Take 2: Casino Royale

"Do you want a clean kill or do you want to send a message?"

Daniel Craig steps into the fray as Bond, the final actor to portray the spy in our marathon. He doesn’t look like the others, but then again this isn’t a film like the others.

Here, 007 is sent to pursue a criminal accountant with the notion that he may be able to divulge information on his clients, or at least stop the flow of funds to terrorists.

In the past we have seen numerous attempts to ‘reboot’ the franchise when it began to flag. This is often when the lead actor has changed (Moore and Dalton in particular had débuts that contrasted starkly with their precursors), or just after a bad film (The Spy Who Loved Me was a much needed pick-me-up).

However, Casino Royale is the only film that genuinely takes things back to the start. We see Bond get his 00 status, get a little back story about the gun barrel sequence, more back story about how he gets his car and most importantly, some insight into the origins of his character. It took 21 films but we are finally beginning to understand what makes a man like Bond.

As things get under way we see Bond climb buildings and smash through walls as he chases a man through some dusty streets. It’s a fast paced, very well strung together action sequence. We feel every bump and bruise along the way (especially when he mis-judges a jump onto a crane…); this is the first genuinely intense moment we’ve seen for many many years.

The film carries this tension from start to finish, which at 2 1/2 hours in length is no mean feat. Even during the long poker game at the centre of the story, Casino Royale is transfixing to watch.

Craig turns out to be an inspired choice. He’s got real acting chops along with being built like a brick shit house. He seems emotionally vulnerable, despite being physically unstoppable; just what the script requires. He also manages to throw in a unique take on Bond’s idiotic charm, which quickly wins over the audience.

Eva Green is more than a match for him, also a critical element since the film is as much about her relationship with Bond as it is stopping terrorists. The two are electric on screen, again something we’ve sorely missed for a long time.

So many elements have come together to make this all work so well. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell’s direction is slick and incredibly smart, especially in the action scenes. Sometimes this feels like a lost art, not here. The fight scene in the stairwell is a master class in how to involve the audience in a moment that is otherwise impossible to imagine.

David Arnold is back as the lead composer, and he’s also upped his game. His soundtrack is noticeably well thought-out. The way he weaves the theme tune with the Bond theme is masterful, and it sneaks up on you until you have a ‘holy shit this is awesome’ moment. It wonderfully crescendos into “James Bond” music at the same pace that we follow Bond’s transformation into 007.

Casino Royale is yet another kick up the arse for a dying franchise. However, instead of the mild shake-up the other ‘reboots’ entail, this marks a huge change for the series. The core elements we all know and love remain, but they are all justified. It’s surprising to see that this is the work of the same crew as the previous films.

The mixture of a talented actor, a director with a great knack for shooting action and a well crafted script make for a profoundly entertaining picture. This is a classic up there with Goldfinger.

Martin Campbell | 2006 | IMDB | Wikipedia