After earning his license to kill, James Bond’s first 007 mission takes him to Madagascar where he must partake in a high-stakes poker game against Le Chiffre, banker to the world’s terrorist organizations. Along the way, Bond falls in love with the sexy Vesper Lynd.
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Ten years on, the film doesn’t just hold up as the best Bond movie since the 1960s, but it also looks more and more like the starting point for a series of subsequent and increasingly disappointing missed opportunities. In short, its follow-ups have been unworthy.
Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale proves one of the series’s unequivocal highlights. Taking elements from previous Bonds (Connery’s stature, Moore’s martini-dry wit, Lazenby’s emotion rawness, Dalton’s free-agent grittiness), Craig brings Bond into the present movement, not so much a text as a meta-text, commenting at once on the thrills and hang-ups of the franchise.
Doing a very straight adaptation of the long-elusive-to-filmmakers Bond debut novel by Ian Fleming, a tightly plotted and diabolically emotionally knotty piece of espionage storytelling, was a terrific idea. Casting Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, possibly the Only Woman Bond Could Ever Really Love, magnificent. And Jeffrey Wright as C.I.A. pally Felix Leiter? Brilliant.
It captures - or perhaps recaptures - the vicious streak inherent in the novels but rather lacks their cocktail hour elan, instead trading on modern day par-of-the-course slam dunk action for sensation. It’s not worth debating too greatly what is milked each time from this particular cash cow, except to say the film delivers a much needed kick up the britches to the series albeit a few kicks too many elsewhere.
The pre/post-title action scenes, some scenes with Dench/Green, the unusual Bond torture scene, and the last 1/2 hour hold up the rest, keeping the typical heavy plot interesting. Casino Royale could've been vastly more emotional if its final third was expanded and deepened, or it would've been a tense and thrilling action/spy film with momentum.... if its 1st two acts were cut by 35 minutes.
I used to think this was about as good as a Bond gets, on rewatch I'm not so sure. It's self-serious, dry and looks bad, which is the gift of having Deakins contribute to this series later. Not especially well-crafted or gripping, though the initial chase sequence does the job. I would argue history has proven this was a misguided mood for the series to pursue.
Rewatching "Casino Royale" in preparation for "Spectre," I was once again taken in by the film's spectacular action sequences (director Martin Campbell is operating at McTiernan levels here), in-depth characterization, and stellar performances. Who knew the best way to revitalize James Bond for the 21st century was to give him a soul? For my money, this remains Daniel Craig's finest outing in the role.
The best Bond. Casino Royale embodies modern day espionage with a twist of old in what ultimately is a much needed departure from the more cartoony antics of its predecessors (the saga would unfortunately return to amusing but over-the-top villains in Skyfall and Spectre). Martin Campbell’s film is a refreshing back-to-basics tale of complex interweaving narratives. (cont'd)
Not quite the masterpiece, but it does an impressive job of bringing the flagging franchise back to something more grounded, more tangible. Daniel Craig does a nice job as the main role, and Eva Green is as usual brilliant and enthralling in her supporting role. The plot is a little bit easy to read at times, and some of the dialogue is hard to take, which holds it back a little.