REVIEW: License to thrill renewed

None | ByUdita Jhujhunwala/ HT Style, Mumbai
Nov 18, 2006 11:35 AM IST

Daniel Craig comfortably slips into Bond?s tuxedo and sips on Martinis, writes Udita Jhujhunwala.

Casino Royale
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen
Rating: ****

Bond is back. Bond is beefy. And the new Bond is blond. Daniel Craig (Munich) has comfort ably slipped into the tuxedo, size 007, and left audiences shaken and stirred.

Director Martin Campbell’s (The Mask of Zorro, Golden Eye) interpretation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, which reveals Bond’s early career, begins with a black and white sequence that shows how he graduated from secret agent to a Double-O.

His first assignment as 007 is to bust Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to the world’s terrorist. When Bond foils Le Chiffre’s plans to sink an airline stock price and rake in the winnings, the latter arranges a super high stakes poker game to win back the terrorist’s money. M (Judi Dench) enrols Bond for the game, and the masterplan (however lame) is that he will outwit Le Chiffre and win over all the money.

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Accompanying him on this mission, like a ball and chain, is Treasury representative Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) whose mandate is to protect the government’s millions.

Vesper thaws Bond’s heart and is Casino Royale’s designated Bond babe. Oddly, among the chases, fights, stunts and poker moves, Bond and Vesper de velop an attraction, which brings an unfamiliar characteristic to 007 — he’s actually sensitive and sappy — a little hard to swallow, even it comes with a twist.

Also Green is not the typical Bond girl — she’s a little school mistress-like and seems keener on talking to Bond rather than romping with him. Bond’s trademark playfulness is definitely in short supply here.

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Bond gambles at the poker table, gambles with his life and then gambles on his woman — all leading to violent and dramatic consequences that establish the Bond he will go on to be.

While there’s a new Bond here (one with a soft side), many of the old tricks are still in place — the not-so-subtle product placements, the fast cars (Aston Martin DBS), the Martini (but with a new recipe) and a fitting adversary in Le Chiffre, played ably by Danish actor Mikkelsen.

Judi Dench is at her caustic and collected best, Eva Green does not really win the audience’s heart and we really missed Q and his collection of hi-tech gadgets.

Mostly Casino Royale is about whether the producers bet on the right actor for Bond, and it would seem they did. Craig is British to the core, slightly mischievous, has a gorgeous body (he takes his shirt off enough and is even tortured in the buff) and pulls off the action sequences with ease. The stunt sequence when he’s giving a bomb maker chase early in the film is riveting.

Craig looks like he’s here to stay. But here’s hoping that in the next film some of Bond’s quirks, flirtations and the aloofness associated with a slightly mysterious MI6 agent, return, gadgets and all.

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