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CASINO ROYALE: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
It is with some trepidation that MI6's M (Judy Dench) gives secret agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) his first 007 assignment. His mission is to stop Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a deadly villain who is banker to the world's terrorists, winning a $100 million Texas Hold 'Em poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro. If Le Chiffre wins, he will use the money to repay the terrorists money he owes them, thus funding further terrorist acts. Treasury sends its own agent, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), to keep an eye on the Government's money with which Bond will play the game. Thrown together in a series of life threatening confrontations with Le Chiffre, James and Vesper develop a romantic bond, but this increases the risks and as the climactic race for the winnings intensifies, events unfold that will shape James Bond's life forever.

Review by Louise Keller:
Gritty and thrilling, Casino Royale has it all - action, glamour, spectacular locations and a new Bond that is above all, vulnerable. Even before the striking black and red opening credits with figures that collapse like a deck of cards, it is clear that Daniel Craig's 007 is no glossy celluloid hero. Gone is the super-slick, over-produced Bond of recent years, making way for a darker, more complex character that its creator Ian Fleming would warmly embrace. Beyond the steely toughness, physicality and sheer nerve, there is a vulnerability to Bond. He does not always win the battle, nor does he always get the girl. We can almost smell the danger in his exploits. The stakes are high and as he puts himself on the line, we know he has everything to lose.

Craig quickly establishes himself as a superb James Bond. He sweats, he hurts and bares his all, both emotionally and physically. He might be stark naked in the torture scene as he sits strapped to the chair, but beyond his impressive muscles, we see something far more important - character. The plot involving terrorists and a high stake poker game which Bond has to win, moves quickly, dashing from locations as diverse as the history-rich Czech Republic to the ethereal beauty of Lake Como. The first action sequence is a ripper, and it is indicative that it is all self-propelled man power and not gadgets that drives it. Mads Mikkelsen is chilling as Le Chiffre, the banker whose scarred eye eerily weeps tears of blood. A highlight is the poker game shot in the elegant surrounds of the fictional Montenegro Casino (filmed at Karlovy Vary, but more likely to have been intended by Fleming to be in Evian-les-Bains). Tension builds when eyes lock over the table as millions of dollars are raised in stakes. Whether you can follow the Texas Hold'em poker game, it matters not.

The fact that the game of Texas Hold'em is featured in the film is a sign of the times. In the original Ian Fleming novel Bond was playing his regular game of choice baccarat. But because of its increasing popularity in recent years it was changed to no limit Texas holdem in this screen adaptation.

'Do I look like I give a damn?' Bond retorts when the barman asks whether he would like his martini shaken or stirred. Little does he know it has been spiked with deadly poison.

There are twists and surprises and plenty to hold our interest. An enticing dynamic is created between Judi Dench's M and her newly appointed 00 agent, while Eva Green's unfathomable accountant Vesper Lynd is at first glance, an unlikely Bond girl ('Even accountants have imagination'). It is not she, but Bond (wearing a tight-fitting swimsuit with little boy leg) who makes an entrance from the sea in the tropical paradise of the Bahamas. There is sufficient push-pull attraction and all stops are taken out for the spectacular climactic sequence in Venice. So realistic is the depiction of the sinking of a Venetian piazza, that I gasped out loud.

Helmer Martin Campbell who also directed Goldeneye in 1995, keeps things moving at great pace, involving us in every part of the action and storyline. The 145 minutes whiz past at lightning rate, and Casino Royale delivers an impressive royal flush. Now we can fall in love with James Bond all over again.

The DVD's behind the scenes featurettes will not disappoint. From the background of getting the film rights to Casino Royale to screen testing for the new 6th Bond, there's plenty to learn and be engrossed by. As an actor Daniel Craig says he never fantasised about being James Bond. 'As a kid, yeah, but that was BEING James Bond. That was something else... that was fantasy,' he says. We are there for the first nerve-wracking day onset, the theatrical entrance when he first meets the media and behind the scenes for the stunts. Previous Bond girls including Ursula Andress ('Sean was adorable to me'), Halle Berry and Honor Blackman talk about what it means to be a Bond Girl. Even Chris Connell's music video has oomph.

Published April 5, 2007



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

CASINO ROYALE: DVD (M)
(US, 2006)

CAST: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankole, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic

PRODUCER: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell

SCRIPT: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis (novel by Ian Fleming)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phil Meheux

EDITOR: Stuart Baird

MUSIC: David Arnold

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter Lamont

RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 7, 2006

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Becoming Bond; Becoming Bond for Real; Bond Girls are Forever; Music Video

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 4, 2007







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