive watches." She has him pegged — he's wearing an Omega.
The film immediately indicates that it will be grittier and more down to earth than previous James Bond movies by opening with a black-and-white prologue where the central character carries out an assassination in Prague. But it soon switches to vivid color and focuses on Agent 007 undertaking his first major mission. The objective is to bring down Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), the private banker to the world's terrorists, and provide him sanctuary in exchange for revealing everything he knows. The mission takes Bond to the Bahamas, then to Montenegro to play high-stakes Texas hold 'em, and finally to Venice where he ends up inside a sinking canal house. Lots of people are killed, prompting his boss M to say to him, "Quite the body count you're stacking up."
And the movie makes good use of humor. For example, here's the explanation of a shady character named Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) of how he framed a police chief: "It's amazing what you can do with Photoshop these days, isn't it?"
A Worthwhile Making-Of Featurette
The Casino Royale two-disc DVD set contains an informative 26-minute making-of featurette titled "Becoming Bond." We learn that Daniel Craig was the sixth actor to portray James Bond in the 21st of a series of Eon Productions movies about the celebrated fictional character. Actors who previously played the role include Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.
Barbara Broccoli, one of the producers, tells us that Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale was also used as source material for a 1967 film of the same name, but that movie was a spoof of the spy genre. The earlier film played everything for laughs, and the cast included Peter Sellers, David Niven and Woody Allen and had Orson Welles as the villain Le Chiffre.
A voice-over narrator informs us that a large proportion of the 2006 Casino Royale was shot in Prague. Additional filming was done in the Bahamas, which doubled for Madagascar.
And Director Martin Campbell admits that casting Judi Dench as M in Casino Royale is logically inconsistent with her portrayal of that character in GoldenEye (1995). But they liked her so much in the role they chose to ignore that it makes no sense in terms of timeline.
Featurette About the Stunts
If you're interested in how the impressive stunts were done in Casino Royale, you'll want to watch "James Bond: For Real," a 23-minute featurette on the DVD. For the foot chase in Madagascar, Craig had to do some scenes atop a crane 200 feet above the ground. But what gives the sequence its distinctive flavor is that Bond is chasing a character played by the incredibly lithe Sebastien Foucan, who co-founded the sport of free running or Parkour.
Another stunt sequence involves crashing a car in a way that it ends up rolling over seven times, a world record according to the featurette. There's also the chase around the Miami airport, which involved filming at three different airports. And finally, there's the sinking house in Venice, which was shot in Prague on a large set on a gimbal.
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