Have you ever wondered what events helped make James Bond into the man we have known for the last few decades? Ever wanted to know how he achieved his ‘00’ status or why he treats women the way that he does? Well, if you do then you will no doubt want to watch the movie that is being called ‘the best Bond movie ever made’. The movie I’m talking about of course is “Casino Royale”. After over 20 movies, the producers of the ‘James Bond’ series felt it was time for a restart, a way to make Bond fresh for today’s audiences. So, what better way to do that than to begin this reboot of the franchise with the story that started it all, and let audiences everywhere discover just how James became Bond.
“Casino Royale” begins with a different kind of James Bond (Daniel Craig), as we are first introduced to him at a point in his career where he doesn’t even have his ‘00’ status as yet. However, it doesn’t take Bond long to achieve this level after he succeeds in assassinating two enemy agents in quick order, and the timing couldn’t be better. It turns out while James is becoming agent 007, a terrorist financier known as Le Chiffre is gambling heavily with his client’s money. It’s a risky move for sure when playing with other people’s money, especially when those people are terrorists, but it’s a move that has paid off time and again with very lucrative profits. But when Le Chiffre gambles his most recent client’s money on the stock market and loses, he quickly realizes that in order to survive he will have to pay back the money in short order before the terrorists notice that their money is missing. To accomplish this, Le Chiffre has organized a high-stakes poker tournament, and one he is confident that he will win. That is until ‘M’ (Judi Dench) the head of MI-6 assigns 007, who just so happens to be their best poker player, with the task of defeating Le Chiffre so that he will have no where to run from them or those he’s indebted to.
After more than 20 movies have utilized the character of ‘007’, and 5 actors had previously played the part, it’s hard to believe that MGM would want to just start over as if all that had never happened. Especially if they expect audiences to go along with them on this little endeavor, and I’m sure the fact that the previous ‘Bond’ movie “Die Another Day” being the most successful ‘007’ film to date didn’t make the decision any easier. But as difficult as it was to understand MGM’s reasoning, and as much skepticism regarding the casting of the first blonde James Bond caused amongst fans; after viewing the movie I have to say all my skepticism, along with everyone else’s was all for naught, and that MGM had made a very good choice.
“Casino Royale” is by far one of the best ‘James Bond’ movies ever to be made, if not the absolute best. The story for the movie was the most realistic of any ‘Bond’ movie, and also had so much ground to cover. It’s surprising the movie didn’t feel cluttered with the amount of groundwork that was laid for the already established franchise, but the writers delivered brilliantly. One terrific choice that was made for this film, and yet this was a decision that was possibly opposed even more vehemently than a blonde Bond, was the lack of gadgets that were to be included in this ‘Bond’ movie. Opting to go with a more realistic approach, there are virtually no special gadgets with which Bond can accomplish his various missions, and this decision proved to be just what “Casino Royale” needed to set itself high above its predecessors. Assisting in making this movie become so terrific was the excellent direction by Martin Campbell (“The Mask of Zorro”), who delivers an even better, more polished movie than his last foray into the world of James Bond, when he launched Pierce Brosnan’s career as MI-6’s most famous agent in “Goldeneye”. With this movie Martin Campbell proved that he was definitely the right man to bring James Bond back to reality.
As far as the actor chosen to portray agent 007, Daniel Craig was superb, though panned by fans and critics as not looking the part; after the movie was finished I believe almost everyone was in agreement that he is one of the best Bond’s ever in the franchise’s history. Craig’s performance shows audiences a much more gritty, battle-hardened agent who will do what it takes to get the job done, while at the same time he can show a vulnerability that hadn’t been seen before in these movies, as a Bond that makes mistakes and sometimes loses. It was nice to see Judi Dench return as ‘M’, though for continuity this doesn’t work since she didn’t become ‘M’ until the Pierce Brosnan movies, but that is a fact that can easily be overlooked, much like the various actors playing the title role. Rounding out the main cast of characters is Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, the newest Bond girl, who James falls in love with only to have his heart torn apart, delivering him his most valuable lesson: Trust no one. While I had not seen Eva in any other movie prior to this film, or even since then, that I can recall, her performance here was very strong, and she portrayed a more conflicted Bond girl than most. Perhaps it was this conflicted nature that made her a more believable choice for Bond to fall for completely, as she had more to offer him than just her beautiful body.
Regardless of all the skepticism and nay-saying that surrounded this relaunch of Hollywood’s most enduring franchise, in the end “Casino Royale” had the absolute last word; proving to audiences and critics everywhere to never underestimate the man known as “Bond, James Bond”.
“Casino Royale” is rated PG-13 for violence and sensuality.