It’s been a few years since the last James Bond installment and the main member of the cast has once again been re-formatted with a newer, younger face and he’s a blonde to boot! Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ll know that the veneer of Pierce Brosnan has been replaced with the grit of Daniel Craig. This is, of course, a natural progression with a franchise like James Bond. I mean would we really want to see Sean Connery in a bathing suit nowadays? Ok, maybe some women actually would but with a 40 year old franchise, fresh blood is needed every so often and Mr. Craig is now the new Mr. Bond. And if anyone had doubts of a new Bond, “Casino Royale” certainly proved them wrong. The movie is the most successful in the history of the franchise and has given it a new shot in the arm so to speak. Naturally, critics call Daniel Craig “the best Bond in the franchise’s history” but I beg to differ. More on that later, though. Love him or hate him, James Bond has a new face, a new swagger and a new hairstyle. Are ya ready?
“Casino Royale” does venture into some unknown territory as we meet James Bond before he was actually a “Double O” agent. For the uninitiated the two zero’s represent two kills, which he happily provides early on in the movie. Bond (Daniel Craig) is sent on his first mission as a spy. He encounters the main villan, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a notorious gambler whose trying to restore his bankroll in a game of high-stakes poker. Yes, gone are the days of baccarat (or maybe I should say they’re “yet to come”) as James Bond is now a poker man. Naturally he meets up with a treasury official by the name of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) who will be playing the role of “Bond Girl”. All treasury agents look like this? Bond pursues Le Chiffre all around the world, blah blah blah Ã¢â‚¬â€œ we’ve seen it all before.
Ok, now the bad part. I really didn’t find “Casino Royale” too entertaining. It’s a well-made movie and it certainly fits the role of “Bond movie” to a tee, but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. First, the older James Bond movies always had entertaining villans which “Austin Powers” mocked with exuberance. This one didn’t have much of that. Instead, they tend to focus on how “gritty” this new Bond is and yes, that’s great and all, but I liked the gadgets, the “shaken, not stirred” and the fact that Bond never really had cuts and scars on his face. Call me old-fashioned but for all the glitz that this new movie had to offer, I wasn’t really in favor of things changing. I realize I’m in the minority here and let me set the record straight: I didn’t dislike this movie, I just felt that it wasn’t on par with other James Bond movies. All of the elements are there, or maybe I just need to warm up to a new Bond (I didn’t like “Goldeneye” either). Any way you cut it, audiences did like this new Bond and he’s on Blu-ray for the first time (no pun intended).
Video: How does it look?
For many just having a James Bond movie on Blu-ray is reward enough, but I have to say that I was a bit underwhelmed with the way “Casino Royale” looked on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 MPEG4/AVC HD transfer certainly has all the gloss in the world, but there were a few instances in which I just wasn’t that impressed. The contrast seemed to be off in a few of the outdoor scenes and some of the indoor scenes seemed to be a bit overcooked as well; as if everyone had been in the sun for too long. Naturally, there is no sign of edge enhancement and the detail is off the charts. Beautiful, panoramic views of some of the word’s most exotic places are shown and all look fantastic. “Casino Royale” is certainly eye candy for everyone involved, but I was expecting just a bit more.
Audio: How does it sound?
Sony gives us the goods when it comes to audio. We have a great-sounding uncompressed PCM 5.1 track along with three other 5.1 tracks (one in English, Spanish and French). The uncompressed mix is amazing and certainly adds a lot of depth to what would be a somewhat lifeless track otherwise. Dialogue is, of course, clean and natural free of any distortion and the LFE comes into play quite often as well. Surround effects only add to the ambiance giving “Casino Royle” high marks in the audio department.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“Casino Royale” is a rather featureless Blu-ray release with only three featurettes and a music video by Chris Cornell. That said, the featuettes aren’t all bad and we start off with “Becoming Bond”. This is a typical expanded EPK featurette with interviews from the cast and crew and the man himself, Daniel Craig. We get some inside information as to how he was approached and how he finally won the big role. “James Bond: For Real” is a spotlight on the stunts in the film (yes, James Bond movies have some stunts in them) and we get all we need to know here. Rounding out the supplements is “Bond Girls are Forever”, a rather lengthy (50 minutes) piece with interviews from Bond girls of the past. The music video “You Know My Name” is also included.