Ian Fleming’s titular 1953 Cold-War source novel presented a proto-Bond; and it’s interesting how much licence Cambell’s confidently directed action thriller takes with it. Gone is the RN commander; as the jagged, handheld, monochrome opening sequence of Craig drowning his first ‘kill’ in a blood-strewn public toilet shows, this Bond’s a tough, no-nonsense, Mondeo-driving product of the ‘who dares wins’ SAS school rather than the snobby naval wardroom, and he has some of the social contempt as well as the pumping thighs, bulging pecs and inflated ego to prove it.
Cobra-baiting in Madagascar, car-chases in Nassau, Montenegro, Miami – there’s enough globe-trotting to please the purists. But, notwithstanding the fine CGI/special effects, best used in the climactic set-piece involving a disintegating Venetian palazzo, Campbell has cut down the gadgets and gizmos (not to mention ‘Q’) to inject some needed ‘realismo’ back into the action sequences, steering a neat line between romance and thrills. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd – a government accountant assigned to keep an eye on the millions Bond stakes in the crucial poker game with Mads Mikkelsen’s pleasingly sadistic terrorist-banker, Le Chiffre – proves a sexy sparring equal to the increasingly smitten and vulnerable Bond, having been donated an audacious amount of screen time. The politics are coy, David Arnold’s score is maybe underwhelming and Phil Meheux’s cinematography merely efficient, but otherwise ‘Casino Royale’ kicks new life (literally as well as metaphorically) into the ageing hero.