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'Casino Royale' reinvents James Bond franchise

Casino Royale: 3-disc Collector's Edition

(pg-13)

Movie: •••1/2 (out of 5)

DVD experience: •••• (out of 5)

Starring

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd

Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre

Judi Dench as M

Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter

Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Directed by: Martin Campbell

In my opinion, one of the best things that could have been done to the James Bond franchise was reinventing it two years ago with "Casino Royale." Not only was it great to go back to the origins of Bond from the books and finally produce a serious version of Ian Fleming's original story, but it was long overdue for the film series.

As much as I enjoyed Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Daniel Craig was a welcome addition to the Bond canon. His portrayal of the British superspy is about as close as anyone has come to the original rugged-yet-classy scoundrel that Sean Connery captured almost 45 years before.

"Casino Royale" is easily one of the best Bond films to come down the pike in recent years. And with the new 007 flick "Quantum of Solace" a few short weeks away, reissuing "Casino Royale" as a three-disc collector's edition was a fantastic move.

The movie itself is worth the price of the DVD alone. On his first 007 mission, Bond follows the money of a terrorist weapons around the world. He foils a plot in the Bahamas, and he eventually finds himself in a high-stakes poker tournament where he must go head to head with the villain to thwart his grab at $150 million.

Martin Campbell, who first made Pierce Brosnan a new Bond in "Goldeneye," puts together a near-perfect Bond film. It's got sexy Bond girls (including the Italian beauty Caterina Murino, Ivana Milicevic and Eva Green). It's got fantastic cars. It's got eye-popping action. The only thing it's missing is the gadgets, but you have to realize that Craig isn't a gadget Bond.

By refocusing the character and going back to his first mission, we see a slightly off-kilter, immature Bond. For the Bond fan, "Casino Royale" is a special treat because we are given a glimpse at a pre-superspy Bond. Where "Die Another Day" paid homage to nearly all the Bond films with inside jokes and gags, "Casino Royale" filled in the gaps and showed us where these franchise stand-bys came from.

Disc Two in the set includes all the original special features from the first DVD release. There's a spotlight on Daniel Craig "Becoming Bond," a look at how the production achieved the stunts and practical effects in "James Bond: For Real," a music video of Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" and (my personal favorite) a spotlight on "Bond Girls are Forever" in which Maryam d'Abo interviews a selection of Bond girls from the past.

All the featurettes on this disc and the third are meaty and significant. Each runs anywhere from fifteen minutes to forty-five, and they aren't filled with fluff. It will literally take you longer to watch the features than the movie itself.

The third disc (which is also available on the second disc of the BluRay release) is loaded with new features. There are new deleted scenes, storyboard sequences and ten-minute profiles on key filmmakers. A wealth of Bond history is unloaded in the featurettes, beginning with "The Road to Casino Royale," which explains the tumultuous route that this story took from book, to television, to movie, and to movie again.

Additional featurettes include "Ian Fleming's Incredible Creation" focusing on how Fleming developed the Bond character, "James Bond in the Bahamas" focusing on using the Bahamas as a setting for this and many other films, "Ian Fleming: The Secret Road to Paradise" focusing on Paradise Island, "Death in Venice" focusing on a key sequence in the film" and "The Art of the Freerun" focusing on additional background on the freerunning action sequence and the sport of freerunning.

If you sprang for the original release of "Casino Royale" on DVD, this edition is still worth a look. The commentaries (featuring the director and producer on one and the crew on another) are new to this edition. The second disc is all repeats, but the third disc is brand new. While you can't just buy the third disc at a discounted price, there's enough new bonus content to make the amateur Bond historian drool.

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