Save for Sherlock Holmes, no British protector has shown more lasting power than James Bond. Beginning during the Cold War and surviving six leading men, one would think the smarmy agent would run out of things to say.
Casino Royale, the 21st entry in the Bond series, tries to prove otherwise.
The plot centers on Bond’s beginnings. After a slip-up results in some highly public assassinations, the British government gives the new 007 agent a second chance.
The British government instructs Bond to win a poker game and bankrupt a banker who has been gambling with terrorist funds. With no money to pay back the banker’s angry clients, the government hopes he will reveal a bombmaker’s identity in return for amnesty.
Because this is an action movie, the butt-kicking, explosions, gadgetry, witticisms and seductive women are thrown in by the bucket-load between poker matches.
Much ado has been made over Daniel Craig filling Bond’s trousers. Certainly, he is the best actor to ever play 007, as his powerful blue eyes and haunted air can attest.
Yet, as good as Craig’s acting chops are, his success as Bond is unclear. His agent came across as cold and so ready to murder and maim (this must be the bloodiest and grittiest of the series despite its PG-13 rating) that he appeared psychotic.
Not only does this movie chuck the old Bond standard of lewd female names like Pussy Galore or Goodnight, it boasts a well-rounded Bond girl. Eva Green is a good actress, and her character Vespa is Bond’s match intellectually and sexually. She is in charge of his money and puts the agent’s inflated ego to the test. However, before one can say, “Finally, a Bond girl with an IQ over that of a mayo jar,” Vespa gives into Bond machoness and becomes another weeping heroine.
The villains are just as politically incorrect as ever, with nearly all the evil characters being minorities or deformed.
The super bad guy here is Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, an asthmatic man with a cataract eye that weeps blood. Sickly, sophisticated and possessing the aura of a man that knows he is living on borrowed time, Le Chiffre is a sympathetic Bond villain and has reasonable motivations. No plans to wipe out the world with a death ray here, just a scared businessman trying to survive after poor decisions.
Martin Campbell’s direction is what one would expect from the GoldenEye alumnus. Everything is as quick and flashy as the Bond character. Cheers to this director for the cool black and white shots at the beginning of the film as well as the opening credits when Craig’s silhouette interacts with poker card figures.
Bond fans or those who like action gritty should see Casino Royale, but not people looking for the series’ former camp.