Plot: On his first mission after receiving his "00" status, MI-6 Agent James Bond (Craig) stumbles onto the trail of Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), a known terrorist financier - a trail that leads him straight to a high-stakes poker game at Montenegro's Le Casino Royale.
Reviewed790 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 57s)
With the first-ever actual Bond sequel, hitting theaters this weekend, I decided it was finally time to sit down and watch Daniel Craig’s first attempt, Casino Royale.
Since recently departed Bond Pierce Brosnan ranked right up there with my favorite Bond of all time, I was disappointed when I learned he wouldn’t be back for another film – and pock-marked blond Daniel Craig would be taking his place.
With Craig in tow, Casino Royale tried rebooting the Bond series by showing Bond’s first mission as a 007. While this was rather intriguing, it seemed to be rather confusing – after all, M wasn’t around in the earlier days – and neither she nor Bond look much younger (in fact, is that a bit of gray around Craig’s temples?).
Needless to say, I ddin’t exactly leap into theaters to see this one – in fact, it wasn’t even high on my list of DVD rentals. I’d seen bits and pieces at different get-togethers – and I think I even actually saw most of it around the time it came out – but this past week I noticed I had never actually sat down and reviewed Casino Royale. Would I be pleasantly surprised at Craig’s interpretation of Bond, or would Craig bring the new Bond series to an all-new low – suprassing even the dark days of Timothy Dalton?
Daniel Craig isn’t what most viewers would expect from James Bond. After 20 films, Bond has been solidly set as a suave and sophisticated agent – one who never shakes under pressure – a solid soldier with a penchant for the ladies.
Craig, on the other hand, is a bruiser. Quick with his fists, he nevertheless is continuously covering up his latest cut or scrape (and thanking his leather skin, which apparently can’t bruise) and – most of all – hesitating. Throughout the film, Craig’s Bond fails a lot, breaks all the rules – and yet is always welcomed back by a ridiculously forgiving MI-6 – and even the CIA, at one point.
This Bond hasn’t even tried to master the suave mannerisms viewers have come to expect, instead jumping at every chance to throw himself into the midst of the scuffle with an almost maniacal glee. Instead of the cool exterior viewers have known, this Bond is more of a robot who seems to thrill at the thought of pain. Basically, Bond has now become – leaving the door wide open for (shudder) Vin Diesel to be the next to pick up the reins.
Apparently, that roughness attracts the ladies as much as the suave charm of previous Bond’s did, as Craig manages to bed any female who catches his attention. Relying on his bad boy image to ensnare the women makes sense for the character – but that same idea makes his abrupt turn-around into lovestruck puppy is that much more jarring.
The viewer will lose interest quickly in this new tame Bond – despite the fact they know right from the start it will end badly. This is mostly due to the fact that the love story comes off more forced than anything since , making the love story section of the film the weakest link in this chain.
While most of the gadgets are non-existent (and no one resembling Q ever makes an appearance), the stunts are as high-flying as Bond viewers have come to expect. From a manic chase (that seems to have been ripped straight from a Reebok® commercial) to a spectacular car crash and a climactic battle inside a sinking building, the action is still there. Gone, however, is the smoothness of the previous films – instead, these action sequences are gritty and dirty, again something like one would expect from (albeit on a more believable level) than something in a James Bond film.
While Daniel Craig will never be the suave and sophisticated Bond viewers have adored for 20 films, he fits right in with the grittier feel of Casino Royale. While most of the other films have been easily able to switch between high society and intense action sequences, Craig’s Bond seems uncomfortable and completely out of place in the high society atmosphere associated with high-stakes poker, and is at his best bleeding from various cuts and scrapes while he batters his way through another victim.
While Craig’s robotic delivery and bruiser personality leave a lot to be desired, Casino Royale, despite it’s flaws, comes off as a gritty action piece many will appreciate.
Unfortunately, it also makes one mourn the passing of the suave superspy era, as the popularity of this film has probably done something to our old friend that no enemy (or even Timothy Dalton) has ever been able to – put him down, permanently.