Casino Royale (2006)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Caterina Murino

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale

It's Bond, but not as we know him. It's Bond but battered, bruised, bloody and blonde. Even the titles have toughened up, replacing gyrating women with bloody playing cards and animated shoot outs, and shoving Madonna, Sheryl Crowe and Garbage aside in favour of the muscular tones of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell.

Opening with a gritty black and white prologue that sees our hero take out the requisite number of bad guys to gain his double-O status, the film then bursts into grainy, shaky cam colour, like a warped version of The Wizard of Oz. This is Bond on his first assignment, and features what's probably the most stunning sequence in the entire film, a jaw dropping par cours chase through the streets of a dusty Madagascan city, culminating in a dizzying aerial fight on top of a crane.

Judi Dench as M in Casino Royale

Yup, you can forget the stupid invisible car and crap CGI computer game 'special' effects of the Brosnan era (in fact, let's forget the Brosnan era entirely, why not?), as the franchise returns to the muscle-bound, knuckle-biting action of the early films, with death defying stunts performed by real people in real locations. And you can also forget Q, Miss Moneypenny (although thankfully not M - Bond's edgy relationship with Judi Dench's acerbic MI6 boss is one of the strongest, most convincing parts of the film) and the cheesy, sleazy one-liners of a Bond well past his prime. This is Bond before he becomes legend, before he's ever sat behind the wheel of an Aston Martin or decided how he drinks his Martinis. And while he still totes a few high-tech gadgets (how else can the film shoehorn in the requisite amount of product placement?) they don't stretch the imagination too incredulously.

Daniel Craig gets his pecs out as James Bond in Casino Royale

Even the plot has been scaled back, taking its inspiration from Ian Flemming's first Bond novel, and you'll be horrified to learn that nobody is trying to take over the world at all. Instead it's something to do with financing terrorism and, um, a card game (a fairly canny idea, given the obsession with online poker at the moment) and, um - what the heck, does anybody (female) ever follow the plot of a Bond film? Thought not.

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale

So don't worry your head about it, instead soak up the stunning scenery (the shots of Venice and the Italian Lakes are divine, and who knew Montenegro was so beautiful?), the awesome action set pieces and the considerable eye candy, courtesy of Daniel Craig and his rippling torso and the utterly gorgeous Eva Green, as the Bond girl who, Diana Rigg style, captures our hero's heart and breaks it. That's right, we even get a proper love story in this film, albeit one that we know must be doomed to failure if the franchise is to soldier on.

Mads Mikkelsen as bad guy Le Chiffre in Casino Royale

To be honest, I don't know how the Broccolis are going to follow this film - part of its charm lies in the in-jokes generated by Bond's rookie status as a double-O, and that can't carry on for ever - but having resuscitated the series so successfully after the moribund depths of Die Another Day (not only one of the worst Bond films ever made, but one of the worst films full stop), I hardly think they'll decide to call it a day. Bond is back, and he's bigger than ever -there'll be no stopping him now.

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