Casino Royale ★★★★½

With "Casino Royale", the James Bond franchise has been completely rebooted. It’s a welcome, refreshing reboot; one that gives the filmmakers plenty of creative freedom with regard to the characters and the narrative. This film reinvigorates James Bond and makes him relevant again. Here, Agent 007 is inexperienced, more psychologically complex, more flawed, and less conscientious compared to previous incarnations of the character.

"Casino Royale" opens with a stylish black-and-white prologue, the look and feel of which immediately signals to the viewer that they are about to see a quite different interpretation of the famous MI6 agent. As usual, the title sequence is visually interesting, but the theme song, "You Know My Name", written by Chris Cornell and David Arnold and performed by Cornell, sounds rather bland.

The first action sequence of the movie proper is really thrilling and stunning in its execution. A torture scene quickly becomes almost physically painful to watch. Set in Venice, Italy, the climax of the proceedings barely avoids crossing the line into too-over-the-top territory and ends up being a minor disappointment in an otherwise really good film.

Martin Campbell’s straightforward, confident direction guides the movie very well from beginning to end. Campbell commendably creates card-playing scenes that are actually suspenseful. The solid screenplay, written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis, remains down to earth most of the time, which results in a grittier and more realistic cinematic take on James Bond.

Crisply photographed by Phil Meheux, "Casino Royale" presents its various locations in an alluring manner. Stuart Baird’s fine, tight editing work keeps pacing issues at bay and ensures that even the most intense action scenes are coherent and easy to follow.

With his piercing blue eyes and rugged yet classy appearance, Daniel Craig is perfectly cast in the role of James Bond and delivers an excellent, nuanced performance. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd comes across as a well-rounded, sophisticated, independent woman. The only memorable thing about Le Chiffre turns out to be the fact that he occasionally bleeds from one of his eyes, but actor Mads Mikkelsen does a good job of making the primary villain of the film appropriately menacing. Judi Dench is simply terrific as M, bringing both authority and a motherly quality to her character.