James Bond has just been promoted to a 00 agent and finds himself faced with his first mission matched to his title. As a banker to the world’s most significant terrorists, La Chiffre has eluded MI6 and many other security organizations but has been rumored to be heading toward Montenegro for a high-stakes, secret poker game. As a way to keep tabs on her new agent, M sends Vesper Lynd, a calculated and reserved economist, to accompany James to the poker game. Upon arrival, James meets Felix Leiter, an American agent also aiming at taking down La Chiffre. Knowing that there is a threat to his safety, La Chiffre enacts a plan to take out Bond. Throughout the mission, James and Vesper continue to strengthen their working and personal relationship to a point that may convince the secret agent to give up the dangerous life and search for a more peaceful existence.
Starring: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Eva Green (Vesper Lynd), Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre), Judi Dench (M), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Giancario Giannini (Rene Mathis), Caterina Murino (Solange), Simon Abkarian (Alex Dimitrios), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White)
Bond has been played by a number of famous actors. Prior to this film, Pierce Brosnan took the role for 3 films and gave a bit more of a lighter representation of the secret agent. For Daniel Craig, the role was a bit rougher and grittier than the previous films. Craig appears like he truly fits the role of Bond. He is serious, reckless, dangerous and highly-trained. Craig maintains the traditional elements, like the infamous drink and love of women, but adds a slightly different flair to his charm and action sequences. Judi Dench is the one character that actually returns from the previous film and she is just as stern as ever. Eva Green serves as this film’s “Bond Girl” aka Vesper Lynd. She plays the character very well as she begins a little more reserved, becomes a little softer as the story progresses and winds up serving as a surprise plot twist in her relationship with Craig. Mads Mikkelsen brings a depth to the villainous La Chiffre, who is not set up to be a crime lord but is well protected. He is also maintains a sense of control in each situation and appears to not ever really get too phased by Bond’s efforts. Jeffrey Wright and Giancario Giannini provide great supporting characters who help to support Craig in his entrance into the Bond world.
Martin Campbell’s exposure to the Bond story takes the character back to his entry into the life of a 00 agent, rather than continuing where the last film left off. The film starts off with a mission Bond took to move forward in his career as an agent. In a black & white flashback, Bond has tracked down a section chief from his organization who is selling information to terrorists. With one of the requirements of being an 00 agent being two kills, the scene sets up both targets (one being the section chief and another being the chief’s contact) with Bond eliminating both prior to the title sequence. As Bond gets his first mission, there is more on the line for which he is unprepared. The first part of the mission takes him to Madagascar to track down a terrorist, who pushes Bond to a physical test of endurance and stamina as he attempts to make an escape through free running. Moving on after a confrontation with M, Bond denies the recommendation to take a vacation and continues his pursuit of La Chaffre. The first part of the story helps to set up Bond as a little undisciplined but well-trained enough to follow through on his missions.
As the story continues, the poker game gives a bit more of the cerebral side of Bond. He is able to show off his charm with Vesper and play some mind games with La Chiffre. The World is Not Enough attempted to show a little of this environment and side of Bond’s personality, but Brosnan is not as successful with presenting the level of coolness and suave side of Bond as Craig does. The sequence also continues to exhibit the human flaws of a 00 agent. Bond has a few action sequences but the focus is really on the psychological and intellectual challenge with La Chaffre. All of his suave traits cannot necessarily help him win a poker game, but he has to learn from his mistakes and get a little luck to get back in and make an impact.
What takes the story to a different level is after the events in Montenegro. Bond does not escape cleanly but does survive the aftermath of the casino. He and Vesper go on a vacation to help in recover from the mission, but this experience causes him to start second-guessing his life as a secret agent. The previous Bonds did not go through such a character challenge as to question their role in MI6. He does not completely turn off his agent training, but he does lower his guard to a women with who he truly believes he can build a future. This final act to the story helps to set Bond up for a deeper, more clear background to his personality for the future films.
Casino Royale takes a completely different angle from the first version of the film. The original took place after the death of M and Bond needing to come out of retirement to take out La Chiffre. This film works to restart the series with an edgier tone and succeeds to bring Bond to a new generation of film-lovers.
Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5