Casino Royale (12A)
Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench
**** (4 stars)
If we were to believe the pre-release criticism facing Daniel Craig’s selection as the new 007, Casino Royale could be the worst Bond film of the franchise; it couldn’t be further from the truth.
In this daring prequel, Campbell goes to the very heart of what makes James Bond the suave, womanising secret agent that we’ve all come to know.
It’s this analysis of characterisation that sets this film apart from its predecessors, but be warned this is not a traditional Bond film.
This is made explicit from the outset, as the silver tinted opening sequence reveals Bond brutally beating a Russian henchman, before drowning him; no Roger Moore quips here then.
There also isn’t room for Q and Moneypenny, but they aren’t essential for Campbell’s dark take on the secret agent’s beginnings.
James Bond has just been promoted to being a "00" and his mission is to prevent French banker "Le Chiffre" (Mads Mikkelson) from funding terrorists in Africa.
He must achieve this by stopping Le Chiffre winning a multi-million dollar poker tournament, by entering himself.
But with enemies trying to hunt him down, new love Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to look after and the government’s money at stake, will Bond succeed in saving the world?
It is Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond that deserves the highest praise.
After being accused of being too "dead-pan" and even too "blonde", before filming had even begun, Craig has truly silenced his critiques akin to his AK47.
He displays a tough rugged character, relentlessly dispatching his enemies, but at the same time maintains the humour connected with the secret agent.
In one scene, when asked how he would like his Vodka Martini, Bond snaps "Does it look like I give a damn!" typifying his no nonsense character.
There’s also a treat for female viewers, as Campbell reverses the iconic Halle Berry scene from "Die Another Day", as Craig emerges from the sea wearing…very little.
The rougher 007 is well supported by new feisty Bond girl Eva Green who gets the difficult mix of sensitivity and headstrong independence off to a tee.
She portrays the character with such tenacity that separates her from the submissive female counterparts that have gone before her.
But reversing the franchise norm comes with big risks, and one downfall of this film is the (at times) incomprehensible plot.
It’s only a minor flaw though, in a film with spectacular stunts, fights and a truly remorseless villain in Mads Mikkelson that shocks the audience with ease.
By the time Daniel Craig closes the film on the classic line "The name’s Bond. James Bond", very few can argue against the fact that Bond is back with a bang.
Mark: 60 (2:1)