Casino Royale is one of the best Bond films of all time with great performances, music and action. It was a bold and daring direction and for the most part, it works really well. Thankfully Q returns in the upcoming Skyfall which looks like it just might be a return to vintage Bond. Connery remains the king though.
Plot: Armed with a licence to kill, Secret Agent James Bond sets out on his first mission as 007 and must defeat a weapons dealer in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, but things are not what they seem.
Review: When Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond, there was a collective groan from 007 purists and I have to admit that I was one of them. “He’s not Bond, he’s blonde!” and so on…
Then a trailer was released and the doubters were silenced; hold on a minute, this looks pretty awesome. After the invisible car nonsense of Die Another Day, Bond was looking decidedly uncool and it looked like the franchise was going to die. Post 9/11, the world was feeling sorry for itself and wanted a more “serious and gritty” approach to action.
Not only did Casino Royale change things up for Bond, it reinvented the character for a new age. Bond is built like a tank and when he fights someone you feel every punch and kick. This Bond isn’t invincible either; he bleeds, falls in love and has regrets.
Craig’s Bond was anything but bland and proved that the character is timeless; reborn for a new generation. He was no longer the one-liner spewing womanizer; he was a ruthless modern spy who actually gets to finally fall in love… which does not end well. The woman he fell in love with was Vesper Lynd, played to perfection by the stunning Eva Green who is not only glamorous looking but was a strong character with her own motivations; she wasn’t just there to be eye candy. Vesper is now seen as one of the all-time great Bond girls and rightly so.
Casino Royale is directed by Martin Campbell who previously reinvented Bond with Goldeneye in the 90’s. He directs Casino Royale with confidence with some spectacular action scenes using very little (if any) CGI. The opening parkour chase has to be seen to be believed and is a pure adrenaline rush. Craig is at his physical peak, quite frankly running absolutely everywhere until he finds answers about a mysterious mercenary known as Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).
Le Chiffre is one of the best Bond villains as he is a real and believable character; he doesn’t have a secret lair with sharks that fire lasers. He’s a man who owes some nasty people a lot of money and is getting desperate. He still manages to be a piece of work and even tortures 007 in one of the most uncomfortable torture scenes of all time. Mads Mikkelsen is fabulous in the role and creates a new kind of villain; he’s also now one of my favourite actors.
Judi Dench is the only actor who returns to the franchise as M, who really is a mother figure to Bond. She knows how good he is but still has doubts about whether he’s ready to be a “Double 0”.
One of the main things that impressed me about the film was how accurate an adaptation it was; Bond even says the line “The bitch is dead!” which is iconic in the Ian Fleming novel.
Admittedly, there are a lot of new scenes added and the film is a little too long. I find the scene in Venice at the end just goes on for a few minutes longer than it needs to and possibly could have been trimmed. Sadly, there is no Q, gadgets or even Moneypenny which has taken some getting used to and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like the Bond we know and love.
I did however, LOVE Chris Cornell’s theme tune “You Know my Name” as it was loud and angry and reminded me of Live and Let Die, which remains the best Bond theme of all time. A Bond theme should be angry and this was a perfect choice for the new direction of the franchise. David Arnold provides the score and has proven to be one of the great Bond composers alongside John Barry.
Overall, despite the initial shock at the lack of Q, gadgets, etc, Casino Royale is one of the best Bond films of all time with great performances, music and action. It was a bold and daring direction and for the most part, it works really well. Thankfully Q returns in the upcoming Skyfall which looks like it just might be a return to vintage Bond. Connery remains the king though.