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Casino Royale movie poster

Casino Royale: Movie Review


Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Martin Campbell

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffery Wright
Released by: Sony Pictures

In Short: Audiences have loved to hate him, but Daniel Craig has no problem filling some very large spy shoes. Bond is back, and better than ever, with gorgeous women, fast cars, and awesome fight and chase scenes.

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Bond Begins Again
Blue Eyes and a Buff Bod Take Us Back to the Basics

With the release of "Casino Royale," the 21st chapter in the much-loved James Bond film franchise, 007 is permanently transformed — and happily returned to author Ian Fleming's original vision of the suave British secret agent. Blue-eyed, blondish Brit Daniel Craig takes over the iconic role and almost (but not quite) makes us forget all the Bonds that have come before, giving a gritty, nuanced performance in this jump-back to the origins of the character.

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

A still from Casino Royale

Based on Fleming's first novel in the series, the film asks us to take a leap of faith and allow the franchise to begin again, as we learn about Bond's beginnings as an agent for MI6, Britain's elite secret service. The leap the audience must take is the willingness to allow the idea that Bond is beginning his career in 2006, not back in 1961, before "Dr. No" (and Sean Connery) burst onto the big screen, with the Bond character fully formed.

Agreeing to go along with that conceit is easy, however, as director Martin Campbell and screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neil Purvis and Robert Wade have fashioned a literate, believable story that is rooted closer in reality than many of the Bond films that have come before, centered around a particularly nasty financier who funds worldwide terrorism by manipulating the stock market.

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Caterina Murino and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

From the twists on the traditional 007 opening adventure sequence to moments of brutality more in keeping with a Scorsese film, "Casino Royale" is a rollicking ride. Still peppered with all the key elements that have made James Bond such a perennial favorite (gorgeous women, fast cars, awesome fight/chase sequences, uniquely twisted bad guys), the movie is also a keen psychological look at the early life moments that turned Bond into the ultimate hard-nosed, ice-in-his-veins super spy.

Naturally, it is Craig's performance that is at the heart of the film and the accomplished 38-year-old steps up to the challenge admirably. He gives Bond a blend of arrogance, recklessness and brute physical force (Whew! What a body!), traits that almost get him killed just as he wins his 007 designation. Unlike other incarnations of Bond, this one actually has a character arc, with life-shifting experiences that shake his foundations and change him irrevocably, and Craig plays that shift with a deft subtlety that bodes well for the next installment.

With strong performances across the board from the supporting cast (although we missed the presence of a "Q" character to give us a gadget update), especially from Eva Green as Bond's sexual foil and the perennially wonderful Judi Dench as "M," along with great action, stunning scenery, and a leading man who is every inch the character we love, there's no doubt about it: Bond is back, and better than ever.

 

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

 

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P111406
(Updated 11/29/12 JLD)

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