Many of us who sat watching Bond's last adventure 'Die Another Day' fizzle out left the cinema wondering if a decades-old treat was losing ever more of its charms. That uncertainty only grew in the years that followed with 'The Bourne Identity' and 'The Bourne Supremacy' rewriting the rulebook for espionage on the big screen, '24' doing the same on the small one, and, most importantly, the search for a new Bond sending the anxiety levels even higher.
The announcement that Daniel Craig had been chosen, predictably, caused consternation among some of the faithful. "A blond Bond?" "Too tough looking for the role." "Not tux material." were some of the issues raised. But what wasn't talked about half enough was just how good an actor Craig is. From his series-stealing performance in the BBC's 'Our Friends in the North' through to 'The Mother' and 'Enduring Love', Craig's intensity as an actor was something Bond desperately needed.
While you'd never keep everyone happy, there will be plenty of detractors that will have to admit they were wrong when they see him in 'Casino Royale'. Craig is a great Bond - it's the rest of the film that has problems.
The plot finds Bond on the trail of Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), a banker for terrorists whose latest attempt to manipulate stock prices has put him close to financial meltdown. With his customers wanting their money back, Le Chiffre has to set up a massive stakes poker game at Montenegro's Casino Royale. Bond's mission? To beat him at the table so Le Chiffre will be forced to seek protection from Bond's bosses and reveal all his secrets.
With its black-and-white and very violent opening, 'Casino Royale' sets itself up as a re-imagining of Bond, and for a while it works. The first major set-piece, an on-foot chase through a building site, is the most exciting Bond scene in years and makes you wonder just how the rest of the film will up the ante. It doesn't. 'Casino Royale' suffers where other Bond outings have also suffered because of a below par villain, a romance (with Green) that doesn't burn up the screen and a script that just isn't tight or good enough. There's also a card game which delivers the same excitement as snap on a school tour.
But what saves 'Casino Royale' from being just another Bond outing is Craig - one movie in and you're wondering who'd be able to replace him. Looking like a young Steve McQueen and bringing a menace and instability to the character that the series has been crying out for, Craig makes even the below par scenes worth watching.
And with a better script next time, we could be at the start of a new golden age of Bond. The beauty of Bond films is that you'll watch them again and again. The big difference this time, unlike many other times, is that it'll be for the man, more than the stunts.