Well, I finally got to see Casino Royale on Wednesday night, with a crowd of obnoxious, young, attention-deficit plagued people who really shouldn't be allowed to go out in public. In an attempt to put some distance between ourselves and them, my wife and I ended up sitting a bit too close to the screen, which made some of the frenetic action of the first act a bit hard to follow.
Overall, while I think Casino Royale '06 may be one of the better entries in the series (albeit a distinctly aytypical one), it does have a few problems. In an admirable effort to maintain fidelity to Ian Fleming's original, somewhat action-deprived novel, the screenwriters were forced to create a whole new plot to lead into the events of the book. This new plot takes up the first third of the movie, and probably 80% of the film's action sequences occur in this portion, making the movie top-heavy with stunts and pyrotechnics.
The second and most of the third acts of the film are fairly faithful to Fleming's plotting, which, unfortunately, lacks a dramatic, cinematic climax. The filmmakers have grafted on a last act gunfight in a collapsing building, but it really doesn't provide the sort of "bang" that audiences have come to expect from the franchise.
As for Daniel Craig – well, I still have no idea how he'll play Bond. The conceit of the film is that we're seeing the man being forged into the suave gentleman spy we've come to know, which means that until the very end of the flick, Craig is playing "proto-Bond." So, it'll be a couple years before we know how Craig actually interprets the role.
My early concerns were not allayed, unfortunately. I still think Craig is too old for the role as written; too mature and weather-beaten to be the raw young recruit the script posits. And having Judi Dench – no matter how damned good she is in the role – reprising the "M" character only confuses the whole "prequel" issue. I know many of the people in our audience were baffled as to what was going on.
I also thought the change from baccarat to poker was arbitrary and unnecessary, and actually contributed to the pivotal card game being far too protracted. Yeah, it's an important story point, but in a two-hour-and-forty-minute movie, the card game could have been streamlined and probably should have. As it stands now, I felt it lacked the tension and suspense it should have possessed.
I was pleased to see how much of Fleming's novel was retained, however. It's been a long time since a Bond movie could honestly claim to be based on the book with which it shared a title; the last was probably On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969!
Anyway, it's obviously going to take a few more viewings before I can really figure out how I feel about it, but while I can't say I was disappointed, neither was I blown away by it, either.