Nobody does it tougher.
Reinventing James Bond as a kind of Navy SEAL with an attitude problem, "Casino Royale" turns out to be cracking good entertainment, as well as a fresh start for the perdurable 21-picture franchise.
Daniel Craig kicks major maximus as a Bond who'd never use a computer where a punch will do. He's lean and athletic and fast, and he is seemingly the first Bond to actually bleed.
Director Martin Campbell's version astutely restores Bond to a real world -- note I say a real world, not the real world. This movie is set, say, one remove from the possible, instead of, like those last few, 20 or so removes. Yet the movie also has a number of shocking moments -- shocking, that is, in their tenderness, their tragedy, their human dimension. The scenes between the cool Craig and M (the brilliant Judi Dench) crackle with hostility, and there's a moment when a young British agent is first exposed to the incredible violence of the world she has elected to enter, and she collapses in the shower in her clothes. Bond holds her, not because he's on the make but because he loves her and knows she's in pain.
The plot makes some sense, though a number of connections are so fast you more or less have to take them on faith. We open with Bond's first two kills, which appear to have nothing to do with the rest of the movie: They simply establish tone. Then he's off to Madagascar to prevent a terrorist attack. Bond ends up in the Bahamas, then follows a suspect (I'm not sure who) to Miami, where that suspect gives something (I'm not sure what) to a terrorist.
Half an hour too long and with too many villains we really can't place in the plot, "Casino Royale" nevertheless proves you seldom go wrong if you make a movie that leaves you stirred, not shaken.
-- Stephen Hunter (Nov. 16, 2006)
Contains violence, including a scene of torture, as well as sexual content and nudity.