The first press reviews of the 21st James Bond film Casino Royale have been published in the British press today, with a lot of positive feedback...

Update: 5/11/06 - More reviews added.

Casino Royale Early Press Reviews
4th November 2006

The Times - 04/11/06
Who would have thought that the casting of a blond Bond would stir up such a hornet’s nest of controversy?

Daniel Craig has been the subject of fevered speculation and a good few personal attacks since he signed on as the sixth Bond, and even now there are threats of boycotts in some sectors of the online community.

But despite the antipathy to the idea of Craig as Bond, it’s all good news for EON productions. Although the previous instalment was drubbed by critics and audiences alike, the fans still care enough about the Bond series to get angry.

While Die Another Day was a box-office draw, in it Bond was in danger of losing something equally valuable to the franchise in the long term: his cool. It was the invisible car that did it. That, and a blanket of special effects that could smother the life out of the best of screenplays — and let’s face it, Die Another Day was not the best of screenplays.

In The Bourne Identity’s Jason Bourne and 24’s Jack Bauer, special agents who share Bond’s initials but little else, the lumbering, longrunning franchise met its match. That much-derided vanishing Aston Martin in Bond’s 20th official outing sealed the fate of 007 as we had come to know him

With Bond No 21, in what the producers are describing as a “reboot” of the franchise, Casino Royale takes us back to basics: to Bond’s early years as a newly appointed 00; to a leaner, lower-budget production and to a Bond who looks like he can do some serious damage, rather than just smarm his way out of a tight spot and disappear on a mini-nuclear submarine disguised as a Biro.

For this picture, which lists Paul Haggis, who wrote Crash, as one of its screenwriters, the action is less reliant on the sillier gadgets favoured in the Brosnan era (although fortunately Bond does have a portable defibrillator in his car). Instead the film stakes its reputation on one formidable weapon — Daniel Craig’s ruthless, reckless Bond.

Every decade gets the Bond it deserves and we are living in some pretty scary times. Craig is up there with the best: he combines Sean Connery’s athleticism and cocksure swagger with Timothy Dalton’s thrilling undercurrent of stone-cold cruelty. While the rather foppish Pierce Brosnan had the bland chiselled looks of a male catalogue model, Craig’s face is endlessly fascinating. It’s brutishly ugly — he looks like he’d stab you in the eye if you crossed him, and would probably enjoy doing it. But his sex appeal is off the scale. He even makes his first assassination an unsettlingly erotic experience. His Bond bleeds, bruises, makes fatal mistakes.

The chemistry between Craig and his co-star and love interest Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is explosive. The relationship is founded on prickly admiration, but it’s when they both peel away their defences that things get interesting. A scene where Bond comforts a traumatised Vesper in the shower by gently sucking her fingers is impossibly sexy.

Vesper is the treasury accountant who is bankrolling Bond’s mission to break the bank at a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro. The target is Le Chiffre (Danish star Mads Mikkelsen), an international money launderer with a Hitler haircut, a platinum asthma inhaler and a tendency to bleed from the eye. They might as well have just tattooed the word Evil on his head.

In this new, edgy Bond, the stunts are more physical and the violence raw. An early chase sequence appropriates the free running techniques popularised in Paris to impressive, if ludicrous, effect. And there’s a genuinely horrible torture sequence where Bond suffers some unpleasant genital trauma.

Craig has an impressive physique (generously displayed) that makes him a far more plausible Bond than many of his predecessors. But his main asset quickly becomes evident. He can act.

The Daily Mirror - 04/11/06
Turning to face the world's most famous superspy, the bartender asks: "Shaken or stirred, sir?"

"Do I look like I care?" comes James Bond's icy reply.

Make no mistake, the rulebook has been well and truly torn up for 007's latest movie.

And Casino Royale is a breathless, thrilling romp that will win over a whole new generation of fans.

Easily the best Bond film since GoldenEye, it's 144 minutes of non-stop, end-to-end action that proves there's plenty of life in the world's longest-running movie franchise.

