Countdown to Skyfall: Casino Royale (2006)

Countdown to Skyfall: Casino Royale (2006)

CASINO ROYALE (2006)

BOND: Daniel Craig

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell (Goldeneye)

BOND GIRL(S): Eva Green (Vesper Lynd)

COOL GADGETS: None to speak of.

THEME SONG: "You Know My Name," sung by Chris Cornell.  What is Chris Cornell doing singing a Bond theme in 2006?  Maybe if we were back in '95 for Goldeneye, that would have made more sense.  The song is weak, but the opening credits design is awesome, and more than makes up for any musical shortcomings.

IMDB PLOT SUMMARY: In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world's terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro.

ICONIC MOMENTS: The parkour chase that opens the movie is one for the ages, and unlike any other Bond action scene we've seen before.

FUN FACTS: No gun barrel sequence.  Pre-credits sequence is in black and white.  Craig is the first actor to play Bond who is younger than the series itself.  Brosnan was considered too old (at 53) to reprise the role, even though he expressed interest in doing so.

VERDICT: Now, this is how you do Casino Royale!  More importantly, this is how you do Bond.  It may lack some of the more fun elements in the franchise, such as humor and gadgets, but the script is one of the smartest we've had.  I'm not sure if the producers were inspired by Batman Begins, which was released the year before, but this origin tale of Bond certainly shares much in common with Nolan's Batman reboot.  By going back to the beginning of Bond's career - we get to see him get his 00 status in the first few minutes - Casino Royale is able to give us a more nuanced, and rough-around-the-edges portrait of Bond.  Craig is more than up to the task.  He acts the hell out of the role and brings a welcome intensity and vulnerability to the character.  The relationship between Bond and Vesper is one of the more emotionally rewarding ones in the series.  The first hour is probably the strongest, probably because it has the most amount of action.  The latter half can't help but slow down as most of the action takes place at a card table during some high stakes poker games.  With this and Goldeneye, director Campbell proves himself to be the most adept director to tackle the Bond movies.  He gets the character and he knows how to reinvent the series for new generations.  Even if Casino Royale overstays its welcome by about 15 minutes, this is easily one of the best.

GRADE: A-

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