James Bond (Daniel Craig) has just earned his 00 status and a license to kill. We follow our protagonist through his first mission as a full agent within Britain’s MI6 intelligence program. James must skilfully and unsuspectingly win a high stakes Poker game at the world-renowned Casino Royale in Montenegro, to bankrupt a desperate banker whose clients deal in global terrorism. With the help of his new associate, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and his superior, M (Dame Judy Dench), James learns that there’s a lot more than just poker and dirty money at stake.
How many kills does it take to become a 00? The new James Bond (Daniel Craig), nearly breaks the bank as he earns his stripes and moves up the ranks in MI6. We follow James as he reveals some damning character traits that he overcomes through a tragic relationship and humbling defeat. James is a whole lot darker in his tactics as the film starts. This is evident within the first opening scenes. This epic pursuit puts James’ weaker characteristics to the forefront, despite his high skills and capabilities. He’s smart, yes. He just chooses to let his ego win most of the time.
James engages in a long battle with his target; showing signs of arrogance as he’d rather kill the man to satisfy his ego than capture the target as per orders. As the film progresses, James’s arrogance is pointed out, albeit bluntly, by the women in his life, Vesper Lynd and M, played by the truly remarkable Dame Judy Dench.
This film heavily deviates from the tropes of its predecessors. As M warns, James must “take his ego out of the equation and judge the situation dispassionately”. He’s got to calm down and beat the villain in a game of wit and luck. Poker. Luckily Vesper (Eva Green) is there to calm him. But Vesper is more than a pretty face. She’s got a dark past and as she and Bond fall in love, that past comes to ruin their relationship and Bond’s near future.
James Bond has had more lives than a supernatural cat. He’s originally Ian Flemming’s creation. The British novelist brought the character to life through many books and a small collection of short stories. But James hit the big screen in Dr. No (not really recommended, unless you’re a fan of campy acting and racist stereotypes).
The writing trio of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis for Casino Royale takes this archaic film series and flips the script and characters on their heads. The chase scene is great, but the dialogue mixed with intense fight choreography in the black and white opening sequence really cements the entry of a new Bond. The writers make sure we know that James will do anything to get his target. It’s violent and graphically disturbing at times, like the torture scene where LeChiffre strips Bond and demands his money back while assaulting his privates. It makes you squirm on the inside, but it’s the dark and gritty Bond that the writers intended.
The writers brilliantly feed us high octane action and then cool us down with a seemingly relaxed poker game. They disperse the tension in little bursts of rising action which lets the audience breathe while setting up the next big scene.
Characters and acting
When it was announced that Daniel Craig would replace Pierce Brosnan in the new 007 reboot, people weren’t convinced. But he proved the naysayers wrong when he hit this performance out of the park. Craig embodies the new James perfectly and he really made the role his own. Alongside him is Vesper played by the hauntingly beautiful Eva Green. She’s the most intelligent and highly skilled of any Bond girl. Eva has this mystery about her and she pushes that into her character, who has some dark secrets of her own.
Guess what, “M” is back! The usual male boss was re-written as a leader who has no time for James’ foolishness. She’s dryer than a martini, but in the best way. The character really fits Dame Judy Dench’s vast acting abilities. Then there’s the bad guy. Let’s talk about him a bit. LeChiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is pretty menacing. His milky eye which cries blood is rather eerie, but his calculated calm is what makes him truly scary. Mads has a terrifying face which suits this role perfectly.
Music and cinematography
The director, Martin Campbell, treats us to an art form that is rarely appreciated in Hollywood cinema, which is park our. It’s almost enough to make you want to jump out of your window and leap onto your neighbors’ roof. Almost. Looking at the film, it’s also hard to tell it was shot in the Czech Republic. The stunning landscapes and visuals make you want to book a vacation to Montenegro. The director also shows his remarkable ability to keep our focus during the indoor poker scenes.
When it comes to music, James Bond is legendary. Each film has its own signature song and this one is no different. The sequence follows a card motif that’s just sleek. American Artist Chris Cornell penned and performed this hit. The familiar bond horns spill into our ears and we know we’re in for a good time. It’s more of a rebel rock song so it captures the youthful edge of the character. Like the song says, you know his name. Epic!
If you’re a spy/espionage genre enthusiast and you’re looking to live out the best the genre has to offer, then look no further. This film is sure to be a classic and it’s full of love, lust, action, high stakes and a dense origin story. Highly recommended!