James Bond returns to our screens for his twenty-first outing in the series, but in other sense’s Casino Royale is the debut of the character. Casino Royale was the first Bond book that Ian Fleming penned, in which he had only recently attained his double 00 prefix and was still learning his trade. This is a popular avenue for franchises to use at the moment (think of the latest Batman and Superman movies), because it allows the director and principal actors to take the film exactly where they want to go. There is no history or back story that has to be dealt with.
Casino Royale takes us back to the core of James Bond. This is a man who is morally ambiguous and lives in a world where he is paid to kill whom ever his superiors deem appropriate, regardless of right and wrong. This is a key idea and is prevalent throughout the movie. Thus, there is no Q, no gadgets, no world super-villain living in a hollowed out volcano and definitely no raised eyebrows.
Daniel Craig wasn’t everyone’s first choice (or second, or third) to play the lead role but there can be few detractors left after his excellent performance. Craig has approached Bond from a serious actors point of view: trying to understand his character as a three dimensional person who has strengths and weaknesses. There is an air of menace and violence about Craig and looking at his dispassionate and cold blue eyes it is easy to believe that this character could kill someone in cold blood and not think twice about it.
Special mention must go too Eva Green, playing the love interest Vespa Lynd. Not only does she look spectacular but delivers a marvellous performance full of character and vulnerability. The strength of her performance makes it easy to believe that this is a woman that Bond could fall for.
All of the core elements of a Bond film are present; girls in bikinis, car chases and explosive actions scenes. The first big set piece, involving Bond chasing through the streets and then onto a building site is spectacular. The violence is graphic but also responsible; consequences of violence are shown as Bond is covered in cuts and bruises after fighting. However, a criticism of the film is that it is overly long and the plot thin. It feels at times as if some action set pieces are inserted merely because the writers were short of ideas.
With a new leading man and a total change of direction since the last film in the series it speaks volumes that all of the quibbles and gripes about this film are minor and easily outweighed by the sheer viewing pleasure that is served up.
Casino Royale website