Casino Royale
PG 13, 144 minutes

I am an avid, unabashed devotee of Daniel Craig, and have been for some time. My first recollection of him was in Elizabeth, 1998. Then, having not seen I Dreamed of Africa and Lara Croft-Tomb Raider, two movies in which he had roles, I next recall him in Road to Perdition, 2002. I saw him in the 2003 Gwyneth Paltrow piece Sylvia, where she plays Plath and Daniel was Ted Hughes. Daniel was critically touted for Layercake in 2004 and had smaller roles in The Jacket, Munich and Infamous. However, it is the 2003 movie The Mother where I totally fell for him, hook, line and sinker. He was amazing, devastating and captivating. All of those emotions once again rose to the surface for me in the viewing of Casino Royale. I thought he would be the #1 James Bond, and indeed, he absolutely is.

Unless you live under a rock, in a cave, don’t own a TV or are out of all loops, you have heard about Casino Royale, the re-making of the first Bond flick. Casino Royale was first filmed in 1954 and then in 1967. The 2006 version was directed by Martin Campbell (The Legend of Zorro, Beyond Borders, The Mask of Zorro, Golden Eye) and written by the writing team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Die Another Day, The World is Not Enough, Bond 22 out in 2008 with Craig and Dench). Joining Purvis and Wade for Royale is Paul Haggis, who wrote MIllion Dollar Baby and Crash. The words are very good.

It also features Judi Dench (Iris, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown) as M and Mads MIkkelsen (King Arthur) as Le Chiffre. Eva Green (The Dreamers and Kingdom of Heaven) is Bond’s love interest Vesper Lynd and Jeffrey Wright (Broken Flowers, Angels in America, Syrianna) is Felix Leiter, the CIA agent who cannot play Texas hold em poker.

The movie was filmed in Prague, London, Venice and the Bahamas. It is stunning in its travelogue value, has great special effects, violence, blood, romance, medical emergencies and Daniel Craig buck naked. Be still my heart. The plot is believable and contemporary, about the funding of terrorists layered upon international and political intrigue.

The movie appeals to guys, as Craig is running alot, leaping off tall buildings/cranes, kicking the stuffing out of the bad guys, carrying big guns and playing excellent Texas hold em. The movie will also appeal to woman, the aforementioned naked Daniel Craig and some sucking of face.

The writing and acting are the best in the Bond franchise. Craig’s Bond is more rugged, less polished, more susceptable to human needs, with ice running through his veins when it comes to his job, with no apparent guilt for killing the bad guys in very creative ways. This Bond is more of a dicotomy.

Craig is absolutely breathtaking in his tux. The moment is worth the wait. He is also stunning when meandering out the ocean, dripping wet, in bathing trunks. His eyes are ice blue. His stare debilitates. He is the only blond Bond. He is only 38. The next Bond flim is already in the works and will be in the theatres in 2008.

As he can be Bond for another 15 years or more in my book, we have a plethora of 007 adventures before us. I say all the prior Bond films need to be re-made with Daniel Craig, an excellent actor and easy on the eyes.

I was not surprised that I loved Daniel Craig as Bond. I was surprised that this film was better than anticipated. Out of 5, I rate it a 4.