Since the ’60s, when Sean Connery graced audiences and launched into stardom with a series of wildly successful Bond films, the trilogy has been one of the most popular in this country. Now, following the exit of Pierce Brosnan following the 20th film installment, Die Another Day, actor Daniel Craig tries his luck with perhaps the most scrutinized and sought-after role in all of Hollywood, playing 007 in Casino Royale.

The film begins with Bond (Daniel Craig) being promoted to double-O status within the British Intelligence Agency, MI6. Unfortunately, Bond does not fair well on his first mission as a double-O. After a vital suspect Bond is pursuing in Madagascar flees and eventually makes it to a nearby Embassy (a safe haven for criminals on the run), Bond proceeds to forego international law, storming the embassy and killing the suspect. All of this is subsequently captured on security cameras, and the media frenzy begins. M (Judi Dench), Bond’s handler, is furious, demanding Bond keep his ego “out of the equation” and focus on the mission at hand.

But Bond refuses to be deterred. Using a lead he picked up in Madagascar, Bond finds a potential terrorist network stationed in the Bahamas, and upon arriving, uses a suspect’s wife to jump the gun on a terrorist attack in Miami.

As it turns out, criminal mastermind Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) had a fortune bet on the Miami attack that Bond managed to thwart. Desperate to retrieve the money in order to pay back the millions he owes clients, he organizes a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro. MI6 sends Bond in an attempt to clean Le Chiffre out and effectively cripple his terrorist organization. But the risks are high. If Le Chiffre wins, MI6 would essentially be funding terrorism. And that’s not even the beginning of it. As the game gets more and more dicey, Bond soon realizes Le Chiffre will stop at nothing to win back his money.

Meanwhile, Bond is teamed with the beautiful agent Vesper Lynd, (Eva Green). It is obvious from the beginning that the two share a deep emotional and physical attraction. The only question is just how far are they willing to give in to the other. It all leads up to a pulse-pounding conclusion that will surprise even the most seasoned moviegoers.

Casino Royale dumps the high-testosterone, high-tech gadgets that seemed to plague recent Bond films in favor of an old-fashioned kick in the shin and a pistol-whip to the head. No more jet packs. No more threats of nuclear war. No more villains that look like they have more artificial intelligence than human intelligence. No, with this Bond movie, old is back in vogue. The cars (and the women) still sizzle, but they don’t have the incessant need to disappear (or shed their clothing like attendees at a fraternity pool party). Director Martin Campbell may have saved Bond from taking another blow, reinvigorating the series with a brilliant plot that actually makes sense in 2006, not 2056.

Whoever made this final casting decision on Bond took a great risk in choosing a relatively unknown in Daniel Craig, but has come out of the fog looking like a pure genius. Craig is incredible, and though no one can match what Sean Connery did with this series, Craig comes pretty close, bringing convincing toughness and arrogance that the series had been lacking with Brosnan, who relied on finesse to carry the script. But Craig isn’t afraid to get his hands (or his face, God forbid) dirty. But perhaps most impressive is Craig’s sense of unpredictability and small glint of humanity. Moviegoers get to watch a real human on the screen, not a robot. Just like the rest of us, Craig’s character is subject to mistakes and makes a good deal of them while onscreen.

Moviegoers hardly notice the long running time (almost two and a half hours) due to a lightning-paced plot. And just when it looks like the credits will begin rolling, Bond is thrust into one more thrill ride, and Royale’s stunning ending does little to resolve anything, leaving the audience hungry for more. Just one more reason to look forward to Craig’s second jab at a reborn series.


4 stars.

The Waynedale News Staff

Dillon Kimmel

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