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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 08:15 GMT
Review: Casino Royale
By Tim Masters
Entertainment editor, BBC news website

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Daniel Craig's Bond has the spirit of the Ian Fleming character

Bond is back - and this time he's more gritty than pretty. Even from the first few seconds of Casino Royale it's clear how things have changed.

For a start it begins in black and white. There's Bond in the shadows, ready for the kill. It's moody film noir stuff, and it instantly establishes Daniel Craig as a tough cookie.

Director Martin Campbell, who so successfully re-invented Bond with the introduction of Pierce Brosnan in 1995's GoldenEye, pulls off the same trick here. With the new Bond comes a new feel to the franchise.

Gone are the gratuitous gadgets and one-liners, along with Moneypenny and pantomime megalomaniacs. Casino Royale feels like something of a homecoming - a return to the spirit of the Fleming novels.

Of course, there are action scenes aplenty in far-flung locations - Madagascar, Miami and Montenegro to name just three. The Bond girls are as stunning as ever, and there's a bad guy with a dodgy eye.

Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
There is obvious chemistry between Daniel Craig and Eva Green

The revelation here is Bond himself. Daniel Craig is an immensely physical 007. At times he's like MI6's answer to The Terminator - crashing through walls and leaping from buildings with superhuman strength.

During one scrape he pulls out a large nail that's embedded in his shoulder and tosses it nonchalantly aside.

But he bleeds too. Craig spends much of this film a bloodied and bruised mess. It really is hard to imagine any of the previous Bonds being quite this muscular and, well, hard.

M (Judi Dench) says to Bond after the murder of a recent sexual conquest: "I would ask you to remain emotionally detached, but that's not your problem, is it Bond?"

The first hour of the film is full-on action, including an exhilarating chase sequence across a building site and an explosive episode at Miami airport.

Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale
Mads Mikkelsen's baddie is ice cool

The pace changes when Bond meets the Treasury's Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) ahead of a high stakes poker game against international money launderer Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).

The chemistry between Craig and Green is evident, and director Campbell makes a good attempt at giving their relationship some depth.

In one notable scene, Vesper attempts to purge herself under a hotel shower after she witnesses Bond kill a henchman. Like Lady Macbeth, she imagines blood on her hands.

Bond joins her under the spray - both of them still clothed - and sucks her fingers. It's a curious scene for a Bond film, but it works.

The casino scenes are genuinely tense, with plenty of incident both on and away from the poker table. Le Chiffre has more to lose than Bond. He's blown someone else's millions and he has to win them back.

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Daniel Craig has worked hard on his physique

Mikkelsen's villain is refreshingly low-key. The infamous torture scene with Bond and the cut-out chair is all the more chilling thanks to Le Chiffre's ice-cold demeanour.

The Venice finale is not the film's strongest act. Amid the predictable mayhem it's Bond's love for Vesper that is the real focus. Loose ends are not neatly tied up - mysteries remain - we are left wanting more.

So there we have it. Daniel Craig has squeezed his pecs into 007's tuxedo and it matters not one jot that he's blond.

The anti-Craig lobbyists - if they still exist - should be reaching for their recipe books. It's time to eat humble pie.




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