Directed by: Martin Campbell
Premise: James Bond (Daniel Craig) must keep a corrupt banker from winning a million dollar poker tournament and using the winnings to fund terrorism.
What Works: Casino Royale plays as a prequel to the other films and reinvents James Bond, placing him in contemporary times but at the start of his career. As a result the film is able to give audiences a totally new Bond experience but with some of the familiar elements of a 007 film. Re-creating Bond for the early 21st century, Casino Royale features a harsher and more complex protagonist than other films in the series and its spy work has a greater dependence of stealth, detective work, and psychology than on gadgets and over the top explosions. In that respect, Casino Royale has more in common with The Bourne Identity than it does with the Bond films staring Pierce Brosnan. The violence is much more intense and the action sequences, while frequent and well executed, are grounded in credible stunts that make the scenes far more exciting. Casino Royale’s Bond Girl, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), is also given a make over, and played as a much smarter and much more complex character than perhaps any other Bond Girl in the series. The same is true of the villain Les Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), as the character is driven by more immediate needs than something as nebulous as world domination. His motivation makes him a much more dangerous character and places much more at stake at the poker game than in the average episode of Celebrity Poker.
What Doesn’t: Casino Royale is about twenty minutes too long. The recovery sequences in particular could have been curtailed. Also, the film has about three false endings and when it finally gets to the last one, it is done so abruptly that it leaves the audience waiting for more.
Bottom Line: Casino Royale is one of the best Bond films in years, probably the best since the Roger Moore pictures. The film smartly updates the character to the contemporary age and jettisons the cartoonish elements of more recent films. The result is a very good film that equals—and in some cases exceeds—the best entries in the series.
Episode: #119 (November 26, 2006)