It’s pretty clear from the violent opening sequence that this James Bond isn’t going to be quite the normal fare.  Shot in black and white, it
portrays Bond’s first two kills, granting him 00-status.  And from there on we get what is arguably the best 007 film since the days of
Connery, if not the best ever.

The biggest story swirling around “Casino Royale” has been Daniel Craig, who is the sixth actor to take on the role.  In short, Craig gives
one of the best performances in the series.  Craig plays a chiseled and physical 007 that we feel is more than capable of the stunts he
performs.  He embodies the cold killer that Ian Fleming created for the novel which the film is based on.  But what makes Craig’s
performance so great is his versatility.  He not only embodies the serious and darker side of Bond, but also pulls off some pretty heartfelt
dramatic stuff towards the end of the film.  And luckily despite all the emphasis on being a more serious Bond, Craig gets more than a few
opportunities to get laughs, and nails just about every one of them.

But no matter how talented of an actor Craig is, he has the opportunity to prove it because of the people behind the scenes.  The
screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis is an excellent adaptation of the novel.  And although it updates the story to
modern day, it is done perfectly, while still remaining surprisingly true to the book.

A great deal of credit also needs to go to director Martin Campbell.  Campbell has always been excellent when it comes to action sequences
(see: “GoldenEye” or the “Zorro” films), but even he outdoes himself here.  Following the main titles there is a spectacular chase through
Madagascar that is just jaw dropping.  Campbell also handles the casino scenes especially well.  Directing poker is not an easy thing to
keep interesting, but his camerawork is phenomenal here.  I loved the pacing of these parts also.  It is very old school.  The poker
sequences are over long periods of time and the relaxed pace is refreshing in the current ‘MTV editor on speed’ era.

Although Craig steals the show, Eva Green is almost as good as Vesper Lynd.  She is far from your typical Bond girl.  She sizes Bond up
instantly and proves a more than worthy match for his wit.

The film also has quite a few excellent moments of nostalgia that I won’t spoil and some good old fashioned plot twists.

David Arnold also provides his best Bond score since the excellent “Tomorrow Never Dies.”  Arnold does a wonderful job developing
Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme throughout the film along with some lovely statements of the main title theme.

“Casino Royale” is not just a great Bond movie, but a great movie overall.  The slumping series has answered the challenges of the Jason
Bourne films and delivered a thrilling and enjoyable ride.  James Bond has returned.

* * * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Martin Campbell

Written by: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Eva Green, Jeffrey
Wright, Mads Mikkelsen

Cinematography by: Phil Meheux

Music by: David Arnold

Released: November 17, 2006; 144 Minutes