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Casino Royale

Year: 2006
Production Co: Eon productions
Studio: MGM
Director: Martin Campbell
Producer: Barbara Broccoli/Michael G Wilson
Writer: Neale Purvis/Robert Wade/Paul Haggis
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright
And so the most contentious James Bond film yet arrives on screens after almost a year of pre-release buzz, most of it centred on the casting of the new Bond.

It's easy to forget, but the 'reboot' that the producers and media makes so much of has happened several times in the James Bond franchise. By a process of almost biological box office evolution, each Bond film gets bigger, badder, louder and more ridiculous than the last, by pure virtue of the fact that each must do so to better its immediate predecessor. Much like shareholders demand a higher dividend every quarter, the studios and rights-holders demand a bigger profit on subsequent Bond films; hence their rapid and frequent descent into action movie spectacle parody.

Then the Bond purists - be they fans of Fleming's original vision from the original novels to the pared-back approach of Dr No - inevitably become too vocal about how stupid the franchise has become and the cyclical back slapping about 'taking Bond back to basics' ensues, as it has here. Those purists frequently include screenwriters and directors.

Before you can even talk about the story, you have to consider the elephant in the room everyone was talking about - Daniel Craig. A great actor, he was the target of considerable fan protest where websites like criagnotbond.com was just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone on the official side of the fence defended him, but I find it a mystery what they saw in him as Bond.

For good points like a good screen presence and action movie skills, he's missing almost everything I think James Bond should have. For a start - and rather subjectively - good looks. There's also no charm, no charisma, no panther-like sexuality, no glint of boyish cheekiness. Brosnan and Moore had it, Dalton wasn't suave enough, Connery had the confidence for it but was always too brash to fit into the shoes for my liking. Craig has none of it, and the only thing that makes him Bond-like is his surroundings.

It's early days for Bond, only just promoted to a 00 after his first two kills. His first assignment is to infiltrate the graces of terrorist bankroller Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), whose only Bond villain-esque characteristic is that he cries blood.

Knowing they'd never get away with a spy thriller about a game of Baccarat, writers Wade and Purvis (given an unwelcome rewrite by Oscar-branded writer Haggis) make it the central act, bookending it with some requisite Bond doses of action and girls.

Accompanied by implausibly foxy HM Treasury accountant Vesper (Green), Bond has to gamble with a lot of British taxpayers' money to ensure Le Ciffre doesn't get his hands on any of the dough his clients are expecting. When Bond wins, Le Chiffre turns nasty, drawing Bond and Vesper into a dangerous game of cat and mouse that contains the most simple and cruel cinema torture in recent memory.

The reboot is in having Bond and Vesper fall quite genuinely in love, Bond's heart destined to be broken and setting him on the path of treating women as the throwaway playthings we know and love him for.

Good action, an up-to-Bond-standards script, a few lingering shots of beautiful female bodies and a liberal does of unclean violence make it a great example of the genre that's so distinct it can be labelled with simply a name - Bond.

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