Movie Review: Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale (2006)____7/10
Worthy heir to the Bond franchise

Directed by Martin Campbell

Selected Cast
Daniel Craig … James Bond
Judi Dench … M
Eva Green … Vesper Lynd
Giancarlo Giannini … Mathis
Mads Mikkelsen …. Le Chiffre

Casino Royale with the new James Bond (Daniel Craig) starts with an exhilarating chase scene in an African-port construction site.  Bond and his prey dance about the cranes and building columns like Spidermen or the swordsfolk of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

If you’re afraid of heights, you may want to avoid these first full 15 minutes of death-defying jumps and rumbles on high steel.  The camera pans out over the ocean with these tiny men in the foreground shinnying up greasy cables, surrounded by empty space. I felt twinges of vertigo combined with fear of falling.

Craig is the most physical Bond we’ve seen, and the most capable of tough-man-competition-like violence.

You wonder if the new Bond is simply a glorified killing machine, until we get into the actual plot with a beautiful associate Vesper Lynd (Eva Braun) winning his affection.

Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), an financier of international terrorism, has poorly invested cash from an African general-thug, and plans to win it back at a $150-million, winner-take-all poker game at a posh Montenegro casino.  Bond figures to enter the game with a $10 million buy-in; M (Judi Dench) sends Vesper to be gatekeeper of the Queen’s funds, while posing as Bond’s lover.

Most of the rest of the movie is predictable thriller material.
Bond and Lynd initially size each other up, keeping at arms length.  Then they quite cleverly talk their way toward a rapprochement, and finally, after some stark action sequences, they come to genuine deep feeling for each other.  The love vibe is believable; Craig and Green do fine, professional acting work.

The denouement has some twists, and I won’t spoil it.

True to the international flavor of 007 escapades, we get to see characters cavorting on every continent except possibly Australia.  But the cosmopolitan aura, ironically, seems to be missing from this Bond, where earlier Bonds—particularly Connery and Brosnan—projected the epitome of a debonair man of the world.

The Craig Bond is confident and even sensitive—probably as sensitive a Bond portrayal since George Lazenby’s in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—but not sophisticated to the standards Ian Fleming’s super agent.

I do miss that quality, which was a big part of what made the original Bond so appealing… especially to teenage boys in Podunk, America, in the 60s.  We aspired to be that elegant man of action, who had the fast cars, the hot babes, and insisted his martinis be “shaken not stirred.”  Supreme confidence without strain.

Oh well, different times, different Bonds.  Still 007.

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