Ian Fleming’s James Bond is a much tougher egg than most of the Bond movies have portrayed him to be. Sure, he does impossible stunts and kills lots of villains, but he’s always cracking smart jokes, hardly breaking a sweat, and knows way too much about fancy drinks and what upper-crust people like to say at parties.
That was a big part of Ian Fleming’s conception of the Bond books, of course, but at heart Bond was something of a thug—more Bulldog Drummond than a Dornford Yates smart-set spy. And that’s where the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, finds its inspiration. Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, is much more of a bulldog than the Bonds of the past, and the action sequences in this installment, though about as ludicrous as in most Bond films, have a gritty character that matches Craig’s roughness and fits well with the current trend in action films.
The opening credits and initial scenes make this very clear: the credits sequence is all stylized images of violence, and none of the naked women reflected in shimmering water that have characterized the Bond series over the years. And the first scenes take up this motif, with nonstop, ultraviolent action. The film then settles down into some very absorbing sequences of very-high-stakes poker involving Bond and the villain—which viewers expecting nothing but action may find surprising but are very effective indeed.
In the end, there are a few nice plot twists, more big action sequences, and a good time is had by all, except such villains are are destroyed in the process. All in all, Casino Royale is a good ride, a fine installment in the series, an excellent debut for Daniel Craig, and a promising rejuvenation of the James Bond movie saga.