Royale (2006) (****)
review by Jon
James Bond embarks on his first mission as an elite “00” spy
for the British MI6 intelligence agency. The newly appointed
007 is stationed in Uganda in order to thwart a bomb making
terrorist with government connections. Things go awry and too
much attention is brought to himself and to the MI6 organization.
Bond is forced to take a vacation. However, being the guy he
is, he continues his work tracking the link between that terrorist
cell and an independent financer who seems to be having some
money trouble. Le Chiffre invests millions in dirty money,
but he’s hit hard times. So, he arranged for a high-stakes
poker game to be played in order to secure the proper return
of investment. Bond is assigned the job, but can he possibly
beat the mathematical mastermind? Will he stay alive long enough
to find out?
Sure, I know the idea of watching a high-stakes game of Texas
hold ‘em poker doesn’t sound like a very thrilling
way to save the world, and you’d be right to think that.
But poker on the big screen has its moments. Just look at “Rounders” or “Maverick.” Lucky
for you the film doesn’t rest solely on its poker laurels.
You’ll find all kinds of other action (aside from card)
that you come to expect from a Bond film – in spades
(sorry, I had to do it).
Even luckier for you is that the presentation of the action
and the storyline is far superior to what you’ve come
to expect from a Bond film. I’ve never been a big fan
of the franchise, but I loved this twenty-first installment.
It amazes me that someone hasn’t been able to execute
a film in this franchise in the same manner before. We still
get exciting chases, lustful romps, power struggles, a little
bit of political intrigue, witty banter and thrilling fight
scenes, but all of the cheese and cartoony-ness has been left
out. Some of the things you see are unbelievable not because
they’re lame, but because they’re jaw dropping.
The opening chase between Bond and Mollaka (played by free-runner
Sebastien Foucan, who moves like a freakin’ cheetah)
is easily one of the best action sequences I’ve seen
in a very long time.
What makes it so good is that the editing is sparse when it
matters most. We get to see the action play out in all of its
death-defying glory. Director Martin Campbell (who made the
last good Bond movie “GoldenEye”), and his frequent
cinematographer collaborator Phil Meheux, approaches the series
with a fresh perspective. It’s stylish without appearing
gimmicky. The canted angles only heighten the suspense and
do not detract from the good story unfolding before you. This
is a darker, grittier, better Bond.
It’s also a blonder bond. Daniel Craig may have been
a controversial choice, but he quickly proves to be the right
one. Craig does a lot to further reinforce the qualities and
characteristics that made audiences love James Bond while taking
out all the campiness. He delivers his lines simultaneously
with panache and force. It’s not only believable, but
it’s just flat out good acting. The whole cast does a
great job of giving depth to these characters we’ve come
to know and love. It’s like we’re seeing them in
a brand new light. It’s like a class of kids that have
all grown up and made something of themselves. After watching
this movie (which is an astoundingly short 144 minutes), for
the first time ever I’m actually excited for the next
one. That’s saying a lot.
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