Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You know the name, you know the number

My brother Scott and I went to see the latest James Bond film, Casino Royale, over the weekend, and we were both suitably impressed. This is the first outing of the new Bond, British actor Daniel Craig. Based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel of the same name, we see Bond going on his first mission. The villainous Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is a private financier of international terrorism. In order to shut down this terrorist network, Bond is sent by M (Dame Judi Dench), head of MI6, to beat him in a high-stakes poker game at Casino Royale, Montenegro, with his stake provided by the British Treasury. Treasury official Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is sent to supervise Bond and watch over the government's money. As Bond and Lynd survive numerous attempts on their lives by Le Chiffre and his henchmen, they develop a mutual attraction that leads them both into further danger, and fateful events that are instrumental in making Bond what he would later become.

After the bloated action spectaculars of the Pierce Brosnan era, director Martin Campbell's grittier, more realistic character-driven approach is refreshing, hearkening back to earlier Bond films like From Russia With Love (1963), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Licence to Kill (1989). Thanks to a great performance from Craig, who has surely made his detractors eat their words, this time Bond is portrayed as a believable human being, with flaws and emotional depth beneath his cold, ruthless exterior, and not a suave caricature. The longest running franchise in film history has been successfully reinvented. One hopes that the producers will keep to this approach, and not revert to the well-worn formula of megalomaniacs with plots for world domination.

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