Back in 2008, I watched the first 20 Bond films in one year and gave reviews as I did so. I have not yet done this for the Daniel Craig films and am now rectifying that as we approach the U.S. release of Skyfall.
Bond: Daniel Craig – 2 tusks
A return to the darker, gruffer Bond after a run by Brosnan. He’s very raw in this film and we haven’t seen Bond this raw since Dr. No. I like the slow transition of seeing him become a little more sophisticated as the movie goes on. He has the swagger needed for the role. He also commands the torture sequence in spite of his position in that scene.
Girl: Eva Green as Vesper Lynd – 2 tusks
When an element of the plot is Bond wanting to quit and sail the world with the girl, the girl needs to be pretty fantastic. Vesper is one of the most complicated Bond girls we’ve seen in quite some time. And Eva Green pulls off the complexity brilliantly.
Gadgets: Variety – 2 tusks
This is a back to basics Bond movie and the gadgets in this film are very “real.” No laser watches or exploding cufflinks. As a guy who doesn’t like the far-fetched gadgets, I loved this.
Opening Theme: “You Know My Name” performed by Chris Cornell – 2 tusks
One of the best theme songs and great opening graphics that played on the playing card motif.
Villain: Le Chiffre – 2 tusks
Upon my recent viewing of this movie, I realized that I really do like Le Chiffre in spite of the fact that he doesn’t really do anything. He mostly plays cards and gives odd smirks. We don’t see him fight. He carries himself well, but it’s hard to really point to a moment and say, “this…this is why I like this guy.” Again, the torture scene may be it. But then, why did he let it get to that point? Still, even if I can’t explain it, I really liked him so he gets the full score.
While there was no stand out henchman in the tradition of Odd Job or Jaws, there are a variety of underlings who give Bond some trouble. Sebastien Foucan as Mollaka is probably the one who stands out the most due to the incredible parkour sequence near the beginning of the film. Claudio Santamaria was also a fun opponent during the airport chase scene.
Pre-title Opening Sequence – 2 tusks
I loved that this was black and white for no apparent reason. I liked the non-linear approach to telling this little tale of how Bond got his first two kills and the way it ends with the visual homage to how the past several movies have begun was neat.
Every horrible Bond movie is followed by a film that snaps the franchise back into place. Casino Royale is that film after the horrid Die Another Day. This is a nice, soft reboot of the storyline (keeping Judi Dench does seem to confuse this point, but I like Dench so I’m glad they kept her). The movie is chock full of action and mystery. We see Bond using his brain to solve mysteries and do spy work. That complements his running through walls and pummeling guys nicely.
It’s a little dry in some spots where they are playing cards. But they do a good job keeping the plot moving in spite of that. This does a great job of setting things up for a new direction. I like the introduction of a mysterious organization pulling the strings and the way this movie ends with Bond firmly in control promises great things to come.