I was originally skeptical about the selection of the blond haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig as our next James Bond. From the moment Casino Royale opens with its gritty black and white, pre-credit sequence you know you are in for something different and you get sold quickly on Craig's take on Bond. It's dark, gritty, brooding, and at times surrealistic.
I don't even know where to begin with this review, the plot was simplistic, yet dense and at times a little too complicated. In a nutshell, Bond is trying to figure out who is funding several major terrorist groups. At the same time he finds himself at constant odds with M (Judi Dench). For the first time Dench actually gets to do some acting in a Bond film, in previous films they would trot her out to utter a witticism and then disappear for the rest of the movie. In Casino Royale she's a vital part of the story, but it's in the cliched boss trying to reign in her out of control detective kind of way. Somehow it works here and feels appropriate.
Director Martin Campbell's (best known for the Antonio Banderas Zorro films) minimalist approach keeps the film zipping along, at almost 2 1/2 hours the film never drags. Even the "climatic" poker sequences were engrossing. And I'm one of those people who doesn't understand poker or get its popularity, but Campbell made me care, got me interested in what was going on.
If you want your trademark Bond gadgets, cars, and gear, Royale will disappoint as this Bond drives a rented Ford (I think it was a Focus), that is until he gets back into M's good graces, then he's given the sporty Aston Martin. But even that car lacks ge-whiz gadgets; unless you consider a tray that holds a first aide kit and a gun cool.
The fun thing about Royale is that it really is an "establishing" movie. Craig doesn't come right out and say he's Bond, James Bond, or order the trademark Dry Martini, or Walk around in tailored Tuxes. As the plot progresses, we start to understand that Bond is a young agent who has just been given the 00 status. He's still not used to killing and hasn't quite picked out his drink of choice. One of the only gags in the film has Bond asking for a Long Island Iced Tea at a Casino.
Bond's romantic interest is Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) a by the book government accountant who is providing the money for Bond's high-stakes poker tournament. The chemistry between Green and Craig doesn't sizzle, it's just there. But the writing is what makes it work. There's a cute moment where he calls her Money Penny, and at the end of the film you get a sense of how important that name becomes to Bond in future adventures.
As if we didn't already know that the main goal of Casino Royale is to rebuild Bond and re-establish his character the film's amazing last scene had everyone in the audience clapping and cheering – at the same time the movie, just ends, with nothing really resolved, leaving you wanting more and waiting breathlessly for the next installment.
Casino Royale is one of the best films of the year, well worth checking out.
Final Grade A+
by Michelle Alexandria