Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gamble on Craig Pays off Royally; Blond Bond Adds Muscle to 007

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gamble on Craig Pays off Royally; Blond Bond Adds Muscle to 007

Article excerpt

Byline: NINA CAPLAN

Casino Royale Cert 12A, 144 mins .....

CAN this be our James Bond, this muscly blond bloke with the heat-seeking blue stare? Well, no - at least, not yet. Young Bond (Daniel Craig) is no bleeding heart: the pre-credit sequence details the vital first two kills required for 00 status, one of which is exceptionally nasty.

But beneath the homicidal exterior there still lurks a bit of a softy: this Bond has a temper, an ego and a capacity for affection. Casino Royale is the story of how these attributes get beaten out of him, and it's a suitably fresh-faced and uncynical take on the much-loved franchise.

The credits may revel in stylish violence (well, Bond wouldn't be half so cool without his licence to kill, now would he?) but the story makes it clear that Bond can either lose his soul or lose his job. Show his vulnerability and he might as well paint a target on his chest and hand the baddies a loaded gun: when it's life or death, compromise isn't an option.

Which all sounds terribly serious, but the Bond brigade haven't lost their sense of humour - they've just let go of a lot of gadgets and a patina of unappealing slickness.

Bond, handled as ever by doe-eyed M (Judi Dench, artfully conveying an affection for her protege that's not quite platonic) is on the trail of a terrorist organisation. It leads him to sinister banker Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who uses his unsavoury clients' money to bet on the stock market and make himself a sly fortune with which to fund terrorism.

But, if you're the kind of financier who has to pick up your cash in person from a homicidal maniac in an African military compound, then messing with the proceeds is probably a bad idea - especially when the gamble goes wrong.

Le Chiffre organises a high-stakes poker match in Montenegro to recoup his losses; Bond is instructed to buy in and ensure that the bad guy loses.

Along to provide the lolly for this daft plan is slinky Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who looks nothing like your average accountant and boasts a talent for backchat that matches Bond's. The spark between the girl with the money and the man with the gun more than makes up for any lack of high-tech gadgetry; Vesper's no hard nut (the first killing she sees reduces her to a shaking wreck) but she may be one of the few screen love interests who can size up a man's booty while he's sitting down.

For this new version of Ian Fleming's creation, the producers brought in Paul Haggis, who wrote the screenplay for Oscar-winners Million Dollar Baby and his own Crash, to help out the usual team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The result is both more sophisticated and more brutal than its predecessors.

On the one hand, we get a homage to Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, as Bond chases an elusive, scarlet-clad Vesper through the streets of Venice; on the other, there's a tearinducing torture scene that may go some way towards explaining why there are no baby Bonds clogging up the world's smarter destinations. …

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