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Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006 09:21 pm

Bond for beginners

Casino Royale will leave you shaken and stirred

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Casino Royale Running time 2:24 Rated PG-13 ShowPlace East, ShowPlace West
Untitled Document Shaken and stirred — that’s how the 21st installment in the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale, leaves you. Taking a page from Batman Begins, director Martin Campbell and writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade take on the unenviable task of making everything that’s old about the world’s most famous superspy new again — and succeed handsomely.
With Royale, we journey back to an updated version of Fleming’s 1953 novel, the only one that had not yet been filmed in a serious manner. Bond (Daniel Craig) is sent on his first mission: to bring down Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a backer of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. To do this, he sets out to empty Le Chiffre’s vast coffers at a high-stakes poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. What appears to be a simple mission becomes quite complicated when Le Chiffre uncovers Bond’s role and sends his cronies to kill the agent, who is forced to deal with an unexpected ally, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), sent to watch over the government funds that Bond is wagering.
Casino Royale is a character-driven film, and much time is spent on showing us what makes Bond tick and planting the seeds for what we know will happen to the character in the future. Obviously these scenes — such as witnessing Bond get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin for the first time and his response when asked whether he wants his martini shaken or stirred — will be great fun for fans of the franchise. Although Campbell is in charge of tweaking the spy-movie formula, the weight of the picture is on Craig’s shoulders, and the actor does a remarkable job, displaying a combination of crudity, naïveté, and growing confidence that’s wholly convincing. The supporting cast is also top-notch.
Craig’s turn won’t make anyone forget about Sean Connery, and Casino Royale is not the best of the Bond films (Goldfinger still holds that honor), but it is as daring as anything you might expect from a franchise that’s more than 40 years old.
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