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Casino Royale

James Bond (Daniel Craig), is the most British of secret agents having just earnt his 00 stripes. M (Judi Dench) sends him out on his first mission, targeting
Le Chiffre - a banker supporting various terrorist organisations. Bond has to bankrupt Le Chiffre during a high stakes game at Casino Royale. Both men are looking for a different outcome. To safeguard the money Bond is using, M sends fellow agent Vesper Lynd, (Eva Green), to ensure things run smoothly. The events that follow turn Bond into the agent that cinema audiences have come to know for over 44 years.
After the high tech opulence of recent movies, the producers decided to bring Bond back to reality and start the series from scratch. Casino Royale features a Bond who is just starting out, learning deadly agent skills along the way. The double cross and brinkmanship that he experiences, slowly pieces together the ruthless agent he becomes. By beginning the series again, the producers devised a way to bring in new fans as well as keeping the older ones, both of whom interested in seeing how Bond created his personae. Throughout its’ history, the series has always adapted to new tastes and successfully does so here.
Daniel Craig expertly dons the tuxedo, being the best actor to play Bond since Timothy Dalton - making his Bond a true character. The ploy of having a ‘rough diamond in a tux’ introduced Sean Connery years ago, and works well this time. This is the genuine article from the pen of Ian Fleming. The casting, in general, is of a very high standard with everyone injecting their shadowy characters with a crucial believability, creating more tension. Craig’s scenes with Judi Dench as M are a pleasure to watch, showing the sniping between the agent and boss as in the novels.
This is the closest the series has been to an Ian Fleming novel since the 1960s, with a tough uncompromising cocktail that befits the dark cloak and dagger world that the characters inhabit. The film isn’t totally perfect - parts of the casino scenes and the conclusion seem drawn out - but the strong screenplay logically follows the main plot points to good effect. The action scenes are amazing, with the producers ‘doing things for real’ rather than relying on CGI, as has happened before.
This is a very well written and acted film, with stunning location photography that matches the best of the previous entries. The very serious tone may be off putting to some who enjoyed the more frivolous Brosnan films. Others should enjoy the gritty reality as Bond literally hits the ground running from the first frame. A great entry in the Bond cannon that dares to shake things up, rejuvenating a franchise for further 007 missions in years to come.
Rating out of 10: 8
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The Guardian

After his crew is tragically killed during a sea rescue attempt, Ben Randall’s (Kevin Costner) life goes into meltdown. His wife leaves him and his job prospects take a dive. Salvation comes when he is asked to train a new group of upcoming coast guards, hopefully finding redemption amongst the rookies. One rookie is Jack Fischer (Ashton Kutcher), who challenges Randall’s belief system. Both men provide support to each other in their quest to stop swimming against life’s cruel riptide.
Heroism and bravery are the main themes explored whilst depicting the efforts of the US Coast Guard service. The bonding of a small group learning to rely on each other during a crisis is shown, with one person’s mistake effectively placing the whole team in jeopardy. Jack Fischer puts his ego in front of saving lives, wanting to beat the records set by Randall who is battling to live up to his unwanted ‘legend’ status. Randall sets out to strip away Fischer’s ego making sure he has the heart to unselfishly serve those he is meant to protect.
Andrew Davis directs the rescue scenes with an assured hand, tightening the screws of tension whenever the next wave crashes down on its victims. The training sessions are interesting to watch, providing both physical and mental punishment that the sea can dish out. However the films’ length detracts from the story with various sub-plots not adding to the overall theme of the film. Copious editing could have made this a very intense film, but instead repeats plot points - delaying the inevitable payoff. There is also a heavy dose of sentimentality that underscores the clich├ęs that are found throughout.
Costner and Kutcher make a good team, playing mirror images of each other. Randall can see that Fischer is what he was like when he was younger and is determined to curb his youthful enthusiasm. Costner portrays the weary coach very well, haunted by his mates’ deaths. Kutcher equips himself admirably against Costner’s presence, almost erasing the memory of various comedy roles on which he built his name. The other characters do well to portray the rivalries that exist between the military services, each wanting to prove that their operation is the more ‘worthy’.
The Guardian is a reasonable glance at the dynamics of a rescue team and how legends are apparently created. The unfocused nature of the overlong story does dilute things somewhat. However the acting manages to maintain interest. Whilst not being memorable, the film is a fair time-waster.
Rating out of 10: 6
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