In honor of the fourth Daniel Craig James Bond film I’ve decided to write out a review for one of my favorite –not just Bond films– but favorite films I’ve ever seen. Casino Royale is the film that tells, more or less, the origin of 007 as he takes on one of the most intense poker games in film history in order to stop the funding of terrorism. This is considered to be the film that stayed closest to Ian Fleming’s original Bond book of the same name and with the direction of Martin Campbell. This was the film, for not just myself, that brought Bond into an era where we took him seriously for what his character truly is supposed to be. In the past, we were given the more womanizing, campy, corny action filled spy films with some exceptions thrown in there for good measure, but this, this was the Bond film for me.
Rather than taking the bait of following the standard James Bond formula, Campbell decided on a blonde haired, blue eyed Bond rather than the standard brown eyes/hair Bond we’ve been given in the past, but none of that matters as much as the nearly flawless storytelling and action we are treated to for this movie. Smooth and flavorful can be to describe the film itself or the drink that the iconic character partakes in and either way it’s a compliment. Shots composed of high octane stunt work and cleverly devised banter between supporting characters and Bond give this film it’s charm and bite like we’ve never seen for the titular spy.
Bond is not just a womanizer, he is a cold-blooded killer in a life that doesn’t allow the warmth of others to enter. Cold and calculated, with an itchy trigger finger, Bond is a man of few words rather than simply having sex with all women he sees without purpose. Casino Royale had the nads to flip the concepts and trademarks of Bond to better enhance the character’s flaws and strengths for a new generation with some homages sprinkled in for good measure. Including car flips, luxurious shots of paradise islands, and action sequences that could have been the final act of the film, Campbell has us enter a world where Bond is a card playing assassin going up against terrorist organizations like it was having afternoon tea.
One of the underrated actors we recognize by face, rather than name or talent, is Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelson is a blood weeping terrorist with some bills to pay and it’s the calm fear he exudes and the terror of desperation that makes him one of Bond’s greatest villains. His character of Le Chiffre becomes the Joker to Bond’s Bruce Wayne without the purple suit and make up. Instead, he trades in scars on his mouth for one intimidating scar on his left eye, and a torture device that will make any man cringe. Because of these details, the film has a backbone, and a mystery that doesn’t finish until the final scene in the film. Once you think the film could be nearing an intense climax, the crescendos multiply with a new stunt or action scene.
The constantly impressive Eva Green is also a standout in the film as she becomes the “Bond girl” to challenge 007. She is sexy, but never slutty and is smart, but never annoying, she is in fact a capable female human being, and a remarkable character in film. Choosing to bring Bond into reality set the tone for many movies to later adopt the ideas of bringing iconic characters to a human level similar to what Nolan did with Batman. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd is a character you want to continue watching on screen. She and Bond alike set each other up for some of the best one liners in Bond history without them being laughable and corny, but instead, smooth and flavorful.
This and Skyfall took Bond to incredibly new heights while bringing Bond back to the roots that once were seeds of a man living a life similarly to what we’ve been given on, and my gosh, what a treat it’s been. Casino Royale is the perfect mixture of tradition, evolution, action, and storytelling that will hold up for decades to come. It is absolutely a standard in action films along with the spy genre and even romance films. This is the standard of Bond films from now on.