Today! Because sometimes we pay so much attention to our enemies, we forget to watch our friends as well –
Casino Royale (2006)
Directed by Martin Campbell
Starring Daniel Craig (x4), Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench (x2), Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Jesper Christensen, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian
The best Bond movie ever, from the best modern Bond director, Casino Royale had a very tall order come 2006. It had only been a lean four years since Pierce Brosnan’s relatively popular Bond run ended, and the new plan was to take 007 in a decidedly different direction. Whereas there normally is no rebooting of this series, per se, Casino purports to tell of Bond’s beginning, even with the same M from the past decade. It was the first Bond book, but never used as a mainline title so as to not be confused with the David Niven/Peter Sellers/Woody Allen parody of the same name from 1967, or the television adaptation starring Barry Nelson from 1954, I guess.
As a quick aside – can they finally throw a line in explaining the continuity of these movies? Just a “We’re passing on the name with the number” would be enough. Or maybe have, you know, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan pick up M next, either definitively stating they were Bond once, or that they weren’t. Either way would be fine, really. I don’t think about it much, but when I do it rankles the hell out of me.
Anyway, Martin Campbell – who previously helmed the first, best Brosnan Bond GoldenEye – got the Craig era off to as good a start as anyone could’ve possibly dreamed. While the new Bond was a little less suave and way less debonair, he was still witty and more muscular, bridging the modern Jason Bourne/Ethan Hunt spy with the classic Ian Fleming creation to terrific success. Couple that with a dynamite villain in Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre and the absolutely perfect Bond girl for the modern day, Eva Green’s sexy/fiesty Vesper, and the end result managed to hurl us back to the Connery days of series greatness.
In an additional throwback move, this new series of films would actually build on one another, creating a mini unified run in the storyline, not unlike the early years, as Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger set events in motion leading to Blofeld and Spectre’s emergence as the global antagonist. Here, between Bond’s doomed relationship with Vesper and the shadowy sinister forces opposing MI6, strands of Casino Royale linger all the way to the most recent film (as of this writing), Spectre.
This is the fifth and final Bond movie to land on this list – the first three and two of the last four comprising the entire group. This isn’t to slight the wonderfully cheesy Roger Moore films or the decent-to-insane Brosnan ones (GoldenEye is probably my sixth favorite), but I always gravitated to the classic early films, until the Craig years came along. I’m naturally a little nervous about where they go next – every time they switch up Bonds there is apprehension from the fan base – but while I think popularly acclaimed great option Idris Elba would’ve been terrific a dozen years ago (having him step into the role at nearly 50 is nonsense), I support another plan I don’t hear bandied about enough:
While I never would’ve advocated for Lois Maxwell’s version of M’s secretary taking over the super spy, Naomie Harris is action-hero terrific in Skyfall and (to a lesser degree) Spectre, plus it would create this interesting hand-off in the next movie (which I realize must have already come out as this is posting). I don’t know that internet trolls would allow it to go forward – Captain Marvel has just come out, and bros are apeshit, even though that’s been a female character for years – but screw ’em! Naomie Harris would make a terrific Jane Bond or whatever!
Craig advances to the Fours thanks to these two 007 appearances (with #113 Skyfall), as well as his parts in #226 Munich and #221 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Spotlight!