A Brutal, Blonde, Buff Bond is Back!
2002’s Die Another Day was a box office bonanza for the Bond franchise making more money than any other Bond film. Needless to say, there were more than a few eyebrows raised when the decision was made to oust Pierce Brosnan, who was arguably a large part of the reason for Die Another Day’s success.
The decision to cast the relatively unknown Daniel Craig (Layercake) as the next Bond was met with a deluge of skepticism. Die hard Bond fans were reminded of the lackluster versions of Bond played by Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby. But, make no mistake about it Bond is back with a vengeance in Casino Royale.
The Broccoli family opted for a full reboot of the franchise with Casino Royale (appropriately, this was Ian Fleming’s first Bond book). Far from being a cynical, seasoned, nearly invincible super spy, Craig’s Bond is a “blunt instrument” (M’s very words). Her assessment isn’t too far off the mark.
This barely post-pubescent Bond just received his “00” status and it shows. This Bond kills with a sloppy, brutal hand, but you can’t help loving his unpolished approach. This new Bond would have likely bludgeoned Pierce Brosnan’s incarnation with a stale baguette before he could say “shaken, not stirred”.
Daniel Craig deserves all the credit in the world for this performance. Icy, relentless, and vicious, this is perhaps the Bond Ian Fleming always envisioned. Craig brings an intensity to his performance that is ferocious and simply staggering. Craig’s turn as Bond is reminiscent of Russell Crowe’s powerful performance in Gladiator.
This time around Bond finds himself on the trail of the nefarious Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who is the banker to a myriad of terrorist organizations. Apparently, Le Chiffre is organizing a high stakes poker game worth millions. In an effort to derail his terrorist funding, Bond gladly takes a spot at the table with millions of dollars and lives at stake.
Naturally, Le Chiffre comes to realize who he’s facing on the other side of the table and manages to put Bond in a few uncomfortable spots during the course of this marathon game. But, despite the direst of circumstance, Bond finds a way to get by, even if he takes a few on the chin in the process.
It is this very fallibility that makes Casino Royale and this version of Bond so compelling. For perhaps the first time (okay…Timothy Dalton tried to pull this off in The Living Daylights and A License To Kill, but didn’t quite hit the mark) we see Bond as more than a suave, sophisticated, invincible “00” agent.
This Bond is flawed and his mistakes have real consequences, but it makes him human and accessible in a way no other Bond has been. This is a Bond who doesn’t always make the right decision and endures pain (of just about every kind imaginable). This is not exactly the Bond we’re used to seeing.
There’s an intelligence and humanity to Casino Royale that is absent from most Bond films and it turns this film into something more than just a great Bond film, it’s simply a great film…period. For those seeking only pithy comebacks, cool gadgets, and darkly comical death sequences, you best look elsewhere. Casino Royale is a fantastic spy/espionage film more in line with The Bourne Identity than the Bond films of the mid/late 90s.
Above and beyond this, Casino Royale is a wonderful re-introduction to a character who likely just got a new lease on life…Bond, James Bond. It’s great to have you back, James.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
images courtesy of MGM/Columbia Pictures
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, Urbano Barberini, Jeffrey Wright, Tsai Chin and Daniel Craig as James Bond
Daniel Craig and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd