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.