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UK 2006
Directed by
Martin Campbell
145 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3 stars

Casino Royale (2006)

Synopsis: The 21st James Bond film debuts Daniel Craig as 007, in a story based on Ian Fleming's first novel about the debonair and dangerous British secret agent.

In Casino Royale, Bond must thwart a dangerous financier from winning a baccarat game worth over one hundred million dollars. This may seem slightly less thrilling than some of his other escapades - international terrorism, moon rockets, media takeovers, or even old fashioned drug running. Yet Hollywood's love affair with the prequel has still managed to provide an interesting revisioning of the 'Bond, James Bond' legend. The film's revelations leave us with the Bonds of older films cast in a slightly new light, and anticipate more interesting, darker stories to come.

Daniel Craig, the controversial James 'Blond', has an exciting pugilistic style. He's a man of few words, and his few garrulous moments illustrate the occasional weaknesses of the script more than his strength of character. It's a shame that screenwriter Paul Haggis couldn't give Craig more to work with. Yet his screen presence as the newly blooded agent is convincing as Bond's exterior confidence masks an inner struggle with the questionable morality of his occupation.

Along the way, the elegant assassinations and slick interrogation scenes of previous Bond films are revisioned as grimly brutal moments that chip away at Bond's sense of humanity. This includes a grueling scene where Bond has his testicles whipped with a knotted rope. In other words, it's nothing like the 1967 surreal spoof version of the same name in which Peter Sellers and David Niven.

Casino Royale thoroughly breaks the continuity and style of other Bond films. With less gadgets, less beauties, less innuendo, less CGI action, and more character work than the 90s blockbusters, it strives for a little of the look and feel of films such as The Bourne Supremacy. As the central and atypical 'Bond girl', Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) gives an enigmatic performance (with a mostly English accent), as the woman who calms Bond's wanderlust. In other performances, Judi Dench impresses as the obligatory 'M', Mads Mikkelsen plays the chilling financier whose scarred eye weeps blood, but gadget man Q (recently played by John Cleese) is mercifully absent.

Yet despite the strong performances and interesting theme, the film's coherency and pacing waver. As romance develops towards the end, the dialogue and events might raise an eyebrow as the credibility of the plot takes some punishment. But with a riveting beginning that showcases Sebastien Foucan's parkour (incredibly acrobatic running) skills, and a refreshing take on Bond, it's hard not to recommend this latest installment to old and new Bond fans alike.




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