When Ian Fleming first wrote the novels about him back in the 1950s and 1960s, James Bond was a tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners spy for the British Empire back during the days of the Cold War when nuclear threat loomed everywhere. Sean Connery played Bond that way in the beginning and never truly got away from it, but over the years, Bond got softened up and became too chatty. Pierce Brosnan offered up the excellent Goldeneye in the movie version of 007 and followed that with three pretty good Bonds. Unfortunately, Ian Fleming didn’t live long enough to see more than two of the James Bond films, so we don’t know what he would have thought of Hollywood’s take on him over the long haul.
In fact, Casino Royale had been made twice before. Once for television (an atrocity, by most fans' standards) then again as a feature movie starring David Niven (which most fans want to forget although Fleming himself actually suggested using Niven as 007). This third incarnation of the movie adapted from the book hews more closely to the original plot.
The movie-going audience seems to be split over what to make of the newest British super-secret agent who’s just been licensed to kill. Daniel Craig is going to remake the franchise and bring it back more in line with Ian Fleming's original creation. Craig's Bond is cold, calculating, and driven. A hard, bloody job takes a harder, bloodthirsty man who brings everything to the bottom line no matter what the cost. Craig even looks as rough-and-tumble as Connery did in the early movies. He has a predator's body, heavily muscled and lean. His eyes are those of a hunter. Whoever his fight coordinator is has done a wonderful job of getting Craig up close and personal in his technique, and working with the film crew to catch the savagery of the hand-to-hand battles. There is an action and immediacy in these scenes that hasn’t been shown before. Many moviegoers are likening it to Matt Damon’s work in the Bourne movies, and that isn’t far off the mark. It’s all very well done.
Daniel Craig has done a lot of different things, including being in a Tomb Raider movie and other action films, so he has quite a bit to bring to the picnic. Also, at 38, he should be able to carry the role for a few movies. Martin Campbell, the director, gave us Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Brosnan's first Bond film, Goldeneye. Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day) return for this movie as well as the next, but Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags Of Our Fathers) joins them. The writing is tight and moves quickly, letting the action and the camera take most of the work and setting up some deftly done character exchanges and plot revelations.