Casino Royale 2006 ★★★★

Nearly finished now! In steps Daniel Craig for his go at Bond and thinking back to a lot of the nonsense that was spoken and written about him when he first took the role, I just wonder how foolish many of the naysayers felt once they had watched Casino Royale.

Hopefully very foolish. Writing Craig off beforehand was ridiculous as it was - his Bond credentials were extremely obvious to me and he also possessed easily the best CV of any of the Bond actors before they took the role on. But it was even more foolhardy knowing that in a post Jason Bourne spy film landscape that this was not going to be more of the same drivel that Pierce Brosnan was mostly lumbered with.

It was clearly going to play up to Craig's brooding strengths. It was also clearly going to come about circle in more ways than one - we not only see Bond become a -00 agent for the first time but in terms of tone it was pretty much assured that we could easily be back in 1962 with Sean Connery. To be honest, though, I can see why people got so jumpy about a new Bond.

After all, it is James Bond and all of his fans are rather protective of it as a franchise, I think. It turns out very nicely, though, with Craig given some outstanding support to work with on his debut. I couldn't say that I was all that convinced by Mads Mikkelsen's twitchy performance as Le Chiffre, a Bond villain that was already on paper not the strongest in the first place, and I think I would have been happier seeing Isaach De Bankole given that role instead. He is fantastic in the all-too-brief time he's in the film, as is Giancarlo Giannini when he is adding some utter class to the proceedings.

Eva Green, however, is in a class all of her own and is, I would go as far to say, easily the best thing in this film. Effortlessly beautiful and incredibly charming, she is quite possibly the best Bond girl of all time and some of her scenes with Craig (maybe not so much the more amorous ones) are incredibly good. She is a truly wonderful actress who is now almost in that rare category of screen performer that seems incapable of delivering anything other than a great performance. Craig, meanwhile, is every bit as good as I expected him to be - but he isn't really asked to come out of his comfort zone that much.

The opening chase scene is absolutely stunning, but I actually thought it was slightly short of action scenes considering its lengthy running time although I did not feel the film dragged except for the closing scenes with Green and Craig. These are the weakest in the whole film for me in terms of the story - the twist is painfully obvious for quite some time (although the ultimate explanation for it is quite good) but I can't help but point out that this is three Bond films in a row that have done this storyline now.

Otherwise this was very enjoyable indeed. Slightly po-faced and with very little humour, but still very good. The problem, of course, with reviewing any film in a lengthy franchise is that you have to judge them in two ways - are they good examples of that series and are they good films in their own right? For me, Casino Royale isn't a very good Bond film. But is it a very good film? Oh, absolutely.

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