Movie Review: New James Bond Proves Worthy of Double-0 Status
Mads Mikkelsen plays the villain, Le Chiffre, in Casino Royale.
Credit: Jay Maidment

Number 21 in the Bond film series, Casino Royale gets to the roots of the British Secret Service agent, before he's attained his double-0 status. He's still charming and he's still deadly, but this new James Bond played by Daniel Craig is also human.

"The action scenes are very Bond but hopefully a little more realistic than previous Bond films," director Martin Campbell told at a press gathering in New York.

It's James Bond in the raw. He falls in love and gets his hands dirty, making for both sweaty and bloody action scenes, which as intended, are more realistic than the gadget-heavy stunts of past films.

"In Golden Eye it was pretty conventional in terms of a Bond film. The character was very much the Bond we've all been brought up with. In this one, he goes to a much darker kind of process, quite honestly, he gets poisoned, he gets the hell beaten out of him in the torture scene. The violence is much less [computer-generated], it's much grittier and tougher--he bleeds a lot. He's much more vulnerable, he falls in love, genuinely falls in love," said Campbell.

The film sticks close to Ian Fleming's 1953 novel of the same name, so you won't see the mad gadget-inventor Q. "We kept away from gadgets. It just doesn't sort of fit the tone of the movie," Campbell said.

Stellar cast

The super spy's first mission involves jet-hopping to locations such as the Bahamas, Uganda, Italy and Madagascar, in a quest to take down the banker to the world's terrorist organizations, the villain Le Chiffre. Along the way, he doesn't miss out on the cliche one-night-stand with sensual Solange played by Caterina Murino [image], girlfriend of one of the bad guys.

Bond is self-sufficient as always, but he is joined in the new movie by a stellar cast of characters who have depth and allure of their own. The outcome is an engaging story that pulls at your heartstrings and intellect.

For example, when Bond girl Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green [image], plops down in a train-car table across from Bond, she says "I'm the money." Bond replies, "worth every penny." The line harks to past films, but with a new twist: Vesper isn't blushing pink at the mere sight of Bond, and she doesn't sport a bikini.

Instead, Vesper charms the pants off Bond, who reveals he's not immune to falling in love.

The villain, played by Danish star Mads Mikkelsen [image], shows that the bad guy is just as complex as our hero and perhaps more so. Trumping the Goldfingers and Dr. Nos, motivated by their hunger for world domination, Le Chiffre is in it for the money. Rather than being on top of the world, Le Chiffre is fragile, a fact underscored by a visible scar above his eye. And he weeps blood, adding, Mikkelsen said, "something fragile, I guess, something weird," to his character.

Mental combat

The eye also makes it tricky for Bond to read Le Chiffre in a palm-sweating poker game.

Secret Service intelligence reveals that Le Chiffre is planning to raise money in a high-stakes poker game at Le Casino Royale. 'M' assigns 007 to play against him, knowing that if Le Chiffre loses, it will destroy his organization.

In a game where the stakes are not measured in dollars but rather human lives, every hand could be their last. "It's not about the game. It's about losing your life. There's a lot of things at stake in this game, and so we wanted to focus on drama as well in this game," Mikkelsen said.

"It was a fight. We never have a physical fight in the movie. That was our physical fight," Craig said.

When the curtain falls, Casino Royale works as a Bond film. Fans will get their million-dollar car chases, including the new Aston Martin DBS that sets a new record with eight cannon rolls. And there are still the witty, and perhaps cheesy, one liners, with a stylized Bond walking away from the fires and bloody fights with a suave strut--a natural for Craig.

"I want it to be as stylish as it possibly can. That's all I ever wanted to maintain," Craig said.

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