This second adaptation (following the 1967 spoof) of Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel is pitched as a prequel to the 20 films that came before it. It begins with James Bond becoming a ‘double 0’ licensed to kill agent and thereafter fills in how the fledgling killer became the cold-hearted professional assassin we all know. Blond, cropped and buffed Daniel Craig looks good as a young, thuggish Bond. But the sixth actor to play 007 is hamstrung by a script that tries to do too much with the character and the franchise. 007’s abrupt changes from killer to lover and back again, coupled with the film’s constant shift between being a traditional Bond adventure and a more up-to-date espionage thriller (The Bourne Identity is the model) leaves Craig little room to put his own stamp on the role.
While Casino Royale boasts a strong leading man, the film itself is weak. It opens with a couple of great set pieces (Bond earning his double zero stripes by beating a man to death in a toilet and a chase sequence across a construction site in Uganda) and the first half of the film races along. But after Bond sits down for a marathon poker game at the titular Montenegro gambling palace the plot and pacing is lost and the film trails off to an anti-climactic close. And without a threatening villain (Mads Mikkelsen’s terrorist mastermind Le Chiffre doesn’t cut it) nor an alluring Bond girl (ditto Eva Green’s snooty accountant), Casino Royale doesn’t really feel like a Bond film at all.
General release from Fri 17 Nov.