Casino Royale Review: A Successful Bond Reboot
by Alex Billington
November 18, 2006
The latest in the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale, is the anticipated remake of the original 1967 classic of the same name that explores Bond's first mission as a double-0 agent. Featuring Daniel Craig, aptly referred to as "Blonde Bond," Casino Royale is an exciting and sorely needed reboot of the Bond franchise after the past few installments drove fans and audiences away. Casino Royale is a great film, but it doesn't play without some minor problems of its own.
Casino Royale starts off its pre-credits sequence with a gritty black-and-white telling of Bond's first two kills that grant him double-0 status. From there he is sent on his first mission in Madagascar where Bond makes a costly and embarrassing mistake. Despite MI6's misgivings about the young agent, the reckless Bond continues pursuing the objectives and following leads around the world heading to the Bahamas, Prague, and Venice, Italy. He finally heads to the Casino Royale hotel in Montenegro, where his card playing skills and wit come in handy when he joins a high-stakes poker tournament with the banker to the world's terrorists Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Although there is no Moneypenny or Q in MI6 yet, Bond is assisted by a stern yet attractive accountant from MI6, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).
Although certainly much better than the later films from Pierce Brosnan's time, Casino Royale is not nearly as "James Bond classic" as GoldenEye or many of the Sean Connery or Roger Moore Bonds. It does provide a jolt of energy in what was a franchise near death, and it introduces a fantastic new twist on Bond with Daniel Craig. Craig's performance is exciting but noticeably harsher than the suave and intellectual Connery or Moore Bonds. As much as I was convinced, the person sitting next to me can be just as easily let down at his portrayal.
It's tough comparing Casino Royale to the past 20 Bond movies when it's supposed to focus on the early days of 007. Despite that, the story itself was still quite worthy of a Bond film, although it dwells too much on the relationship story between Vesper and Bond. What I respect is that Casino Royale stays close to the classic Ian Fleming stories that serve as the literary canon for James Bond fans everywhere. Craig plays a true Ian Fleming Bond whose youth and reckless attitude make waves in MI6 but who falls in love and learns his lesson by the end.
Casino Royale takes a much newer approach to Bond than we're previously familiar with from Brosnan. Without Q there aren't as many spy gadgets, but modern accoutrements like mobile phones and laptops serve the plot well. In addition, this film focuses more on physical action and hand-to-hand fighting than on intellectual "fights" or duels as often previously seen. On the whole, Casino Royale portrays Bond as an apt learner setting the stage for all the later movies we know - and of course for Bond 22, already in pre-production.
Even if audiences end up admiring the cars more than the women, Eva Green as the lovely Vesper Lynd along with the incredible new Daniel Craig turn out another classic in the Bond franchise. The young and reckless James learns his lessons that later play out in the original 20 Bonds, and Casino Royale is a justifiably admirable addition to the 44-year-old franchise.