Tonight we’re back saving the world with the 2006 redux of the 007 film Casino Royale and drinking Petit La Chouffe. As you may or may not have guessed, I love me some James Bond and this post-Brosnan reboot of the franchise shows the character at the top of his game. No jetpacks or invisible cars. Just some guns, an Aston Martin, beautiful locations and even more beautiful women. So with a La Chouffe in hand and a Le Chiffre to beat at poker, let’s get started.
For those of you who don’t know, Casino Royale was actually the first James Bond book every written. However, it was never sold with all the others that went into making the original movies. Before 2006, there were actually two other Casino Royale incarnations. The first was a 1954 TV pilot aimed at starting a 007 television series. The second version came out in 1967 and was actually a spoof starring none other than Orson Welles as our bad guy Le Chiffre. With it’s release in 2006, the Casino Royale of tonight’s pairing is actually the last movie to be made out of Ian Fleming’s novels. But enough history, let’s get to the action.
Unlike most action movies, Casino Royale balances intensity with sensitivity quite well. Action punctuates moments of character development and reflection. The writing is sharp, layered with meaning and is carried well by a strong cast (who doesn’t want some Daniel Craig?). On top of that, the visuals are striking (most notably Eva Green) and the plot doesn’t lose track of itself unlike some of the film’s predecessors. I really only have two complaints about the film and they can really be rolled into one. Structurally, the film’s acts are almost painfully distinct. The film is evenly split into thirds and sometimes it’s hard to remember how we got from A to B. Though the film’s narrative makes sense, it feels a bit too rigid and it stands out. This brings me to second point which is that the final sequence (in an unnaturally blue-watered Venice), feels like a tag-on. I’m all for wrapping things up but this sequence is like a short film unto itself. And while yes it does wrap up a few loose ends, it feels as if the filmmakers realized a little too late in the game that they needed to end the movie. But overall these are minor complaints and I will still continue to watch this movie (and Eva Green) over and over.
And now we’re off to Belgium, Land of Beer! Seriously, if you want good beer, buy Belgian. Petit La Chouffe, which sports a darling picture of a gnome on its label, is no exception to the Belgian rule. Brewed with spices and touting a bold 8% ABV, this is a beer that is not to be trifled with. Golden in color and smooth in its delivery, La Chouffe’s ABV can actually sneak up on you simply because this beer is so delicious. It has a strong smell of yeast and it doesn’t shy away from those magical spices with which it was brewed. This bold flavor combined with a surprisingly large head (the foam that appears when you pour) forces you to slow down, sip and enjoy this tasty beverage. And though La Chouffe goes for about $5 a bottle, I have to say that it is entirely worth it for anyone who wants to experience good beer. And trust me, you want to experience good beer.
So that’s about all, folks. La Chouffe and Le Chiffre. A match made in heaven. An engaging and occasionally thoughtful action movie with a robust beer. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Petit La Chouffe:
Rich, golden color.
Big, yeasty head.
Complex, spicy flavor.
Action movie with a sense of grace.
Daniel Craig is one tough man.