Casino Royale (2006)
Contains some spoilers...
Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming's first Bond book, is pretty unique as a Bond movie. For a start, the book was already made into a movie - back in 1967, though it was a parody rather than a real Bond movie, starring David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. The other thing about Casino Royale is that, unlike most Bond movies of the last 15 or so years, it isn't solely about the cars, girls and gadgets.
That's not to say that there aren't girls - Ivana Milicevic does a very sexy turn as Valenka, wife of one of the main villain's henchmen, Dimitrious, though the main romantic interest in the film, Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, isn't really typical Bond girl material. And there are gadgets, too - Bond tracks down villains using his mobile phone, and MI6 are able to determine how Bond has been poisoned over the internet using some fancy technology stashed in the glove compartment of his car; without Q, though, Bond is left with pretty much just a gun and a car to get on with. Finally, the cars - yeah, there are a couple of very nice Aston Martins, but the first car Bond appears in is a Ford. A nice Ford, true, but not the kind of thing you'd expect Bond to drive.
The main focus of the film is on poker. Gambling, and bluffing. The plot revolves around Le Schiffre, a mathematical prodigy who has made himself personal banker to any number of terrorist leaders around the world. He looks like a fairly typical Bond villain, but is well played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. His trick is playing the stock market, by setting up various events to cause stocks to rise and fall at will - for example, at one point M (played with her usual class by Judi Dench) implies that he was behind the 9/11 attack, and cleaned up on airline stocks afterwards. When Bond foils his attempt to destroy the biggest airplane in the world, Le Chiffre loses millions, and is forced into a poker tournament to try and make up what he has lost. And it just so happens that Bond is the best poker player in the secret service.
What a lot of people will be wondering is - what about Daniel Craig? Playing Bond for the first time, he didn't really look the part. Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, Roger Moore were all suave and debonair Bonds, while Craig never really looked 100% comfortable in his tuxedo. He still played the role with a lot of charm, and convinced in all the action scenes. And for the ladies - he does appear several times wearing nothing but a small pair of shorts.
Though the meat of the film is in the big poker game, there are also some very cool set-pieces. The opening sequence - shot nicely in black and white - tells of how Bond became a double-0 rated agent; his first mission, after the well-animated title sequences (featuring a fairly standard Bond theme by David Arnold and Chris Cornell), involves a very cool free running sequence on a building site - Bond's target jumps through windows and off ledges, while Bond himself just runs straight through chipwood boards, and ends up blowing up a small African embassy. There's enough action to keep 007 fans happy, while Bond's witty one-liners and his conversations with Lynd on the psychology of poker will provide for those looking for more than just brain-candy. The film's slightly drawn-out conclusion, while a little obvious, was still satisfying, and the film ends on the immortal line "The name's Bond. James Bond".
Overall, it was an entertaining film; while it's not exactly Bergman, it pushes all the right buttons, and you won't leave the cinema disappointed.
Directed by Martin Campbell.
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis (screenplay) & Ian Fleming (novel).
Original score by David Arnold
Cast & some other details take from imdb.