The saying "familiarity breeds contempt" doesn't hold true for James Bond. With six different actors playing Bond across 21 films, it might seem that we would grow weary of 007. Not so in "Casino Royale," now playing.
Daniel Craig is a James Bond for the postmodern age. (Sony)
Daniel Craig is the new James Bond, and he's one for the postmodern age. Gone is the reliance on gadgets and snappy repartee. Gone are the coat and tie familiar to previous Bonds Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.
Craig's Bond sports casual dress and chases killers on foot, not in the Aston Martin. Craig's Bond is physical and kinetic. He's a "blunt instrument," in the words of his intelligence boss, M, played again by Judi Dench.
Novelist Ian Fleming actually introduced James Bond to the world in Casino Royale in 1953, so in many ways this movie is not a continuation of the Bond mythos, but a reboot. Bond has just gained his license to kill, or "00" status, and "Royale" follows him in his first case.
Bond begins in Madagascar, following links in a chain of terrorists. On the trail of a bomb maker linked to a terror cell, he moves on to the Bahamas in search of the cell's funding. His investigation leads him to a man named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), an investment banker for terrorist organizations. Le Chiffre prides himself on his mathematical skill, which he uses in playing no-limit poker.
MI6, the British Intelligence Agency, learns that Le Chiffre will be in Montenegro for a high-stakes poker game, and they send Bond—along with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green)—to beat Le Chiffre and bankrupt him. Lynd, an accountant for the British Treasury, wants nothing to do with Bond, whom she considers a brutish oaf.
Also appearing are Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), the older MI6 agent who is to aid Bond along, and Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright) of the CIA, who always shows up at just the right moment.
"Casino Royale" is much like "From Russia With Love," one of the best of the Sean Connery 007 movies. "Russia" was more story-driven, but "Royale" does focus on Bond as the weapon and not on the watch with the laser beam or the car with the ejector seat. Because of the story's physicality, Daniel Craig makes a great James Bond. He looks the part of a man licensed to kill. His steely blue eyes show tenderness for his woman one moment and coldness to end a foe's life the next. Craig's roguish quality wears well in the present day.
The film also excels in helping us understand why Bond is Bond. We learn why he is driven to do what he does for Queen and country and are shown that even killers have souls.
"Casino Royale" certainly introduces the Bond character better than any of the previous movies, and it offers much hope for the franchise.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.
Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis
Cast: James Bond: Daniel Craig; Vesper Lynd: Eva Green; Le Chiffre: Mads Mikkelsen; Mathis: Giancarlo Giannini; M: Judi Dench; Felix Leiter: Jeffery Wright.
The movie's official Web site is here.