The most successful invigoration of a cinematic franchise since Batman Begins, Casino Royale offers a new Bond identity. Based on the Ian Fleming novel that introduced Agent 007 into a Cold War world, Casino Royale is the most brutal and viscerally exciting James Bond film since Sean Connery left Her Majesty's Secret Service. Meet the new Bond; not the same as the old Bond. Daniel Craig gives a galvanising performance as the freshly minted double-0 agent. Suave, yes, but also a "blunt instrument," reckless and possessed with an ego that compromises his judgment during his first mission to root out the mastermind behind an operation that funds international terrorists. In classic Bond film tradition, his global itinerary takes him to far-flung locales, including Uganda, Madagascar, the Bahamas (that's more like it) and Montenegro, where he is pitted against his nemesis in a poker game, with hundreds of millions in the pot. The stakes get even higher when Bond lets down his armour by falling in love with Vesper (Eva Green), the ravishing banker's representative fronting him the money.
For longtime fans of the franchise, Casino Royale offers some retro kicks. Bond wins his iconic Aston Martin at the gaming table, and when a bartender asks if he wants his martini "shaken or stirred," he disdainfully replies, "Do I look like I give a damn?". There's no Moneypenny or "Q," but Dame Judi Dench is back as the exasperated M who, one senses, admires Bond's "bloody cheek." A Bond film is only as good as its villain, and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, who weeps blood, is a sinister dandy. From its punishing violence and virtuoso action sequences to its romance, Casino Royale is a Bond film that, in the words of one character, 'makes you feel it', particularly during an excruciating torture sequence. Double-0s, Bond observes early on, "have a short life expectancy". But with Craig, there is new life in the old franchise yet, as well as genuine anticipation for the next one when, at last, the signature James Bond theme kicks in following the best last line ever in any Bond film. To quote Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, "now I know what I've been faking all these years". --Donald Liebenson
After a great deal of discussion--on the part of fans and producers alike--over Daniel Craig's (The Mother
) suitability for the role of James Bond, he more than proves himself in this explosive revamping of the franchise. Under the direction of Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro
) and with Paul Haggis (Crash
) helping with the re-writes, this addition to the Bond canon manages to hold true to the essence of the stories--the villainous villains, the fabulous sets, the beautiful women, the fast-paced action--while updating the formula with subtlety and humanity. Trading in the Cold War era for a new, post-9-11 landscape, the tale unfolds in locations that span the globe, including the Bahamas, Venice, and the Czech Republic. It opens in Madagascar, where Bond pursues a guerilla bomb-maker in one of the most breathtaking chase scenes ever--and it all takes place on foot. Botching that assignment, Bond goes to Montenegro to square off against terrorist baddie Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson), an international loan shark who gambles with the money of his equally dangerous clients. Beautiful British Treasury representative Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, The Dreamers
) supplies Bond's own funds, appearing on his arm in Montenegro, while M (Dame Judi Dench, Pride and Prejudice
) keeps a close watch on the action from headquarters. The extravagant poker game forms the centre of the action, with Jeffrey Wright (Syriana
, The Manchurian Candidate
) putting in an intense appearance at the table; interrupting the game are assassination attempts, poisoning, and other dramatic events that keep the adrenaline pumping. The flirtation that unfolds between Bond and Vesper Lynd is only in keeping with the spy's M.O. as a ladies' man. What differs here, however, is what sets this Bond apart from the rest: the romance is taken seriously, and it exposes vulnerability in Bond that he's never shown before. This, however, only makes him the tougher, as Craig's Bond is darker, less campy, more brooding and mysterious, than his past incarnations ever were.