As we enter the summer of 2023, waiting for the next James Bond to be announced, it's a great time to revisit one of the best films of the series, CASINO ROYALE.
Daniel Craig's debut as OO7 is one for the ages. Craig brings a Connery-like toughness to the role, leaving a wake of dead bodies behind him as he takes on his first assignment.
He's tough, quick with a comeback or a smile, but absolutely the most lethal Bond ever.
The film starts off with a cold, black & white prologue featuring the two kills that earn Bond his OO7 status. It's a perfect start that leads into an all-time great title sequence by Daniel Kleinman, set to Chris Cornell's thrilling them song, "You Know My Name".
We then move immediately on to Bond on the trail of a suspect through and over a construction site and into a foreign embassy. Professional Free-runner Sebastien Foucan is incredibly elusive as the suspect and the action reaches dizzying heights as they run up over construction cranes and back down into buildings.
M (the brilliant Judi Dench) gives Bond his first of many reprimands while putting him on the money trail of a terrorist organization.
In world-class, Ian Fleming style, Bond begins globe hopping where the money leads him.
He starts off in the Bahamas, where he meets Solange (a stunning Caterino Murino) to get close to her boyfriend, who's almost immediately off on a terrorist mission to Miami.
The Miami Airport terror plot is one of the best scenes in the film, with Bond battling a bad guy about to take down a massive jetliner. Director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro), the stunt teams and miniature unit are all first class and there's not a moment of the entire scene that doesn't feel real.
Bond follows the trail to Montenegro and the South of France where he meets CIA counterpart Felix Leiter for the first time (the always brilliant Jeffrey Wright) as well as Her Majesty's finance department courier Vesper Lynd, perfectly embodied by Eva Green. Craig and Green have flawless chemistry from their very first meeting on a train to their final scenes in Venice.
A massive amount of terrorist funds are about to be washed through a high stakes, impossibly elegant poker game at the Casino Royale. Bond squares off against the terrorist financier La Chiffre, menacingly played by Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Doctor Strange). When your eye weeps blood, it gives you quite a leg up in the menacing villain department. Mikkelsen is an all-time great OO7 baddie.
Director Campbell manages to make a 40-minute mid-film sequence revolving around a card game exciting by dropping in plenty of cutaway fights and an especially harrowing sequence in which Bond if poisoned at the table.
Craig is a bad-ass throughout. It's an absolute shame what happened to him in the role in the 15 years that followed. He went from ruthless killer & blunt instrument to PTA Dad during his 5 film arc. The last half of "No Time to Die" is shameful for this Bond diehard.
This film and "Skyfall" were the best of Craig, but all the goodwill of his 2006 debut here was wasted with its immediately sequel 'Quantum of Solace", a short, confusing mess that served as Craig's low.
There's a lot to love about Casino Royale. It's about as good as Bond gets on film.
David Arnold's music score is far better than any or his work on the Brosnan films.
Paul Haggis' script polish in tandem with great work from OO7 regulars Neal Purvis & Robert Wade sets up a great mission, cracking with great one-liners and surprising emotion.
Mr White debuts and Jesper Christensen is great in the role, before the character got murky due to too many forced plot twists in future films.
Giancarlo Giannini is excellent as Rene Mathis, a local agent whose allegiances seem all too fluid. Giannini and Craig have great rapport, playing off each other with great style.
Nominated for the most BAFTAs in Bond history (9 including Craig as Best Actor) this was the biggest box office hit ever for OO7 until "Skyfall" surpassed it.
This IS James Bond. Loaded with great action, strong good and bad guys, jaw dropping locations around the world, beautiful women and incredible cars, this is the OO7 that fans have celebrated on the big screen since 1961.
Director Campbell launched Brosnan as Bond with Pierce's best film, "Goldeneye".
He returned here for Craig's debut in one of Daniel's two best films in the tuxedo.
Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson better be calling him right now to helm the first adventure of ________________ as our favorite agent with a licensed to kill.
CASINO ROYALE is a great thriller and a superb Bond movie. It gets an A+.