Casino Royale (2006) – Martin Campbell

 

James Bond returns to the 101 Action Movies list with Martin Campbell’s second Bond film, the first being GoldenEye. It amazes me that he can direct a Bond film so well, arguably two of the best, while anything outside of that, his films are less than stellar.

Anyway.

With Casino Royale, we get the introduction of a new actor playing Ian Fleming’s 007, James Bond. This time out, it’s Daniel Craig.

Bond has just earned his 00 status, as seen in the black and white pre-credits opener, and is a little rash, very merciless, and decidedly cold.

Taking a page from the realistic look and feel of the Bourne films, the Bond series underwent its own reboot, eschewing the gadgets, stripping Bond down to being a sharp-edged weapon instead.

Bond is chasing a money trail that leads to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), and a high-stakes poker game. After Bond disrupts Le Chiffre’s investment schemes, by stopping a bomb from destroying a plane, Le Chiffre is forced to join the poker game to earn back his investors’ money before they kill him.

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Keeping a watchful eye on Bond is Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and Bond finds himself getting emotionally attached to her.

The film has some stunning action sequences, the parkour chase through Madagascar is brilliant, illustrating the grace and style of the sport, while Bond literally bulldozes in chase.  The house in Italy sequence is brutal and intense, as are the countless other sequences that surround the poker game centerpiece.

This is a new Bond. Brutal, edgier, with a little bit more in the sense of realism (as much as these films can be), than his predecessors, though Dalton’s Living Daylights hinted nicely at a rougher Bond, which, sadly, was never brought to fruition due to his exit from the series.

As always, the production value on a Bond film is high, and the locations and sets are beautiful and extravagant, as Bond travels to the Bahamas, Montenegro, Florida and Italy.

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Clocking in at 144 minutes, this full-throttle Bond film brings James back to the big screen in a huge way, with an involving story, amazing stunts, and a host of strong actors bringing the world to life. Judi Dench returns as M, Jeffrey Wright takes on the role of CIA agent Felix Leiter, and Giancarlo Giannini plays Rene Mathis.

Although my top Bond films may change from time to time, it’s a fairly solid list, and this one always ends up in the top 3. It gives us a different look at Bond, and we get to see some of the events that shape him into the agent we know he becomes.

Craig has portrayed Bond for 3 films thus far, Casino, the ok… Quantum of Solace (when watched back to back with Casino actually plays better) and Skyfall. He’s made the role his own, and I quite like the way he plays the iconic character.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the character and the series goes from here, and there could have been no better way to introduce a new Bond than with this fantastic film.

What are your thoughts on it? Your favorite Bond film?

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