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Casino Royale (2006)
Rated PG13

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and Judi Dench

Rating:
****
out of
*****

As many older film series have been "rebooted" in the last few years to appeal to a younger audience, it was inevitable that there would come a time to reboot the James Bond series. In 2006, that time came. With the Bond character becoming somewhat creaky in light of on-screen competition, like Jason Bourne, Casino Royale unleashes a new Bond. In two ways, actually. First, a new actor portrays 007. Daniel Craig, who'd been seen in films like Layer Cake, The Jacket, and Sylvia, takes over for Pierce Brosnan, who last played the role in 2002's Die Another Day. Second, the character has been stripped of his gadgets and cheeziness and given a new, more modern machismo. The operative word for this new James Bond is badass.

This new Bond is first seen in Casino Royale earning his "double O" status, solidifying to the viewer that everything about this series is starting from scratch. From there, Bond goes on his first mission, which is to find and stop the man who is financing terrorists around the world. In the process, he gets himself involved in a high-stakes poker game in which, if he loses, he will directly be financing terrorists organizations with MI6's money.

A James Bond movie would not be a proper Bond movie without beautiful women, lavish locales, and fast cars. Casino Royale has all of those but it also has action scenes that are simply jaw-dropping and gimmick free. For example, a free-running chase early in the movie is heartstoppingly shot and wonderfully staged. There's no apparent CGI trickery or anything that's entirely unbelievable. In that sequence -- ten minutes into the movie -- Bond becomes relevant again. And it just gets better from there.

Director Martin Campbell, who also helmed Pierce Brosnan's debut as Bond in 1995's GoldenEye, deftly handles the pacing of the entire movie. The script, which is an update of the original Ian Fleming novel, pulls some nice twists and the plot never gets overly complicated, which is a major pitfall of most cloak-and-dagger type stories. The movie even breaks Bond tradition by not having a big stunt sequence before the titles. Nothing is too sacred to be reinvented, including one of Bond's signature lines.

There had been some concern about the choice of Daniel Craig as James Bond before Casino Royale was released. The aforementioned action scene and some nice exchanges of dialogue with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green,) an accountant sent by MI6 to oversee Bond's gambling money, cement Craig as Bond. Some purists may argue that Craig is no Sean Connery, or even Roger Moore, but that's not a bad thing. Craig takes Bond and makes him his own while remaining true to the spirit of the character. This Bond may be more violent and cold but that's exactly what James Bond would need to be if he were to operate in the 21st Century.

"Casino Royale" was the first James Bond novel that Ian Fleming ever wrote. Because of issues involving ownership of the movie rights, it was never made into an "official" Bond film until now. Frankly, that's perfect because there is no better way I can think of to introduce the Bond character to a new generation or reintroduce him to an older generation than this movie. Casino Royale finds James Bond in the best shape he's ever been.

Trivia: The first official Bond film to start without the famous gun barrel intro. It occurs later. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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