As a fan of the James Bond franchise, I make sure to catch every new installment. Like many other fans, when I heard that Pierce Brosnan would not be reprising his role I eagerly awaited his replacement — and like many other fans I was completely disappointed with the naming of Daniel Craig (Layer Cake) as 007. Quite simply, I just didn’t think he looked the part. Normally one might think that “looks aren’t everything,” but when it comes to Bond I beg to differ. Let’s take a look at the previous Bonds, starting with the original, the irreplaceable Sean Connery. Connery was the best Bond. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He was smooth and debonair, and when he entered a room, women melted. Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, hell even the short-lived George Lazenby all looked the part, to varying degrees. But Daniel Craig? Yuck. I’ve given this whole spiel to say one thing: I stand corrected. Not only was Craig fantastic in the role, but he managed to leave a unique stamp on our favorite spy.
Casino Royale takes us back to Bond as he is first given “double-oh” status. He is passionate, reckless, and simple. He has not matured into the experienced spy we are used to seeing; he’s raw. His impulsivity frustrates M (Judi Dench of The Chronicles of Riddick, Shakespeare in Love), who tries to corral James before he compromises the mission to stop the funding of global terrorism. The title refers to the casino where James must play a high-stakes game to win the money used to finance the aforementioned terrorism. We have some familiar Bond themes: the requisite Aston Martin, martini, beautiful women, the even more beautiful locales, etc. However, something is a little different this time around. Gone are the bells and whistles and fancy gadgets, along with the cheesy commercialism that pervaded the last Bond movie, Die Another Day. Everything is darker and understated. We don’t experience some of the mainstays of the franchise until the very end, like the theme music for example. Nor does Bond order his martini “shaken, not stirred.” We’ve all heard it a million times before, and there’s no need to trot out every corny Bond cliche’.
I think diehard Bond enthusiasts will be begrudgingly pleased with Casino Royale. Daniel Craig gives Bond the masculinity that Connery infused into the character, coupled with an earnest simplicity and honesty. He makes Bond seem like more than a mere spy, he’s almost like an assassin! Craig is far and away the most athletic actor to portray Bond, and his body is sick. He’s no fancy-pants pretty-boy; he’s a man’s man and I like that. What he lacks in overt attractiveness he makes up for in sophisticated swagger. Call it the Jay-Z effect. Bond’s allure was always that men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. I’m glad to say nothing’s changed.