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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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Casino Royale - BRD

(Martin Campbell - 2006)

 

 

 

 

Studio: Columbia & MGM Pictures (USA) / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (USA)

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Feature film: 1080p / AVC

144 minutes

Supplements: HD/SD

 

Audio:

English PCM 5.1 Surround

English DD 5.1 Surround

French DD 5.1 Surround

Spanish DD 5.1 Surround

 

 

Subtitles:

English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese & Thai

 

Extras

• Featurette: Becoming Bond

• Featurette: James Bond for Real

• Featurette: Bond Girls Are Forever (in SD)

• Chris Cornell Music Video (in SD)

 

16 chapters

Standard Blu-ray case: 1 disc

Release Date: March 13, 2007

 

 

Casino Royale ~ Comment

In the atmosphere of Batman Begins, Superman Returns and Smallville, this new Casino Royale begins with an unlicensed Bond.  In the film's opening sequence we learn how he got his "00" number, and from there on we see a more determined, more brutal Bond than ever before.  He has a lot to prove, and it sometimes comes at the innocent's expense – though, in that regard, I always thought that the Bond of Sean Connery and Roger Moore were more than a little casual about involving innocent and beautiful women.

 

 

Daniel Craig is the fifth Bond in the Broccoli franchise in this, his first time out in the role.  There was much controversy about the choice since he isn't nearly as suave as his predecessors - though in its place, he is more believably human.  Eschewing most default Bond sci-fi trappings (there is no "Q" for example), Craig's Bond gives and takes more punishment.  And he shows more scars, inside and out.  That said, the big chase set piece near the beginning has hardly a jump that is actually possible without the help of unseen wires, an ankle cast, a clever camera angle or a dynamite stunt double – yet we take it all more seriously, as we do when Le Chiffre tortures a stripped naked Bond, and as we didn't when Goldfinger arranges to rearrange James' nether region with a laser (though the squirm factor was certainly effective for its time.)

 

 

 

It should be mentioned quickly, just to get it out of the way, that this Casino Royale has just about nothing to do with the 1967 satire produced by Charles Feldman and starring the very suave and semi-retired David Niven (this was far from his last film) as the very retired "Sir James" and Woody Allen as "Jimmy."  But I exaggerate.  For two other important characters appear in both films: Le Chiffre and Vesper Lynd, and "M" of course (here, in a kind of sly time warp, played once again by Judi Dench). . .  these and the fact that gambling in a major (if fictional) casino figure prominently.  The game in every way has been upgraded: Baccarat has been replaced by the high stakes poker of today: Texas Hold'em, and SMERSH is no longer the antagonist, for the villainy here is far uglier and the action more intimate – but then this is true for the new film in comparison to all the Bonds that precede it.

 

For old time's sake, the Aston Martin makes its appearance – two of them, actually - (as it did famously in Goldfinger), as does Felix Leiter, the CIA agent we first meet in the Bahamas in the first Bond film from 1962, Dr. No, but after all this time, he has developed quite a tan, to say nothing of a multiple personality disorder seeing as how he has been played by a different actor in each of the nine Bond films thus far (Felix was last seen in License to Kill).

 

Casino Royale ~ The Score Card

 

The Movie : 8.5

The plot this time around is a little more decipherable than your usual Bond fare of recent years, though it may take more than one viewing to put the pieces together.  After a brief opener where Bond makes the kill that qualifies him as a "00", we move to Madagascar where Bond chases down information that leads him, by way of the Bahamas, to a high stakes poker game in Montenegro against the ruthless Le Chiffre.  His financier (by way of Her Majesty's government) is the cynical and beautiful Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who worries, with good reason, that Bond can beat his opponent simply by reading his "tell."  Le Chiffre, who makes a good living raking in the profits realized by shrewd market investments (consider how much Al Quaeda must have gained by careful investments and sales for 9/11.)  Bond, having foiled one such operation in the Bahamas, has put Le Chiffre in an awkward place vis--vis his clients, who expect him to pay off.  Thus the stakes at Casino Royale.  But what about Ms. Lynd: what stakes is she playing for?

 

 

 

Image : 9 (8.5~9/9.5)

The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs.  The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

 

While sharp as the proverbial tack for nearly all but the opening, deliberately grainy black & white sequence, the picture was a little oversaturated and contrasty.  This may have been the effect desired, for this is clearly not a Bond film in the tradition of Roger Smith where the color was as natural as could be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music : 9.5/8

The Bond films require a certain extra something in terms of visual daring and the audio mix to support them.  And we get them both in the proverbial spades for this Blu-ray edition, regardless of the playback mix you choose: dynamics, clarity, slam and subtle ambiance where required.

 

 

 

Operations : 9

I like this menu, with its easy to read menu functions and enlargeable thumbnail chapters.

 

Extras : 7

All but the music video and entertaining interviews contained in Bond Girls Are Forever are presented in HD (though some bits have an upconverted look to them).  The other featurettes take a good look at the stunt work (James Bond: For Real), and how Daniel Craig took on the mantle (Becoming Bond).

 

 

 

Recommendation: 9

If Casino Royale isn't the best Bond in decades (and I feel it is), it is certainly worth seeing for its new take on the cinematic 007.  The Blu-ray is superb, and a must-have for Bond fans.

Leonard Norwitz
LensViews
October 28th, 2007

 

 

 

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Enter the Dragon

 

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