James Bond Review: Casino Royale


Welcome, one and all! Leading up to the North American release of the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, The Shattered Lens has taken on the task of reviewing each and every one of the twenty two James Bond films that precede it. Today’s is the penultimate review, Casino Royale, the first film of the series to star current-iteration Bond Daniel Craig. It serves as a reboot of the James Bond character, looking back to the beginning of his career, and entirely unconnected from all of the previous films in the series. The only returning actor is Dame Judi Dench, who reprises her role as M, in a more maternal overseer role looking out for a young Bond, despite his rash actions potentially causing trouble for MI6.

Our cold open this time has a black and white Bond confronting a crooked MI6 section chief – one who has been selling secrets to make money on the side. Bond kills both the section chief and his contact, which is enough to earn him his 00-status. The freshly minted 007 heads to Madagascar in pursuit of an international bomb maker. He attempts to find a way to apprehend the bomb maker alive, but is made, and is forced to pursue this man across the city. Bond eventually corners the bomb maker in an embassy building and kills him, blowing up part of the wall, and effecting his escape.

Back in England, M chides Bond for his itchy trigger finger, pointing out that while the world has one less small-time terrorist, they had hoped to get information which would let them fight international terrorism on the organisational level. Bond seems suitably chastened, but M goes further, asserting that she promoted Bond too early, that he is reckless, and a danger. Bond coldly replies that, since the 00-agent’s life is not typically a long one, she will not have to live with her mistake for long.

That’s the sort of Bond that we’re dealing with under the handling of Daniel Craig. While the character is still capable of being charming, he’s a very far cry from Sean Connery’s easy smile and one liners, or Pierce Brosnan’s especially terrible puns. This is sort of the crux of the movie; what controversy exists surrounding its qualities is heavily tied into how you respond to this new take on James Bond. Like all things 2000s, our hero is much grittier than before. Absent is all of Q’s high tech wizardry, and as I stated before, we are not even dealing with a seasoned killer in James Bond, but rather a freshly minted 00 agent. As a result of all these factors, this film has a distinctly different feel from every Bond produced before it. If you like the changes, everything is cool. If you don’t, you may still find yourself appreciating Casino Royale, which has a relatively simple plot, but spends quite a bit of effort on setting up and establishing its characters, including this new James Bond, for the audience.

The main plot of Casino Royale revolves around a high-stakes Texas Hold ‘Em tournament held at the titular casino, located in Montenegro. James Bond is assigned to win the tournament which is being staged by terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) to recoup the terrible losses he suffered when he used the money of his clients to short sell stock, predicting that a terrorist strike which he himself had planned would send prices into free fall. M hopes that by pushing Le Chiffre to the point of desperation, they can force him to cut a deal with MI6 – sanctuary in exchange for everything he knows about terrorists around the world. Bond is assisted in his goal by fellow MI6 agent Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), this iteration’s Bond girl, an agent from HM Treasury, who is assigned to manage Bond’s $10M buy-in, and to provide him with a $5M re-buy if she believes it would be a good investment. However, since a failure on Bond’s part would mean that Her Majesty’s Treasury was directly funding international terrorism, there is incentive to be cautious.

It takes us nearly an hour to begin to engage in the meat of the film, at the titular Casino Royale. Or, at least, this should be the meat of the film. However, the structure of Casino Royale is a little bit off. It feels like it has enough action, but it doesn’t feel properly paced, with the front half of the film (really just a series of subplots to get us to Montenegro) feels like classic “action Bond”. The scenes in the Casino could have been pulled (well, if Daniel Craig could smile, at any rate) from any other Bond film, as his history is littered with a rich litany of casino sequences. Before and after the casino sequences, however, are framing bits that involve idyllic locations, and if I may be so bold, it doesn’t exactly zoom along. The spacing between the casino sequences and the finale, in particular, made the final act feel very tacked on and a little out of place, even as deliberately intended setup for Quantum of Solace. This can also be off-putting, as it feels like there are two different movies going on here.

For the most part though, I think Casino Royale works. If you can live with a grimmer, grittier, low-talking James Bond, you may really appreciate this low-tech return to basics for our favourite 00-agent.

Tomorrow you’ll get a healthy dose of Quantum of Solace, but before I sign off, let me leave you with the theme from Casino Royale, one of the cooler James Bond themes in the franchise, performed by Chris Cornell.

Trailer: World War Z (Official)


It’s not hyperbole to say that one of the best horror novels to come out in the past 20 years was written by Mel Brook’s son. A son who wrote comedy scripts for Saturday Night Live. Max Brooks before 2003 was relatively unknown to genre fans. This changed post-2003 with the release of his tongue-in-cheek how-to book, The Zombie Survival Guide. It was a book that was slow to succeed in terms of sales but grew in popularity as more and more fans of the zombie genre heard about it and recommended it to like-minded friends. Just like the subject matter Brooks worte about this guide spread in a geometric pattern and more and more people began to know.

In 2006, Brooks released the companion piece to his best-selling guide with the fictional oral history account of the aftermath of a zombie apocalyptic war and how humanity fought back from the brink of extinction. This novel was World War Z and even before one could say “this book could be made into a film…” the film rights to the book became a hot commodity in Hollywood. In the end, Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company won the right to adapt the novel into a feature-length film.

After several years of trying to create a screenplay from the documentary-style and sprawling narrative of the novel the film finally went into production in mid-2011 with a screenplay that took some of the important events from the novel and set the film during the war itself as it unfolded instead of flashbacks as recounted by those who survived. This change has angered fans of the book and their anger and frustration went up another notch when some leaked on-the-set footage showing the zombies as more of the running-style zombies than the slower ones in the novel.

Another stumbling block pushed the film from a holiday 2012 release date to a summer 2013 release as Paramount looked to having World War Z as part of their 2013 summer blockbuster slate of films. This film has had so much issues and problems that it took to Brad Pitt finally agreeing to headline the cast to get the film finally made. So, instead of a film the chronicles the stories of the war’s survivors a decade after the war ended we now have a film that skews more towards a film that’s heavy on action set-pieces and globe-trotting. Someone on IGN.com has called World War Z (after seeing the attached official trailer) as 2012 with zombies. The first official trailer does seem to make it look like that.

As a fan of the novel I’m saddened by the changes, but I will say that the trailer does make this film look very epic. I’m more than willing to watch this film (who am I kidding I will watch this film and probably more than once or twice.) and look at it as the filmmakers’ own take on the novel. I mean if it turns out to be great on it’s own then hooray. If it sucks then I still have my novel to go back to. Plus, this is the first zombie film that will show the pandemic in global settings and proportions. This will be the first time we get to see this on film and not just on the written page.

My own review of the novel gives an idea just how different the film will be from the source material.

Trailer source: Joblo Movie Network

Artist Profile: George Ziel (1914–1982)


Jerzy Zielezinski was 25 years old when the Nazis invaded his native Poland.  He was sent to first the Warsaw Ghetto and eventually to the Dachau Concentration Camp.  Zielezinski escaped the horrors of his everyday life through his art.  Paper and pencils were forbidden so Zielezinski sketched using scraps and pieces of charcoal.  After the liberation of Dachau, Zielzinski turned his rough sketches into drawings.  His first two books of drawings, Prisoner Album (1945) and 24 Sketches From The Concentration Camps in Germany (1946), are considered to be invaluable pieces of history.  His artwork is displayed at Holocaust memorials across Europe.

After World War II, Zielzinski moved to New York City and, using the name George Ziel, he started his prolific career as a commercial artist.  Ziel painted a countless amount of paperback novel covers.  He is best remembered for his Gothic Romance covers.

A selection of his work can be found below.