Casino Royale (2006)
Truth be told, the only James Bond films that I have seen in full are the ones starring Daniel Craig in the iconic role. Confession be made, I have no interest at all in checking out the earlier instalments of this long-running franchise for whatever bits n pieces I’ve seen from previous entries in the series never really intrigued me enough to sit through all of it. And since this film brings the series back to square one, I don’t see any reason to give those films a second chance, at least for now.
Establishing a fresh timeline which has no relation whatsoever with the Bond films that were released before it, Casino Royale is the reboot of the legendary James Bond franchise that completely throws away the CGI-heavy storyline & ridiculously over-the-top action of the earlier few entries to restart the series by reinventing the character of James Bond and, with its grounded portrayal of events set in the 21st century & emphasis on realism during its moments of action, begins the new era of 007 on a rousing high.
Opening with an exquisitely crisp black-n-white prologue that shows our agent earning his license to kill, Casino Royale chronicles James Bond’s first ever mission as Agent 007 which requires him to prevent the terrorist financier Le Chiffre from winning in a high-stakes poker game. Already berated by M (the head of MI6) for his inability to properly address the situation before acting on it, Bond enters the tournament he cannot afford to lose for the loss would result in government’s money directly financing terrorism.
Directed by Martin Campbell (who directed Goldeneye; a James Bond film), the first in the renewed & reinvigorated era of Bond films is a highly polished action spy thriller that delivers on all fronts to succeed as an intensely entertaining origin story which is neatly crafted, action-packed & character-driven. The brilliantly written screenplay packs in a tightly structured plot that’s relentlessly polished plus its take on the less experienced & emotionally vulnerable James Bond is as admirable as it is captivating.
The technical aspects also show a massive improvement over the last few entries as each element is carefully handled & seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Cinematography makes excellent use of camera, colour palettes & lighting to put on screen a rich texture that’s incredibly well-detailed. Editing viciously paces the first two acts of the story but unfortunately runs out of fuel in the last one. And David Arnold’s score provides a more updated feel to the picture without ever stepping out of the franchise’s realms.
Everyone was sort of appalled when Daniel Craig was cast as the new Bond but the way he silenced all his critics is quite astonishing. Craig may not fit the version of Bond that has been put on the silver screen since the beginning of this franchise but for me, he’s the perfect embodiment of this iconic character for he is everything James Bond is supposed to be; cold, ruthless, ironic & much more suave than any of the previous incarnations when blended with the extensive range of emotions Craig gets to express in this feature.
The acting department leaves a strong impression here with Daniel Craig’s charismatic performance taking away the biggest round of applause, followed by equally impressive contributions from Eva Green as Vesper Lynd; Bond’s lover, Judi Dench as M; head of MI6, & Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, the latter being instantly infectious in his given role. Also, with minimal use of CGI, less reliance on gadgets & old-school action, it keeps the drama all the more plausible & relentlessly gripping throughout its runtime.
On an overall scale, Casino Royale is a fabulous start to the rebooted franchise that truly lives up to its hype & absolutely nails most of its aspects to deliver a cinema that’s wild & exciting from start to finish plus also puts an end to every doubt there ever was about Daniel Craig’s ability to do justice to one of cinema’s most memorable characters. I was never a fan of James Bond but after sitting through this explosively entertaining feature film, I don’t really think I can resist the temptation anymore. Very highly recommended.