James Bond’s first mission, where he must stop a banker from winning a casino tournament and using the prize money to fund terrorist activities.
Action, Adventure, Thriller
Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankol, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair
Though it doesn’t care too much about the series’ continuity (it’s supposed to be Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent, but it takes place after the Cold war and Judi Dench is already M), “Casino Royale” is a great re-creation of the series. Cool action, great thrills and a more humane Bond more than make up for the purported lack of gadgets. Daniel Craig plays Bond as a rough secret who only gradually acquires the class and cold demeanor we all know and love. He makes mistakes in the course of his mission, but that makes him even more of a hero. Although I found it hard at first to cope with Craig’s looks, he is more than suitable as the character. Bond is portrayed as a man with flaws and weaknesses, which makes him look even stronger. The story is not your usual Bond plot and relies more on classical thrills than technology, though the action is extremely hard-boiled. Kudos to the creepy Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd for creating remarkably believable characters. A definite must-see for Bond fans : it should reconcile at last Ian Fleming aficionados and fans of the film series !
The real ace in the hand is Craig. He doesn’t have Connery’s raw star quality, but he’s easily the best actor to have played the part. I don’t know if the film was shot in sequence but for the only time since OHMSS you get a sense of Bond changing throughout the film as his cockiness becomes confidence and his brutality becomes cold efficiency. He starts off unlikeable but human and gradually picks up the Bond traits we know until he becomes more likable but just a little less human. It’s an interesting journey and Craig is up to it. It’s not just his delivery, it’s also his body language. Even his fighting style changes as he adapts.
Physically he’s the most in your face Bond since Lazenby and the action scenes look brutal for once. Even the not very likely free running chase is spectacular but believable because you get the idea that this really is kill or be killed stuff. It’s got a real feel of danger to it that hasn’t been seen in the series in years. Only the torture scene feels like it’s holding back (it’s almost as tastefully done as the old TV version) but that’s probably fear of the censors.