Casino Royale
directed by Martin Campbell
(MGM, 2006)

Casino Royale is an exceptional reboot of the James Bond franchise.

After 20 successful Bond films starring five actors in the title role, Daniel Craig takes over in a film that takes place at the very start of his career as a 00 agent. M, played by the masterful Judi Dench, hands him his promotion and his fabled "licence to kill" after a pre-credits mission to collar an MI6 turncoat; the action after the credits are apparently the new Bond's first adventure as 007.

It begins with what must be one of the most amazing foot chases in movie history. By the end of that pulse-pounding scene, you'll be ready to acknowledge Craig as a fitting (and admirably fit) Bond.

(For anyone who might confuse this film with the 1967 Bond spoof, they're similar in nothing but name.)

The debate among fans raged hot and heavy from the minute Craig was announced for the role. It was certainly an uphill struggle; Pierce Brosnan, talented star of the preceding four Bond films (1995-2002), was easily the most popular 007 since Sean Connery hung up his hat after 1971's Diamonds are Forever. Was Craig up to the challenge, or would he falter as another George Lazenby or Timothy Dalton?

Answer: Craig is Bond. But he's not reprising Connery, Brosnan or even Roger Moore; this Bond is entirely new, built from the ground up for a new generation of fans.

This Bond is edgier, more physical, without using gadgets and gimmickry as a crutch. (There is no Q this time around.) This Bond is raw and unpolished, reinventing himself as a 00 agent as he goes, developing the character's notorious emotional detachment and ruthless sense of duty as we watch.

There are a handful of Bond girls and villains to watch for in this lengthy movie, but the key ones are Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Bond is assigned to infilitrate, play and win a high-stakes game of poker at Casino Royale in order to put an end to Le Chiffre's financing of various global terrorist organizations; Le Chiffre, of course, knows from the outset why Bond is there, but he also knows the agent isn't the only one on his tail. As the treasury agent assigned to keep an eye on his expenses, Vesper makes a fairly unique Bond girl -- extremely beautiful, she is not just eye candy on Bond's arm; extremely smart, she is not the typical emotionally naive foil for Bond's love-and-leave romancing; extremely capable, she is certainly not a field agent able to lend much support in a fight.

And if you don't believe a card game can make for a tense movie experience, you haven't seen this film.

But there's more than just cards: Casino Royale has its share of car wrecks, explosions, gun fights, seductions, exotic settings, chases and buildings collapsing into the Grand Canal. Just watch it and let this Bond win you over.

by Tom Knapp
9 December 2006

Buy it from