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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Action/Adventure (144 min.) PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.
There's a new James Bond and his name is Craig, Daniel Craig. You may remember Craig as the South African Mossad hitman in Steven Spielberg's Munich, but the actor has had an extensive career in both mainstream and independent films (he played poet Ted Hughes in Sylvia opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and an angry young carpenter involved with a much older woman in Mother). He's such a versatile actor that it should come as no surprise that early reports on Casino Royale rave that he's the best Bond in years. Writes Todd McCarthy in Variety: "The credits proclaim Daniel Craig as 'Ian Fleming's James Bond 007,' and Craig comes closer to the author's original conception of this exceptionally long-lived male fantasy figure than anyone since early Sean Connery. Casino Royale sees Bond recharged with fresh toughness and arrogance, along with balancing hints of sadism and humanity, just as the fabled series is reinvigorated by going back to basics."
Although the novel Casino Royale was filmed once as a television movie in the Fifties and once as a star-studded spy movie spoof in the Sixties (with Woody Allen in a cameo as Bond's bumbling son), it had never been done as a full-fledged Bond movie. This one features a black-and-white prologue showing how Bond became a secret agent. Although the plot in Bond films never really makes sense, this one features the timely theme of Bond trying to stop money from flowing to terrorists. But to do so, he must wear a tuxedo and gamble in a Montenegro casino and chase the bad guys through gorgeous locations. Eva Green, who was mostly nude in The Dreamers and mostly buried under kaftans in Kingdom of Heaven, looks great in slinky gowns and bathing suits here as Bond girl Vesper Lynd. It sounds as if Craig and Green are just what the Bond franchise, which had gotten very tired in recent years, needed to move on to the 21st century. - Hannah Brown
Critics on Craig
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian:
Craig was inspired casting. He has effortless presence and lethal danger; he brings a serious actor's ability to a fundamentally unserious part; he brings out the playfulness and the absurdity, yet never sends it up. He's easily the best Bond since Sean Connery, and perhaps even - well, let's not get carried away. With Craig's unsmiling demeanor and his unfashionably, even faintly un-British dirty-blond hair, he looks like a cross between the Robert Shaw who grappled with Bond in From Russia with Love and Patrick McGoohan's defiant Prisoner. The key to his X-factor is that Craig looks as if he would be equally at home playing a Bond villain.
Anthony Lane in The New Yorker:
Craig has the courage to present a hollow man, flooding the empty rooms where his better nature should be with brutality and threat. His smile is more frightening than his straight face, and he doesn't bother with the throwaway quips that were meant to endear us to the other Bonds. The only thing he throws away is a set of car keys, having borrowed a Range Rover and slammed it backward into a row of parked cars in order to set off their alarms. Calm down, you want to tell him, have a martini; and so he does. "Shaken or stirred?" the barman inquires, and Bond spits back at him, "Do I look like I give a damn?"
Richard Corliss in Time:
The writers - Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, along with the ubiquitous Paul Haggis - and director Martin Campbell wanted to go harder, faster, not to stir the formula but to give it a vigorous shake. So, in the tradition of Batman Begins and the Star Wars pre-trilogy, they went back to square one and created a baby Bond. Casino Royale was Ian Fleming's first 007 novel, and Bond here is an agent on his first big case, a rough diamond who has not yet acquired his savoir faire or taste for the double entendre. The Craig Bond might know no French at all; he's not the suave, Oxbridgian 007 of legend but the strong, silent type, almost a thug for hire, and no smoother with a sardonic quip than John Kerry. Still, he fits one description Fleming gave of his hero: "[His face was] a taciturn mask, ironical, brutal and cold."
David Edelstein in New York Magazine:
After serving up a sleek male mannequin in four so-so films, the corporate executives of the James Bond franchise have opted for his opposite in Casino Royale: Bond as a bit of rough trade. And he's good! Better than that, he's what Bond hasn't been in a quarter-century, since a certain rugged Scot said, "Never again." He's fascinating. As 007, Daniel Craig tilts his head forward like a boxer, an impression reinforced by his semi-smashed nose and sandpaper skin that often sports fresh lacerations. But those radioactive blue eyes make him something more than a bullyboy. This Bond is haunted, not yet housebroken, still figuring out the persona. Bond has only recently been licensed to kill, and those kills are still a shock.