After an unusually long hiatus of 4 years from the last Bond movie, Die Another Day, Bond #21 is a significant entry in the series as it carries with it a whole lot of responsibilities and expectations. It not only have the task of introducing to the world yet another new star to play the role of agent 007, but also has the ambitious task of rebooting the series which sees Bond being introduced as a new agent to the force! Happily, Casino Royale is an irrefutable success in every way making it, at least for me, THE best entry in the series so far.
As the first film to star Daniel Craig as agent James Bond, we get the opportunity to be impressed by his personification of the suave agent. Since this is supposed to be his first assignment, Craig skillfully demonstrate the crudeness of his tactics, and his vulnerabilities in a realistic manner. None of the tongue in cheek and ridiculous narrow escapes that the early Bond outings often had. The opening gambit is also a far departure from what we have been accustomed to in the series. Instead of an elaborately staged stunt action sequence, we get an insight to Bond’s first kill as agent 007 as he hunts down and pass judgement to a traitor to the agency. No fancy stunts. Just a riveting fight scene and an introduction to a cold blooded Bond, captured in classy black and white noir finishing. The opening credits sequence that follows no longer featured silhouettes of naked women pracing around in suggestive poses and moves. This was followed by an elaborate action packed foot chase sequence which would normally be THE opening gambit act. All I can say is .. wow!!! What a way to introduce us to the new Bond and the new superstar Craig.
The plot involves high-stakes deals between terrorists and dirty money exchanges. Bond pursuit of the bad guys takes him to an extended card game in the casino in Montenegro. He is supported by a British treasury agent Vesper, played by the lovely Eva Green. The verbal exchange between Bond and Vesper in their initial encounter is one of the film’s many highlights and will remain as one of the most memorable scenes in the series. This shows that Bond movies is not only just about action. We often overlook how cleverly written the script is in providing a powerful compliment to the flow of the story. In between the multiple near death experiences, and double crossing, the story still finds time for a romantic interlude between Bond and Vesper. This brings to mind the romantic angle used so effectively in ”For Her Majesty’s Secret Service” where Diana Rigg left her unforgettable mark in the series as Bond’s lover. Craig is able to display such a wide range of emotions in this outing, he simply oozes with irresistible charms when he falls for Vesper.
Having the accomplished Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen play the main villain was also a clever casting choice as he portrays a baddie that is not only more believable but also does not makes the silly mistakes all Bond villains make before their demise .. talking too much.
As usual the action and exotic locales are top notch. There are the usual product placements but these were often humorously integrated to the script as in the case of Bond’s associated with Omega watches and his Austin Martin sports car. Perhaps a bit glaringly missing were two recurring supporting characters in the series, M’s secretary Money Penny and gadgets expert Q. Both these characters will be introduced to the series in later entries with Daniel Craig.
Casino Royale ushers in a new era for the Bond franchise. It has become grittier, less campy, and more exciting than ever. I suppose this is something inevitable as the series’ format and routine was becoming dated and needed a significant shake up to become more relevant in the new modern world.