A review of “Casino Royale” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for violent action, torture and some nudity

Run Time: 2 hours, 24 minutes

 

 

          The verdict is in: the deliciously brooding Daniel Craig is an edgy and eclectic James Bond, deftly grabbing the reins from perennial uber-Bond Sean Connery.

          No gimmicky nuclear warheads, extreme heli-skiing or Pierce Brosnan’s namby-pambies; this 007 is all business – hungry, raw and irrefutably willing to lay it down for queen and country.

          This go around James is tackling the money man for the world’s most notorious terrorists. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is a criminal mastermind with an unquenchable thirst for hard currency. A series of explosive events lead Bond and the creepy Le Chiffre to face off in a high-rollers poker showdown at the luxurious Casino Royale in posh Montenegro.

          Aiding Bond in his quest to vanquish evil is gorgeous Treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a brainy beauty who will shape Bond’s heart and his future with calculated charm.

          The action kicks off with a kinetic chase sequence during which Bond acrobatically pursues a mad suicide bomber through the industrialized construction of Madagascar to the Nambutu Embassy, leaping tall buildings in single bound and wielding his weapon with dexterous masculinity. From Africa to Lake Como, Prague to the Bahamas the beat is positively heart-pounding.

          Craig is a glove fit for the iconic M16 agent, darker and more fallible than his predecessors as originally penned by Ian Fleming in 1953. Charismatic and resourceful, the pugilist-faced, sculpted-bodied Craig goes from swimwear to tuxedo to a bullet between the eyes with sultry versatility.

          Craig’s chemistry with Green is intriguing, more playful than sexy. The real sparks fly between Craig and Judi Dench, who reprises her role as 007’s steely superior M. Their anxious exchanges are razor sharp, verbal foreplay at its most fluid. Dench is gifted with screenplay writer Paul Haggis’ plum lines, a clever volley of bloody cheek and high-minded rebukes.

          Body count is high courtesy of Bond’s overdeveloped trigger finger and overextend ego; the sexual liaisons kept at a minimum in order to fully develop 007’s fundamental penchant for women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. In the film’s only serious misstep James and Vesper turn to a tenuous love affair that ends tragically and feels insincere and meticulously manufactured.

          But Craig is so thoroughly badass, so sociopathically tenacious that his every move is box-office gold. “Casino” is pure testosterone pleasure.