Movie Review | Casino Royale
Movie summary: After earning 00 status and a licence to kill, Secret Agent James Bond sets out on his first mission as 007. Bond must defeat a private banker funding terrorists in a high-stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, Montenegro. (IMDb)
Just to get this out of the way so you know how this review is going to go: Casino Royale is just about level with From Russia With Love as my favourite Bond movie. This is because both films feel like spy movies with a heavy emphasis on action, rather than action movies with a hint of espionage like so many others in the series.
And Daniel Craig's Bond had a heavyweight challenger in Jason Bourne to contend with at the time too, although I think drawing too many parallels between the two spy series is perhaps a little premature. The main difference between this Bond and what came before is the Craig's take on the character feels more like a real person than a cartoon character.
By that, I mean that he gets the crap kicked out of him and is shown as beaten and bloodied numerous times, including being stripped nude to be tortured - hardly a scenario in which you'd find Matt Damon's Bourne. This physical vulnerability makes Craig's Bond more relatable and has the added bonus of making the action seem far more real too.
And I was surprised when watching the new 4K release just how much more action there was than I thought, with some sequences lasting some time and managing to remain highly entertaining throughout. The early chase with Bond as a confirmed Double-O agent hunting a bomb-maker (Sébastien Foucan) up and down buildings is one of the franchise's best and there's plenty more where that comes from.
Speaking of 4K, Casino Royale looks absolutely stunning in Ultra HD. It looked good in regular HD, but the increased resolution proves breath-taking at times thanks to some fantastic locations that really show off just how good this movie looks. Whether on a sunlit beach or around the bright lights and dark shadows of Miami Airport, it never looks anything less than absolutely incredible.
It doesn't sound half bad either, with a great score that constantly teases the familiar Bond theme throughout the movie before we finally hear it in full once Bond has finally become the character the audience expects him to be. Saving the theme for that moment is perfect, because it really does highlight that he is only now James Bond.
As for Bond, Daniel Craig is exceptional in the role. I think he's a wonderful actor anyway, but he's smart and cunning, a physical brute, funny, charming and more across the course of the story and it all comes so naturally that you'd swear this is what Craig must be like in real life. I get that he's tired of playing the same character for so long, but he's just so damn good at it that I wish he'd stick around even longer!
Then there's the supporting cast, which is also just amazing. First off, there's Judi Dench back as M, although this time around she misses the Cold War rather than thinking Bond a relic of it. Her performance actually goes a long way to help updating the series: her M is just as ruthless as Bond - even threatening to have him killed at one point - and determined to succeed. She's razor sharp, clearly highly-experienced and intimidating as hell, which is exactly what you'd expect from Bond's boss.
On the other hand, Bond's enemy is a match in this regard, with Mads Mikkelsen excelling as the devious Le Chiffre. He might not be a physical match for Bond, but he's just as smart, has greater resources and is more willing to play dirty than even this rough-around-the-edges Bond. It's a sign of both a great script and an excellent performance that someone who Bond would almost certainly thrash in a physical contest comes across a legitimately dangerous threat to the hero.
I wanted to save the best of the supporting cast for last, with the incredible Eva Green as Vesper Lynd - in my mind, the best 'Bond girl' of them all. Part of it is how talented an actress she is, but the key element is her chemistry with Craig, which is absolutely electric. Even ignoring what a stunningly beautiful woman Green is, her character is smart and sharp-witted enough to more than stand up to Bond - a change from 007 always being in control when it comes to women.
Just to repeat, what I said at the start: I love Casino Royale and will sing its praises forever. I've been waiting for a 4K version for what feels like an absolute age and now it's here and one of my favourite movies has become even better than it already was. I would 100% recommend this movie to anyone and everyone, because it really is just that damn good - some might say that nobody does it better (sorry, there had to be one old-school groaner of a Bond pun in there!).
Casino Royale still stands as one of the best James Bond movies ever, now looking even more incredible in 4K. Daniel Craig's debut as the super-spy was the perfect way to both reboot and rejuvenate the series, updating the franchise for modern standards while still retaining that essential Bond feel. And when you've got Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen as supporting actors, you know you've got a damn good movie on your hands.
Why a 10/10? After the disastrous end to Pierce Brosnan's run as Bond, the series was in trouble and not really taken seriously as a must-see movie experience by anyone anymore. To bring everything kicking and screaming into a new era would be hard enough - to do it this well is nothing short of miraculous, setting a standard that I don't think any subsequent Bond movie has managed to equal.
The casting is perfect, with Craig excellent in the role as the younger, more reckless Bond; Eva Green is mesmerising as one of the best Bond girls ever seen in Vesper Lynd; and Mads Mikkelsen makes for a great foil for Craig's Bond, matching his wits and resources against the spy's ruthless determination to see out his mission.
Add in some gorgeous locations, tropical and urban, that looks simply stunning in 4K and it's difficult to see how any Bond movie is going to top Casino Royale anytime soon.