Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Casino Royale
The start of a new era of James Bond, Casino Royale does some interesting things to the franchise – some of which work, some of which do not. Casino Royale serves as a James Bond origin story, detailing 007’s first mission as the top secret super spy we know and love. But this Bond shuns gadgets in favour of hand-to-hand combat, and isn’t afraid to get brutal with his murdering of bad guys. In order to defund an underground terrorist organization, Bond takes part in a high-stakes poker tournament against Le Chiffre, a high-ranking member who is in charge of the group’s funds.  The result of this plot is that Casino Royale feels weirdly paced, slowing down for about an hour in the middle to watch game after game of Hold ‘Em Poker. The inclusion of Hold’Em Poker makes this movie feel rather dated now, since it was made at the height of the poker craze in the mid-2000’s, and any Bond fan worth his salt knows that baccarat is Bond’s game of choice. Outside of the poker games, though, the action is great, raw and plentiful. This iteration of Bond was clearly emulating the modern spy hero Jason Bourne (who was, in turn, emulating Bond), so there aren’t any gadgets to speak of. Just gunplay, martial arts, and spectacular chase scenes, including a 20-minute opening foot chase that is terrific fun. Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and Mads Mikkelsen are all good in their roles. Craig’s Bond is still charming, but much more thuggish and sinister than we’ve ever seen the character before. Eva Green is sultry but also funny as Vesper Lynd, and Mads Mikkelsen was born to play this kind of villain. Ultimately, this is not even especially close to being my favourite James Bond movie, but it does what it sets out to do: introduce us to a modern Bond unlike any we’ve seen before.
3.5 out of 5

Quantum of Solace
A rare direct sequel in the James Bond franchise, Quantum of Solace picks up right where Casino Royale left off: with Bond investigating a terrorist organization, which we learn calls itself Quantum. And honestly, that’s about it. Quantum of Solace is nothing at all to write home about. I’ve seen it multiple times now, but trying to recall anything noteworthy about it is proving quite the task. I remember that there’s a solid boat chase, and I remember Bond fighting the bad guy as a building blows up around them…and something about stealing water? Ask most Bond fans and this is the description that they will give you. The only thing worth taking away from Quantum of Solace is the character of Mr. White, who will turn up again in Spectre. But since White appears very briefly at the end of Casino Royale, you could honestly skip this movie altogether if you wanted. It neither adds nor detracts from the James Bond franchise.
2.5 out of 5

Spectre
After Skyfall blew everyone away by being the badass, elegant, perfect James Bond film we were all waiting for, Spectre undoes a lot of that good will by pulling the same clunky trick as Star Trek Into Darkness: teasing audiences about whether the villain will be revealed to be a classic villain from the golden age of the franchise. This is one of those movies that tries to unite a bunch of previous movies by having the bad guy claim to have been behind everything, and it just feels shoehorned in. Because the Craig-era Bond films failed to establish Christoph Waltz as (spoiler alert) Blofeld, lurking behind the scenes over the long term, it comes off like Spectre thinks its marketing campaign can do that work instead. By the time Waltz is revealed to be Blofeld, we no longer care, and dangling to mystery over so much of the film just detracts from the better moments. The opening scene is solid, and technically impressive, and there’s a great fight on the train with Dave Bautista against Craig, but the rest is just silly. Bond is given a love interest that we don’t care about, most of the action doesn’t feel organic within the story, and both the set up and reveal of Blofeld and Spectre fail to land with anything but a thud. In the end, Spectre isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s only better than Quantum of Solace by a hair. After Skyfall, I expected so much more from Sam Mendes.
3 out of 5

See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!

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