But a word of warning - this is unlike any other Bond flick. Dark, gritty and surprisingly violent, the suave, smooth-talking secret agent of old is replaced by a steely-eyed killer with a dash of vulnerability.

And new 007 Daniel Craig - the man with the golden hair, whose casting provoked an outcry among fans - is simply brilliant, oozing the kind of edgy menace that recalls Sean Connery at his very best.

Based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, the action begins with Her Majesty's finest assassinating two baddies in a bid to earn his licence to kill. It then switches to his first assignment, spying on terrorist suspects in Madagascar.

His mission soon leads him to the Bahamas, where he learns of the evil Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who's planning to bankroll a series of terrorist outrages by holding a high-stakes poker contest at Le Casino Royale in Montenegro.

Bond is given $10million to infiltrate the game, the rookie spy still isn't trusted enough by handler M (Judi Dench), who assigns the shapely Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to keep an eye on him - though 007 still manages to get to grips with mysterious Solange (Caterina Murino).

It's fitting that the film revolves around a card game since, by turning the Bond formula on its head, director Martin Campbell has taken one of the biggest gambles in cinema history. While 007 still gets to drive around exotic locales in his Aston Martin and ends up in a clinch with his leading lady, that's about the only thing Casino Royale has in common with the 20 films that have come before.

Aside from his readiness to kill, this Bond is far more vulnerable than his predecessors - not only does he have his heart broken, he also winds up almost dead after a severe beating at the hands of Le Chiffre.

After a pummelling, Connery and Roger Moore simply dusted off their DJs but this time 007 winds up on the critical list. And if the torture scene doesn't stun, the action set-pieces most certainly will.

Aside from some awesome chases, we get to see Bond trying to stop a jet being blown up in a scene that'll make your head spin faster than downing five vodka martinis.

Tellingly, Campbell is the man who re-energised the series with GoldenEye, the 1995 entry that introduced Pierce Brosnan.

And, incredibly, he's done it again, turning a franchise that, after 2002's Die Another Day, was looking distinctly second-rate - especially in the face of competition from the likes of Mission: Impossible and The Bourne Identity.

The year's most eagerly anticipated film does not disappoint. You'll be shaken. You'll be stirred. Heck, you'll be blown away.

The Daily Mail - 04/11/06
The Bond movies have been getting steadily more and more gadget-ridden and less and less about the character of James Bond.

Casino Royale takes us back to the basics.

At one point, Bond even drives a Ford Mondeo (though don't worry, he soon gets an Aston Martin).

Daniel Craig is probably the best and most serious actor to have been cast as 007 and this film makes full use of his range.

He's also the toughest and most virile leading man since Russell Crowe's Maximus in Gladiator. The numerous shots of his torso and piercing blue eyes will, I suspect, make many in the female audience extremely happy.

And he develops the character very skilfully. When he starts he is - as M (Judi Dench) tells him - 'a blunt instrument'. By the end, he's the sharpest tool in the box.

As if to show us that we're going back to basics, the pre-title sequence - traditionally a huge, stunt-driven action sequence - is in sombre black and white.

And the titles tell us something that has not been true of the last few Bond films - it is 'based on the novel by Ian Fleming'. To reassure us that this will, at the same time, be very 21st century, the first action sequence is all about 'free running', where a bomber is pursued by Craig over rooftops, along a tall crane and into an embassy.

Craig does a lot of his own running and jumping - indeed, he does more of this in half an hour than Roger Moore managed in all of his appearances put together.

There's a real problem with parts of the movie. A deliberate policy decision has been made by director Martin Campbell (who directed the first Brosnan Bond film, Goldeneye) that many of the action sequences happen before we know who Bond is chasing and fighting, or why. It's generally left to Judi Dench to supply the explanation, after the event.

This unusual approach makes for some minutes when we can't concentrate on the action because we're wondering if we've missed something. Well, we haven't. We just haven't been told what's happening yet.

Another weakness is that Le Chiffre is one of Fleming's drabber villains, and Mads Mikkelsen does-n't give him much personality. Le Chiffre means 'the cipher', and it's all too apt.

