The James Bond franchise gets a revamp with Casino Royale, a darker, much more violent Bond for a new generation, that is more than able to go blow by blow with the new crop of action thrillers.
A very well written action film, writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis have taken advantage of current world events and technologies. No doubt they would have been delighted at the premise of taking a well known and adored character and breaking some of the traditional conventions that come with him, while also laying down the foundations which make James Bond the man he would eventually become.
Casino Royale begins with Bond (Daniel Craig) gaining 00 status after completing his first assigned kill in a gloriously shot black and white opening scene. Bond’s first mission is to take on the villainous Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a terrorist banker who has placed $100 million of a Ugandan warlord's money on a high stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Accompanying Bond is British treasury liaison Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who breaks Bond's emotional detachment leaving him vulnerable to her affections.
The somewhat controversial decision to cast Daniel Craig as James Bond turned out to be an exceptional choice with the dark, brooding character actor the perfect replacement for Pierce Brosnan. With the Bond series starting from scratch, Craig brings originality to the character playing the super spy as ruthless, arrogant and cocky, but also bringing much more depth and emotion than any other actor before him.
The extremely beautiful Eva Green proves to be much more than Bond girl eye candy, with the chemistry between the French actress and Craig undeniable. Mads Mikkelsen is eerily creepy as Le Chiffre, whose credentials of a mathematical genius and chess prodigy who weeps blood the perfect villainous attributes. Meanwhile the authoritative presence of Judi Dench makes the most out of her limited screen time as M.
The filmmakers are not afraid to poke fun at the Bond legend. Craig cheekily adopts the Ursula Andress beach emergence as his own, and watching Bond say he does not give a damn if his Vodka-martini is shaken or stirred seems to come close to blasphemy. Yet many of the Bond staples are still present; the Aston Martini, the beautiful women and a very good title song by Chris Cornell.
Director Martin Campbell, who ushered in Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye back in 1995, returns to the fold and does a bang up job in the process. The nail bitting action sequences, including a thrilling chase scene through a high rise construction site, are outstanding.
But there is also plenty of suspense to be found within the poker scenes, with a slight fact that many seem to have ignored; Casino Royale is one of the finer poker movie.
The cinematography by Phil Meheux's is also first rate, capturing the exotic location's of the Bahamas, Montenegro and Venice.
Running at almost 2 ½ hours, Casino Royale sure does provide plenty of bang for your buck but runs a too long, and is enough reason to drop the rating from what could have potentially been a four star film. Yet Daniel Craig and co. make Casino Royale a very entertaining and welcome return to one of cinema's most beloved characters.