Jason Bourne has a lot to answer for. After the disaster of Die Another Day and the success of the Bourne series, a grittier, realistic and much more story focused version of the spy genre, James Bond would have to respond in kind. From the very beginning of Casino Royale you can see the Bourne influence; a violent, brutal struggle of a fight in a bathroom, with broken sinks, a bloodied hero and villain and then a new, fresh take on the iconic Bond opening. It was everything the series needed to get back on track and sign-post the franchise’s new direction.
In this ilk, Daniel Craig is an excellent choice. At first he doesn’t look very James Bond but his version of the spy is cold, calculated, swift with justice and lacking humour. It is as far removed from Pierce Brosnan’s quip ready, innuendo loaded spy and a completely different person to Roger Moore’s silly Bond. This was James “21st Century” Bond and Craig delivers that perfectly.
Craig isn’t supposed to be James Bond yet though and in bringing the character into the 21st Century, the franchise is essentially “rebooting” Bond. It isn’t forgetting what has gone before but lets the audience know that this is Bond’s first mission and he isn’t the character that we have known and come to love. The hints are subtle but effective; Bond doesn’t care how his Vodka-Martini is mixed, Judi Dench’s M let’s the spy know his tenure could be short and most notably of all, the iconic theme is almost completely absent from the movie.
The use of the theme is the smartest tool of all. There are moments when Craig begins his transformation into the version of Bond the audience are familiar with and this is when the theme is subtly woven into the soundtrack. The first time he puts on a tuxedo for example and then when he uses the most iconic catchphrase of them all.
That isn’t to say that this isn’t a Bond film though. James Bond movies have always been about action and spectacle and Casino Royale has that in abundance. The opening parkour chase through a construction site sets the fast, no-frills, raw action for the rest of the film and is then followed up by a great car chase through an airport and then the final moments as a Venetian building collapses around Bond and many villains.
What Casino Royale does well is juxtapose that violence and action with one of the calmer, more dramatic moments that Bond films have featured. Poker is hardly the most exciting of games to be a spectator of but returning director Martin Campbell manages to fill these scenes with enough tension to help you become invested and when you see Bond either win or lose, it is as exciting as the car chase that begins the third act.
That third act is Casino Royale’s biggest flaw. After the developing of the villain, an excellent Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, and the seeming culmination of the story, the film adds another thirty minutes which seems redundant and added for action value. The point of the final act become apparent with it’s conclusion but the story noticeably dips in pace and interest after our hero has left the casino.
Overall, Casino Royale is a great “reboot” of James Bond. It does away with the silly, gadget-filled spy movie and instead delivers a film filled with high action, violent set-pieces and some of the tenses gambling scenes featured in a movie. The final act feels slightly “bolted-on” but this is Bond back to his best and Daniel Craig does it better than most.
Rating – 4.5
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