The premise behind the plot is that Le Chiffre subsidises terrorists, but for financial gain, not out of any religious or ideological doctrine. This feels a little weak as motivation and during the first less-than-gripping hour I noticed people walking in and out of the movie as children do during a panto matinee - not a good sign.

The film really starts to hold the attention during a mammoth game of poker, during which Bond suffers poisoning and cardiac arrest but demonstrates superhuman powers of recovery.

His recuperative abilities also come in handy after the most famous scene in the book, a torture session at the hands - or rather the knotted rope - of Le Chiffre. In no time at all, Bond is back on his feet, with his manhood miraculously intact, and enthusiastically wooing the femme fatale of the piece, Vesper Lynd (played, extremely attractively, by Eva Green).

This film may be about the making of Bond into a smooth, coldhearted killing machine but there's still room for humour.

I especially liked the moment when he orders a vodka martini. The barman asks 'Shaken, not stirred?' And the still-rough-around-the-edges Bond pierces him with a look of contempt and remarks 'Do I look like I give a damn?'

Daniel Craig is much better at comedy than I thought he would be. But he really comes into his own when he has to choose between his job and a woman, and chooses the woman.

None of the previous Bonds could have carried this scene off with the same depth or sincerity.

Will Casino Royale be a huge hit and continue the franchise? I think it will.

It's as action-packed, globe-trotting and luxurious as ever - though I could have wished for more motivation for the action, and therefore more involvement in it.

But the big strength of the film is that it takes us further inside Bond's head than ever. Despite showing us his sensitive side, Craig looks a far more convincing killer than any 007 since Connery.

Will the public warm to him? I'm not 100 per cent certain, but over the next couple of Bond movies, for which he's already signed up, it should at least be fun finding out.

The Daily Telegraph 04/11/06
For decades, the debate among 007 fans has been who is the best Bond — Sean Connery or Roger Moore.

Now a new contender has arrived, in the shape of Daniel Craig — the blond 38-year-old, who despite being a cold-blooded killer, manages to fall in love with his Bond girl and show emotional vulnerability.

The critics were struggling to contain their excitement last night, ahead of the first British screening of the 21st Bond film, Casino Royale. And when they came out of the showing, they were thrilled.

The £57 million production is perhaps the most eagerly-awaited Bond film ever. The film begins in black and white, but then the credits roll and amazing technicolour returns.

Sean Connery played the first Bond in 1962 and he played him sexy and tough. Moore, with his trademark arching eyebrow movement and knowing glances, was sexy and humorous.

But last night, there were no doubts Craig — who has been romantically linked to Sienna Miller and Kate Moss — possesses the hard-man credentials which might make him many millions more fans.

"It's terrific," said one critic. "This is going to be the prequel to all other Bonds. There are a lot of fans who prefer either Moore or Connery but Craig could be better.

"This will make Craig a worldwide star. The James Bond films are watched absolutely everywhere."

"Casino Royale is the story of how Bond got started, before he became 007," he said. "Daniel Craig is such a good actor. He plays him as strong but emotionally vulnerable. For the first time you see Bond's sensitive side."

There is no sexual innuendo in this film; Craig's Bond is more sophisticated than that. And the film makers have been sure to show the consequences of violence — he bleeds.

Ian Fleming introduced the fictional British spy in 1952 with Casino Royale, which was the first Bond novel.

Craig depicts a character who is tough and gritty and while the plot of good versus evil is the same, there is no Miss Moneypenny.

If Bond has been a role-model for playboys across the generations, Craig's 007 is not only interested in seduction. He falls deeply in love with his Vesper Lynd.

The Treasury agent is played by Eva Green, an actress who starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers to critical praise.

Green, 26, said recently of her latest role: "I am not just a bimbo in a bikini."

The Sunday Times - 05/11/06
They said he was too ugly, too chunky and too blond to play the sixth James Bond. Bookmakers took bets that the actor known as “Mr Potato Head” would not survive the first movie.

But Daniel Craig has come through with flying colours as Ian Fleming’s sadistic secret agent in Casino Royale.

