'Casino Royale' Review: The New Bond is Bourne
'Casino Royale' Review: The New Bond is Bourne
James Bond has faced off against terrorists, megalomaniacs, unstoppable killing machines, and the dubious acting talents of Denise Richards, but there was one thing that nearly did him in for good: outlandishness.  Pierce Brosnan's final Bond movie, Die Another Day, was certainly financially successful, but critics and audiences laughed at how ridiculous the entire franchise had become.  Watching Bond try to rescue Halle Berry from a melting ice palace while driving an invisible car was more hilarious than thrilling.  Casino Royale allowed the producers of the franchise to give James Bond another makeover, and this time they would turn to Ian Fleming, Jason Bourne and Batman Begins for inspiration.

Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel and helmed by Goldeneye director Martin Campbell, decided to go the prequel route by presenting audiences with Bond's humble beginnings.  The movie shows us the character earning his license to kill, experiencing his first love, trying on his first tux, downing his first shaken martini, and uttering his first "Bond...James Bond."  This version of Bond is no longer an unstoppable superhero, but a man who can be wounded both physically and emotionally.  Casino Royale owes a great debt to the Bourne franchise, which paved the way for gritty spy dramas that are more interested in character than action.

Along with all of these big changes, the producers decided to find a new actor to fill Bond's stylish shoes. They settled upon Daniel Craig, who is absolutely brilliant in the role.  He brings a manly, tough guy brawn to the part that's more reminiscent of Sean Connery than the suave Brosnan.  Craig is a good enough actor to convey Bond's bottled up emotions without blinking an eye, which adds necessary depth to the character.

As Bond faces off with the villainous Le Chiffre (who cries tears of blood, naturally) and falls in love with the beautiful Vesper Lynd, director Campbell makes sure to provide plenty of exciting action sequences.  The action in this movie is big, loud and expertly staged, while also being devoid of ridiculous gadgetry and invisible cars.  Instead of indulging in outlandish heroics that would kill a normal man, Bond stays fairly down to earth.  It's a refreshing change of pace for the franchise.

In fact, everything about Casino Royale is a refreshing change of pace, especially compared to the last few Brosnan Bond movies.  The film proves that, with the right amount of nurturing behind the scenes, even the most iconic of characters can be successfully rebooted for modern audiences.  Bond doesn't need fancy technology or high-tech weaponry to be the coolest spy on the block.  All he really needed was a long overdue shot of humanity.

- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of MGM/Columbia Pictures)