Casino Royale

Casino Royale ★★★★½

"How did he die?"
"Your contact? Not well."

Frankly *this* close to being what I would label as a "perfect" movie, and still without question one of the best action/thrillers ever made. If you somehow had zero idea who James Bond was going into it, I still cannot imagine someone not getting enthralled with its dramatic tension and the combination of frantic action with clear direction. When Daniel Craig puts on the suit for the first time, it feels like a superhero suit moment in two ways: One, he just wears that suit so damn well. Two, even though we are seeing a young and inexperienced Bond learning to go through the motions of his predecessors, already from the start Craig feels so made for this role that seeing him put that suit on feels so right. The construction yard chase and the poisoning sequence are two of my favorite bits of pure excitement in cinema, where even though you're watching James Bond in action (so of course he's going to be just fine) the stakes of these scenes still feel tangible. This is just the ideal way to pump new blood into a franchise while becoming the best of the best along the way. Don't get me started on the torture scene either, imagine trying to get that in a widely-released PG-13 blockbuster (which was likely considered by enough people to be a family movie theater night) today. Craig is brilliant here as I'm sure you'd figure me to say at this point, Mads Mikkelsen strikes a balance between being a major threat and just a piece of a greater puzzle which makes him all the more memorable, and Eva Green gets the special benefit of being the most gorgeous "Bond girl" while also feeling like a tried and true three-dimensional character beyond what that label often entails. This is the story of how a man turns into a weapon, how love is found and then shattered so tragically and so violently that it makes it seem like a feeling that can never be known to this person again. It's ironic and ultimately even poetic that this great loss is the singular thing that completes the aforementioned transformation. A legend is born at a grave cost. This is the first stop of a marathon in anticipation for No Time to Die and I look forward to completing the oversights I somehow still had for Craig. I do doubt that anything, either from this era of James Bond or even any previous era, will top the high stakes game that is Casino Royale.


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