James Bond is my favorite all time film series. They are some of the most influential films for me I’ve ever seen. My grandfather gave me VHS (remember those?) tapes of various entries in the series, mainly Sean Connery’s and from that day on, I’ve been in love with this series. With every series, there’s one entry that you deem your absolute favorite and Casino Royale is that entry. This isn’t just my favorite Bond film but it’s in my top three films all time. This film one of the best reboots I’ve ever seen besides Batman Begins. The way it reinvents the formula, the way it takes the old formula and breaks it and just the level of entertainment and masterclass Martin Campbell, the director, displays in each following scene is a feat that few filmmakers have been able to create. This film is one of the best action films ever invented and yet it is so much more than just an action film.
Casino Royale acts as an origin story for MI6 agent 007 named James Bond, this time played by Daniel Craig. Freshly given 00 status during a wonderful precredits sequence, Bond gets in hot water after he kills a bomb maker that was wanted for questioning after a stakeout gone bad. When he learns of a high stakes poker game thrown at the Casino Royale in Montenegro by terrorist financer Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Bond is sent there undercover to use his poker skills to keep the winnings out of Le Chiffre’s hands. With the help of treasury agent, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and MI6 contact Mathis (Giancarlo Gianni), Bond looks to outwit Lé Chiffre.
This film is basically three different movies rolled into each act. The first act is very action heavy. The action in this film is spectacular. The beginning Madagascar chase scene is one of my favorite action set pieces in a film ever. It’s so thrilling and knowing it relies on like 99% practical effects just blows my mind. Then comes the second act which relies entirely on the poker game and makes for some really investing and thrilling psychological tension. There is even a fight scene in a stairwell sprinkled in there which is extremely gritty and raw that it could belong in a Bourne film. Finally, the third act becomes a romance which is one of the most tragic love stories in a film I’ve ever seen. The revelations still break my heart each viewing. It’s in this third act when we really start to see the Bond we know molded and created before our very eyes and every second is riveting.
Daniel Craig is probably my favorite Bond or just tied with Sean Connery. The way he plays this character in this film is unlike any before it. Bond is completely deconstructed in this film. Craig can go from cold and calculated one minute to as charismatic as they come right afterwards. Seeing this character being brutally hit mentally and physically, especially in the most brutal torture scene in a film, let alone in PG-13 film, I’ve ever seen. Craig is in my opinion, the perfect representation of Bond and exactly what Ian Fleming envisioned Bond to be in his first novel which this film is adapted from, a book which I greatly recommend as it’s one of the best novels out there. The reason this film is such a great one is because of how it subverts the Bond clichés, especially with it’s Bond girl. Eva Green as Vesper is still to this day, my favorite Bond girl. This woman challenges Bond with her smarts and demeanor while still being so beautiful. She is one of the strongest female characters in a film because she’s never a damsel in distress and when she is, she still has these moments where she becomes in control. I absolutely adore this character and her arc is so riveting. Mads Mikkelsen’s Lé Chiffe is the perfect villain because he never acts like one. He doesn’t have this ridiculous hideout or over the top scheme but he’s a real villain that feels like he belongs in our world. Mads Mikkelsen plays this character brilliantly. Felix Leiter is a Bond staple and Jeffrey Wright’s take on this character is so suave and cool that I just want to see more of him.
Casino Royale is the best Bond film. It takes everything you know about Bond and reinvents it, creating not only a riveting Bond film but a riveting film. It’s three act structure is so unique, it’s action is fantastic, it’s direction is spectacular and it’s characters are brilliant. I haven’t decided if I’m going to review the other three Craig Bond films or not but just know that while one of those gets the same grade as Casino Royale, none of those films reboots this franchise and does so in such a perfect way.