Daniel Craig is the new 007, and he is one determined agent. He’s grimy and dark, but stylish and sensitive. And he’s really good at killing people.
I am going to be honest here: the first and only time I saw Casino Royale two years ago, I was underwhelmed by it. Yes, I had certain ideas in mind about what Bond was like, and when Daniel Craig was chosen as the new 007, even I balked and thought, “I can’t see how he fits into my perception of James Bond.” When my friends all returned from a viewing, however, and told me how much they loved the movie, and how incredible Craig was, I decided I would give it a chance. At the time, I was disappointed, and I don’t honestly recall why. I also retained very little from that movie, which is a testament to how little I cared for it. So, when I re-viewed it last night, I was blown away by how wrong I was.
Initially, I completely forgot that Casino Royale was meant to be a reboot of the franchise, so when the opening scene makes mention of Bond just recently being granted “double-0” status, it immediately jogged my memory. Similar revelations would occur later in the film when Bond “acquires” his classic Aston Martin DB5, and when he meets Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) for the first time — since I finally had some context, I reacted to this meeting with a giddy, “Ohhh, that’s Felix Leiter!” This was a giddiness I didn’t experience the first go-round, and it would characterize several moments throughout the film for me.
There were some things I noticed in Casino Royale that recalled elements from the series as a whole, and these were again things I didn’t pick up on without the full context. First of all, while the early parkour chase scene was incredibly shot and choreographed, it demonstrated a continuance of Bond’s habit of recklessness, as he not only destroys an entire construction site in Madagascar, but also storms into the grounds of an embassy and shoots an unarmed man on camera. Next, there’s also the disposable mistress-of-a-bad guy who he beds for information and who ultimately gets iced. Then, there’s the sophisticated nemesis who’s not only asthmatic but also sports a freaky eye that “weeps blood.” I don’t point these out as flaws; on the contrary, they are dutiful homages to the franchise that reassure us we are indeed seeing James Bond, however different in tone he might be, and I was able to appreciate them in a way I couldn’t when I first saw this movie. When Bond puts on a tux for the first time, for example, and his theme music rises in the background, I cracked a warm smile.
Then there’s the Bond girl, Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, who plays a crucial role in the film and provides the kind of sexual tension only a few other Bond girls have been able to manage. Her conversations with Bond were some of the most fun dialogue in the movie, and her role was written convincingly enough that when Bond eventually falls for her, I bought it wholesale. The twist at the end adds an even deeper level to her character, making her one of the best Bond girls, period, if not the best.
I also enjoyed M’s role in Casino Royale. Every time I thought to myself, “Gee, that was careless of him,” or “There goes Bond’s libido again,” M pretty much echoed my thoughts and spat them directly at Bond herself. She plays the voice of reason in the movie, and she let me know that the writers were aware of many of the things I’d seen in the previous Bond movies and that this new Bond was bucking the system anyway. This only further reinforced the idea that Bond does not live in an alternate universe of loose logic and no consequences; he simply doesn’t care, and he’s going to do whatever he damn well pleases anyway. In other words, Bond is a badass.
Daniel Craig makes an intimidating 007, but he is not without humor, and Casino Royale isn’t all blood and brooding. The action sequences are all pretty impressive, though some are better than others, and they are spaced out nicely by important plot elements that are engaging to watch in their own right. However, I thought Le Chiffre was a so-so villain, and I can understand some of the criticisms I’ve heard about this movie taking inspiration from the Bourne series. But I don’t fault the makers of Casino Royale for wanting to take Bond in a new direction, because it feels more in line with what modern moviegoers are looking for in an action film. Audiences are smarter and more discerning now than ever, so it makes sense to reboot the franchise with material that hits harder. With all of this in mind, be sure to come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Quantum of Solace.
Favorite line: “Now the world’s gonna know you died scratching my balls!”
Favorite moment: I loved the parkour chase. I thought it was breathtaking even the first time I saw it, and rewatching it last night was no different.