Just like the movie “Batman Begins” did last year for that flagging franchise the new James Bone film “Casino Royale” gives a stale series a much-needed shot of adrenalin. This is, without a doubt, the best Bond film I have seen in a long time. For those of you who were worried about Daniel Craig taking over the role, you don’t have to worry because he could be the best Bond yet and, yes, I am even factoring in Sean Connery.
I am a James Bond fan. I can’t help it. In my family the James Bond movies were always watched whenever they were on television. To this day, whenever AMC or one of the other cable channels has the Bond marathons, I am glued to the television nearly ever night. Yes, some of them are fairly dreadful (“Moonraker”) but most of them are a lot of fun. In fact, even the bad ones are fun.
There was a big flap raised when Craig was picked to be the next bond. He wasn’t tall enough and he’s blond. The thing is he is EXACTLY what this movies needed and what this franchise needed. He is real. He is also probably the best-built Bond of any of them. He looks like a guy who could kick your ass.
This Bond goes back to the beginning. We see James make his second kill to get his Double-O rating in the pre-credit sequence. This is a James Bond unlike what we have seen before. He is raw. He is new to this. He makes mistakes. He is reckless and arrogant. He doesn’t even regularly drink martinis. Also, he is utterly and completely ruthless. This Bond is a stone-cold killer. He doesn’t kill his enemies cleverly and then make a witty retort. He drowns them in sinks and shoots them right in the face.
Bond’s mission is to take down Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre is a man who is the financial wizard for terrorist organizations from around the world. This is a villain who does not live in some gigantic island base or underwater in some base that rises from the ocean depths. He has a fairly fancy yacht but that’s about it. He is the man who takes care of the money for terrorist organizations from around the world. He invests the money and makes it available to them anywhere on the planet. He also, occasionally, has to create a terrorist act of his own in order to ensure that his investments pay-off.
When James disrupts one of his activities he finds himself in a bit of debt. With terrorists, you don’t want to tick them off by telling them you have lost their money. Le Chiffre has an ace up his sleeve, almost literally. He loves to play poker and he is very good at playing poker. So, if he can win a high-stakes game at the infamous Casino Royale, he can make back the money he lost plus more.
This is where James comes in. He is given his Double-O status and then backed by MI:6 and sent to Casino Royale to beat him in poker. He is to bankrupt Le Chiffre and thereby disrupt the finances of countless terrorist organizations across the globe. Of course, they also know that Le Chiffre will probably not be long for this earth once the people he is supposed to be helping find out hey lost all of their money.
So, yes, this is a movie where the major centerpiece of the movie is a card game. In the original Ian Fleming novel it was baccarat. They have made it a little more modern by making this card game Texas Hold ‘Em. They manage to make even this very exciting. Who would imagine watching men playing cards could be exciting? It’s tense. It builds. You’ll gasp. You’ll cheer. Man, this was a good movie.
The opening sequence, right after the credits, is a chase scene that you will just have to see to believe. The price of admission is worth it just for this scene alone. I have no idea who the actor is who plays the man Bond is chasing but this guy, or his stunt double, can do some of the most amazing acrobatics I have ever seen. This scene goes on for a long time and not a single moment of it is wasted. Is it realistic? Hell no, but damn it is exciting. They jump off of giant cranes and up and down a building under construction. This is one of the best chase scenes in any Bond film ever.
This is a stripped-down Bond. There is no “Q.” Judi Dench is back as “M.” It’s not that there are NO gadgets, but there is no pen that shoots missiles or a car that can somehow turn invisible to the naked eye. There are cell phones with tracking devices and an implant in the arm that allows Bond to call home for help. Beyond that the only thing Bond needs are his fists and his gun complete with silencer.
This Bond is brutal. He has bloody knuckles when he’s done fighting. He gets hurt. He even falls in love. Yes, there are Bone women. There are two of them, actually. Caterina Murino is the wife of one of Le Chiffre’s associates who ends up in Bond’s bed. The second is Evan Green who plays Vesper Lynd and she is the one who is supposed to provide the money for Bond’s game should he go through the original ten million she provides. She also steals Bond’s heart. Then…well, you’ll just have to see it to find out.
This is a Bond story that manages to take you back to the old days while also reminding you of more modern spy stories like the Bourne movies. In fact, I have a feeling a lot of the action was inspired in some way by those movies. We don’t need a bond with a rocket pack anymore. However, a Bond who can use his fists and a gun better than anyone will work just fine, thank you.
If there is one complaint I have about this movie is that it is a tad too long. There is a long sequence near the end where you kind of wish they would have tightened things up a bit. It’s nice to see Bond have a tender moment or two but it shouldn’t drag on quite as long as it does.
This is a very good movie. It is an excellent movie. As far at James Bond movies, this is one of the best. I loved it and I look forward to seeing it again during those James Bond marathons a few years from now. I look forward to seeing what Daniel Craig does next and sort of wish they’d just let him remake all of them starting with “Dr. No.”