Casino Royale is everything a spy movie aught to be

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Casino Royale (2006)
Rating: 5 of 5.
Directed by Martin Campbell.
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench.
Budget: $150 million.
Gross: $600 million.

A soft reboot of the franchise, Casino Royale opens with Bond notching his first two kills to earn double-zero status. His body count rapidly accelerates to an impressive number, considering most of the film revolves around a game of cards. Casino also earned an impressive number at the box office as the highest-grossing Bond film to that point.

The Daniel Craig movies bring Bond into the 21st century with a bang, leaning far more heavily on traditional gritty action and drama than on the hokey gadgets and superweapons that the franchise was known for. Instead of the Cold War crazies, the film’s baddie is motivated purely by money.

Mads Mikkelsen is tremendous as Le Chiffre, a banker for many of the world’s terrorist organizations. After gambling away his clients’ funds on a failed stock market manipulation plot, he arranges a high-stakes poker game to try and cover his tracks.

Royale is guilty of some of the insanely overly choreographed nonsense that befalls many modern movies. As if someone legitimately trying to get away would scale a crane and try to navigate their way through the steel beam skeleton of a skyscraper under construction, rather than simply disappearing into the street crowds. It’s hard to fault it, however, as that’s exactly the kind of over the top action that the Bond movies are famous for, and its fans have come to expect the fantastic.

The score is perfect throughout. It builds consistently throughout the airport scene. It’s wondrous, hopeful, and adventurous in the all the right moments. David Arnold deserved an Oscar nod for his work. The late Chris Cornell provided a quality title track.

Eva Green shares remarkable chemistry with Craig and gives a splendid performance as Vesper Lynd, the Treasury agent supervising Bond’s purse strings at the casino and one of the best-written Bond girls to date.

Craig is perfect as Bond, even if the script prevents him from being remarkable. The strong silent type is a hard character to earn any accolades for portraying, but the newest Bond does all he can be expected to do. He’s confident, suave, and ruggedly handsome. Easily the most badass of all the Bonds, his writers are unfortunately lacking in the humorous one-liner department.

The writing team of Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade lays the groundwork for an excellent saga to come and Campbell would make a welcome director in future installments. Overall, Casino is everything a spy movie aught to be.