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Casino Royale [MOVIE REVIEW]

In anticipation for the upcoming 007 movie 'Spectre', what better way to celebrate it than by returning to the first outing with Daniel Craig as Bond. 'Casino Royale' introduced a new type of Bond movie that was a lot different from what we had gotten used to with the Pierce Brosnan films. It really is like going from 'Batman and Robin' to 'Batman Begins' in a sense (and no the later Pierce Brosnan Bond movies are not THAT bad).

I have actually not seen all the James Bond movies out there so I cannot really say I am the biggest fan of the series in the world. However most of the ones I have seen have been pretty good - some even being excellent and apart from 'Quantum of Solace', I downright love the Daniel Craig movies. A lot of people hold this as their favorite Bond movie and for very good reasons. I think the only one to really challenge it of the past couple of films in the series has been 'Skyfall' (and 'GoldenEye' if you are not into the darker and grittier Craig films).

What makes 'Casino Royale' so much fun to praise is because of how much hate Craig had to take back when he was first announced in the role. I cannot imagine how awesome it must have been like to be Daniel Craig the moment the movie got released and turned out to be a smash hit with both critics and audience members. In terms of Craig's performance, yeah... he is probably the best actor to have played James Bond up to this point (although as I said, I have not seen all the other movies). He is excellent here, seamlessly making the character his own while still firmly remaining in the relms of what we have come to know about 007.

The other performances in the movie are great too with Eva Green as Vesper Lynd taking the cake as possibly the best Bond girl to date. She is not just there for sex appeal (although there is plenty of that), she is a legitimately great and interesting character who can easily hold her own next to the men around her. There is really only one moment in the film were she becomes a damsel in distress and it is more than justified because she literally saved Bond's life just a couple of scenes earlier - in fact that is also not the only time she saves his life. And just like Eva Green might be the best Bond girl to date, Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre might be the best Bond villain to date as well. He is such a wonderful actor with a range many actors cannot even dream of achieving. The character he plays is also not just a typical snarky bad guy with a cat on his lap. He is a genuine human being who cannot even really be called a villain. He is just a person at the end of his rope striving for one last chance to survive.

While I cannot hate on the light hearted and fun Bond movies of the past, THIS is my favorite interpretation of both the style and tone of this franchise and I am glad they had the balls to try something different as it would otherwise have become stale (as the later Pierce Brosnan movies did end up becoming). I love how gritty and personal 'Casino Royale' is with both how it portrays all the characters and the situations the find themselves in. Apart from 'Skyfall', this is definitely the most personality James Bond has ever had and there is even a wonderful arc to him here as this is essentially an origin story (which is another thing I like with these Craig movies).

The absolute highlight of the entire movie for me though is actually not any of the action scenes (although they are spectacular in their own right). It is actually the poker scenes. I am not one for a whole bunch of action and action although they can be excellent when they are done right ('Mad Max: Fury Road'), but the scenes at the poker table is so captivating and enjoyable to watch that it outshines everything else in the movie for me. This is also where most of the interaction between Le Chiffre and Bond take place and a lot of it is not in dialogue, it just them looking at each other trying to read their facial expressions. Everything from the direction, to the editing, to the performances, to the music is just perfectly done and culminates into probably one of the best poker scenes in cinematic history (although I cannot exactly call myself an expert in poker scenes. I know there was one in 'Looney Tunes: Back in Action'...).

Overall, 'Casino Royale' is one of the best Bond movies we have had and also one of the best action movies ever made. The directing is impeccable, Martin Campbell flawlessly brought Bond to the modern world of moviemaking with a gritty and mature tone. The script is excellent with lots of wonderful little moments scattered throughout. The performances are all brilliant with Daniel Craig taking the charge and becoming one of the best Bond's we have ever had. Incidentally 'Casino Royale' is also the best debut movie for a James Bond actor. You gotta love it.

9/10

- Lucas

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