It is probably the most violent Bond film yet, with Craig, 38, wading gamely into the fray, breaking heads, loosing lead and, in a notable torture scene, strapped naked to a chair and getting his unmentionables whipped by a man with a thick rope.

The 21st film in the series takes Bond back to his earlier years and his first assassination. He dispenses with the usual gadgets in favour of a ruthlessness and athleticism that is reminiscent of Sean Connery, the first screen 007.

Craig’s performance rescues the franchise from the trough into which it had fallen in the last outing, Die Another Day, which despite a good box-office seemed as vacuous as Bond’s invisible car. Many thought it was time for Pierce Brosnan to disappear, too.

Guests who attended a sneak preview emerged impressed. Monica Bertei, 29, an actress, said: “He’s very sexy. It’s a lot more graphic and gritty than in the past.” Graham Rye, 55, editor of 007 Magazine, said: “I haven’t been as excited about a Bond film for years. He’s the best Bond ever.”

Casino Royale, which goes on release on November 16, is only nominally based on Fleming’s 1953 novel. Here 007 finds himself pitched against a Euro-villain named Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen), a man with a scarred, dead eye, who weeps blood through a tear duct when he starts to get agitated.

Such traits do not serve him well when bluffing at Texas hold ’em, the card game around which the story revolves. Having tracked Le Chiffre from Madagascar to Miami, Bond — “the best player in the service” — must face off with him in a high-stakes game in Montenegro.

This provides an opportunity to showcase Craig in a tuxedo, quaffing a cocktail and squiring a comely babe (Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green). She is a chaperone from MI6, on hand to ensure the agent doesn’t blow his wad, in any sense, outside of the business at issue.

Le Chiffre, it turns out, prefers bankrolling terrorist organisations to anything fanciful like satellite death rays or pools of piranha fish. Armed with several million pounds from the Treasury, Bond’s mission is to clean Le Chiffre out, thus siphoning off global terror’s funding.

It’s all quite riveting. Throw in some neat oneliners and a couple of major setpiece stunts — notably a vertigo-inducing bit of leaping between cranes on an African dockside — and Casino Royale does the business.

It is almost enough to forgive the absence of Q, and the pain of an appalling theme song, sung by Chris Cornell.

We see Bond as little more than a grubby little murderer, or “blunt instrument”, as M calls him, who performs his first messy kill in a public lavatory and whose new-found 00 (assassin) status barely elevates him above the villains he terminates before his afternoon snifter.

Casino Royale is rich in little insights. We learn that Bond is an orphan, resents the mysterious benefactor who paid for his schooling, won his Aston Martin DBS at poker, and prefers the no-strings thrill of married women. This is a prototype Bond we have never seen before. It seems we have underestimated you, Mr Craig.

The Observer - 05/11/06
Give or take the odd Octopussy, I suppose, like all of us, I've pretty much seen them all. My first, memorably - you never forget your first - was a rerun of Thunderball at a Gaumont in Birmingham, which in my memory was in the process of being demolished. I'd have been eight, and the most dramatic big screen extravanganza I'd seen previously was Swiss Family Robinson, so Bond came with something of the force of revelation; I went home to re-enact Sean Connery's underwater fight with Largo's men with a single rubber-suited Action Man in the bath.

My first on its proper release, not long after, was The Man with The Golden Gun, complete with Lulu's soundtrack. I had nightmares for a while about Christopher Lee's Scaramanga, and recall trying to join in with playground discussions about the voluptuous merits of Britt Eklund's Mary Goodnight in relation to Pussy Galore, a name whose reference was possibly still beyond me. I was, in any case, hooked, for a long time secretly thinking Roger Moore was the best Bond, a fact which would have dismayed my Dad who properly held out for the more spartan virtues of Sean Connery, and my Mum, who would sometimes make an impassioned, slightly flushed argument for the missed opportunity that was George Lazenby.

Anyhow, with some of this in mind, I went along to the Odeon Leicester Square on Friday night for the first screening of the new Bond, the Daniel Craig Bond. Most of the other balding, paunchy one-timeschoolboys in the queue seemed to have a similar not quite cynical sense of expectation. There'd be chases, and gadgets and gags - the last Bond line I'd heard in the cinema, was also one of the best: Pierce Brosnan, on the Bosphorus with Dr Christmas Jones at the end of The World is not Enough: 'I've always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey.'

