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.
Casino Royale (U.K.-Czech Republic-Germany-U.S.)By TODD MCCARTHYFor once, there is truth in advertising: The credits proclaim Daniel Craig as "Ian Fleming's James Bond 007," and Craig comes closer to the author's original conception of this exceptionally long-lived male fantasy figure than anyone since early Sean Connery. "Casino Royale" sees Bond recharged with fresh toughness and arrogance, along with balancing hints of sadism and humanity, just as the fabled series is reinvigorated by going back to basics. The Pierce Brosnan quartet set financial high-water marks for the franchise that may not be matched again, but public curiosity, lack of much high-octane action competition through the holiday season and the new film's intrinsic excitement should nonetheless generate Bond-worthy revenue internationally. Script by series vets Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, along with Paul Haggis, hangs together reasonably well and is rewarded for its unaccustomed preoccupation with character by the attentiveness to same by director Martin Campbell, back after having helmed the first Brosnan entry, "GoldenEye," 11 years ago. Dialogue requires Bond to acknowledge his mistakes and reflect on the soul-killing nature of his job, self-searching unimaginable in the more fanciful Bond universes inhabited by Brosnan and Roger Moore. Shrewd and smart as well as gorgeous, Vesper Lynd is hardly the typical Bond girl (she never even appears in a bathing suit), and Green makes her an ideal match for Craig's Bond. Danish star Mikkelsen proves a fine heavy, an imposing man with the memorable flaw of an injured eye that sometimes produces tears of blood. Giancarlo Giannini has a few understated scenes as a friendly contact in Montenegro, and while Jeffrey Wright has little to do as CIA man Felix Leiter, he does get off a couple of the film's best lines, and one can hope he may figure more prominently in forthcoming installments. Sebastien Foucan does some eyebrow-raising "free running" stunts in the African chase. "Casino Royale" is the first Bond in a while that's not over-produced, and it's better for it. Production values are all they need to be, and while the score by David Arnold, in his fourth Bond outing, is very good, the title song, "You Know My Name," sung by Chris Cornell over disappointingly designed opening credits, is a dud.