With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95 percent and showings daily at the Cinerama, I was unable to resist seeing Casino Royale.
For whatever it's worth, the last time I saw a Bond movie in the theater, it starred Timothy Dalton. I've seen a most of the preceding films in a theater, however, including the ones before my time. The Pierce Brosnan movies always struck me as too much '90s action movies featuring James Bond... and my eventual video viewing did nothing to dissuade me of that.
Ok, ok. I'll get on with it.
Yes, yes, it's the best Bond movie since On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I read that half-a-dozen places and never quite believed, but it really is.
Let me speak first to Daniel Craig and the reinvention of the Bond character.
I've long been on that list of people who felt they should start making the Bond movies period pieces. The argument against was always solid, the best movie Bond villains are not really political in a Cold War sense, but simply out to gain money and power. But somehow the modern Bond remained "off" for me.
This reinvented, reinvigorated version puts its finger directly on the problem.
The James Bond type is not a icon of our age. The actors Ian Fleming listed as inspirations, David Niven, Cary Grant, etc., are part of an iconography that simply doesn't exist any longer. The upper class gentleman who smokes, drinks and womanizes recklessly is not something that has an application in our modern world.
What the makers of this movie have done is to re-adjust the character in some obvious ways to make him a new, more modern archtype, while remarkably doing almost nothing to change the basic feel of the character, charming rogue, super spy, killer, adventurer, lover...
But let's get down to the other concerns in a Bond movie.
The action sequences are amazing. They are the most involving and exciting in a Bond movie since Roger Moore was in his prime, back in the '70s. The tendency has been to overcomplicated them, as means to make them ever more exciting, with diminishing results. I've heard the action sequences in this compared to B13. I think that suggests an overt modernness that I didn't get from this movie, but they certainly crackle with the same kind of intensity.
The women? The women are hot and smart and cool, the way the Bond girls of the past really were. Bond girls have become ever more insubstantial since the '60s era and this is a true return to form. We are told they are smart by other characters, but there actual interactions with the world and Bond in particular, don't demonstrate that.
Here, they skip the part of telling us how smart they are and simply show it by how they act. Eva Green, in particular, is delightful as Vesper Lynd. Sexy and smart, she holds her own against Bond in every scene.
Craig's new, harder and less experienced at charms version of Bond also makes him the easiest to understand M's disdain since possibly Goldfinger, and Dame Judi Dench manages the disdain and grudging respect perfectly. I suppose she did before as well, but the chemistry between her and Craig plays so much more naturally, in terms of her disdain, that it plays as if she herself were doing a better job.
I've written so much and haven't even gotten to Le Chiffre, as perfect a portrayal of a villain from a Fleming novel as has been filmed. Mads Mikkelsen plays the role perfectly, with the right level of mystery and threat, topping even the great Peter Lorre in the original 1954 television adaptation.
I'll shut up now. You just need to stop reading and get to the theater now.