Hopes were high. If nothing else, there would be John Barry's theme, which, as I joined the line to have my mobile phone confiscated - an emasculation I could never imagine 007 submitting to - was already dun-de-dunning in my head. The word before this screening was that Daniel Craig's Bond would be a purist's Bond, dirtier and grittier than recent smoothies. Casino Royale was the first of Fleming's books, and the only one, for contractual reasons, never previously filmed except in the Peter Sellers spoof. It would return James to his roots, the cold-blooded killer, the ex-wartime Commander, before fast women and invisible cars turned his head. It begins, after a title sequence involving the designs on the back of playing cards, and diamonds coming out of guns and writhing croupiers in silhouette - you know - in exactly that retro spirit, apparently in black and white, in Prague: Bond is in the shadows surprising a double agent rifling through a filing cabinet.

Craig had effectively auditioned for Bond in Layer Cake, in which he played a cocaine dealer out of his depth, and we cut to what looks like a scene from that film - the very un-Bond-like graphic violence of Craig murdering an informer in a white-tiled public lavatory, holding the man's head underwater in a cheap sink. This, we are led to understand, was Bond's first kill, the most traumatic, his 007 status still pending, before the quips set in. His second, of the double agent by the filing cabinet, with a silencer, is more straightforward, and prompts a wry smile.

That grainy preamble over, Craig is in colour and up and running - straight through a staged cobra and mongoose fight in a market in Madagascar, over the odd trashed car, past plenty of startled villagers carrying unlikely dry goods, up some serious scaffolding scattering hard-hatted building workers, and on to a crane tower over the impossibly blue ocean in pursuit of a scar-faced villain with a bag of explosives. Who wants backstreet grittiness when you can have fights with guns that run out of bullets at opportune moments at high altitude?

Craig is the first Bond since Connery who looks more than capable of doing his own stunts, he runs like a streetfighter, falls credibly from great heights and has been practising his free running. This is pre-Q Bond; the closest he gets to a gadget is a decent mobile phone; he spends a good deal of his time chasing fast cars on foot in a manner Roger Moore would have deemed far too keen; to start with he doesn't even seem to have his own motor. Worse still, he hasn't yet earned Barry's theme, except in odd mangled chords.

The best preface to Casino Royale is Simon Winder's wonderful book The Man Who Saved Britain, out in paperback to coincide with the release of the film. It's the comic history of an obsession with Bond, both his own and our own - an unravelling of all the curious hang-ups about posh drinks and hat-throwing and casual misogyny that takes in the demise of imperial ambition, post-war austerity and Fleming's taste for torture.

It's a brilliant deconstruction of those staples of British life that Paul Johnson, writing long ago of Bond in the New Statesmen, denounced as 'sex, snobbery and sadism', (this before Johnson moved to the Spectator and discovered the pleasures of the same).

You rather wish Cubby Broccoli and the rest had studied Winder's memoir before embarking on Casino Royale. One of the things his book argues well is that the explosion of a gas tanker is no real substitute for vaguely plausible plotting or some notion of contemporary relevance - a key element in Fleming's thrillers was his sharp move from villainous former Nazis, to Cold War paranoia.


In attempting to flesh out the idea of Daniel Craig's Bond as backstory to subsequent Bonds - trying on his first dinner jacket for size, tripping over his chat-up lines to Eva Green's gorgeous Vesper Lynd, replying when asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, 'Do I look like I give a damn?' - almost everything else seems to have gone out of the window (along with various not particularly sinister villains).

I'm quite happy for Bond to live in a continuous present, but the time frame of the film is perplexing. After the grainy Fifties Prague opening, there is the predictable Seventies, Whicker's World rush of destinations, taking in Uganda, Madagascar, the Bahamas and Venice, while Bond, who we are presumably supposed to believe we have never come across before, suggests from time to time that he is in 2006. Judi Dench as M, seems more than usually unsure about the wisdom of her role or which era she's in. She speaks at one point of her nostalgia for the Cold War, before outlining the plot, such as it is, which involves an attempt to manipulate the stock market using terrorism, bringing in the first and only reference to 9/11. You don't expect Casino Royale to be 24, quite, or Bond to be Jack Bauer, but it seems bizarre to be employing a mix of Albanian and Swiss and African and Italian financial terrorists when you might think there are more real current fears to explore.

Director Martin Campbell is also unsure about how much of the glamour of violence he wants to strip back. There are unusual 007 moments in which Bond lets us know he's human, sitting soaking in the shower in his blood-drenched dinner suit comforting Vesper after she has helped him kill a man; or, oddly, screaming in pain. Raymond Chandler praised the original book of Casino Royale for its brutal description of torture, exposing genre-fiction to a new realism. The scene that Chandler singled out is reproduced here, with Bond tied naked on the frame of a chair while his exposed scrotum is whipped with a knotted rope. Craig is, not surprisingly, in more obvious pain than any previous Bond , but having put him there, the only way to remove him is through a comically unexplained ambush; by the next scene, like the Bonds of old, he is recuperating by the Italian lakes, his tenderized tackle magically restored.

The problem with making Bond more real, is that everything around him then seems even more fake than usual. Craig, always a charismatic presence, often looks unsettled by that dislocation; his sex scenes are more energetic than those of his predecessors but even less convincing; he is hardly allowed any comedy. As a result, by the end of a curiously back-to-front film, when he finally gets his theme tune and introduces himself - 'Bond. James Bond' - he, like the creaky franchise itself, seems profoundly unsure whether he is coming or going.

The Sunday Mirror - 05/11/06
THE STARS: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Caterinia Murino.

THE STORY: The storyline takes the franchise back to before James Bond (Craig) held his licence to kill. After two assassinations he is elevated to "00" status and sent on a mission to Madagascar and then the Bahamas on a terrorist trail. He finds a link to Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), banker for the world's terrorist organisations and is instructed by "M" (Dench) to observe Le Chiffre while he plays in a high stakes poker game in a Montenegro casino. Additional interest comes in the form of government money minder Vesper Lynd (Green), but as the stakes are raised Bond and Lynd find themselves caught in a web of deceit, passion and violence.

WHAT'S GOOD? Bond is back, and with a vengeance! This spellbinding re-imagining of the James Bond spy myth sees 007 back to his bone-crunching best, with Daniel Craig brilliantly intense and gloweringly muscular.

This new Bond is no bow-tie-wearing lightweight smoothie, but a tough and determined street fighter who doesn't know when to quit. Part way through the film, when he is readying to go the casino, he gets handed a smart handmade dinner suit by sultry spy squeeze Vesper Lynd (a sexy and convincing Eva Green). He reluctantly puts it on and is suddenly transformed into the James Bond we know and love - smooth, brutal, sensual and darn cool. As expected, the action sequences are top notch, from the spectacular opening chase through to the brutal fist fights.

Great locations, stylish action and fabulous cars are all excellently filmed by director Martin Campbell who keeps the pace up throughout the film. Danish star Mads Mikkelsen makes for an impressively sadistic villain, while the familiar sight of Judi Dench as "M" is a suitable and subtle link between the Bond films of old and this new one. And rest assured, the cars, guns, stunts and sheer sense of 007 style is still brilliantly intact.

WHAT'S BAD? If you are looking for a Bond bearing spy gadgets and battling tall blokes with metal teeth, then this new Bond is going in the wrong direction for you - this time round the story is complex but more grounded. Instead of a plethora of gimmicks this Bond simply has a fast car and lets his fists and guns do the talking. No Miss Moneypenny and no "Q" I'm afraid and, while the one-liners are still there, they are more subtle. Though she looks the part, Green never quite cuts it as a foil for this brutal Bond. Yes, it is long at over two hours, but there is a lot to pack in and frankly you just can't get enough of this new-look 007.

HOW LONG IS IT? A breathtaking 144mins.

FINAL VERDICT: Bond is brilliant! One of the best 007 films ever.

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