At age 43, journalist Ian Fleming was ready for a change in his lifestyle. Due to be wed, Fleming negotiated a deal with his supervisors to spend two months paid vacation in Jamaica. Fleming's fiancée suggested that he write a novel to amuse himself. As the winter season gave way spring, Fleming had penned “Casino Royale” and introduced James Bond to the world. Of all the 13 James Bond novels that he wrote, “Casino Royale” is considered Fleming's most personal Bond book.
Barry Nelson portrayed Bond in a live television version of “Casino Royale” with Peter Lorre as the villainous La Chiffre. Due to copyright restrictions, “Casino Royale” was not utilized as the first Bond movie starring Sean Connery. Instead, the title was spoofed during the height of “Bondmainia” in 1967 starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Ursula Andress. This version of “Casino Royale” features a fantastic Burt Bacharach-Herb Albert inspired them song and Dusty Springfield's nightclub classic - “The Look of Love.”
The new “Casino Royale” returns James Bond 007 to the roots of espionage and the core of the Bond character. Daniel Craig does a fine job as the British Civil servant. While Connery will always be the quintessential Bond, Craig's 's interpretation is closer to Ian Fleming's novel. One can see the orphan who was raised with a boarding school education. Craig's Bond is rough around the edges, but one sees the maturity of the character by the film's final frame.
“Casino Royale” opens in black & white and reveals how 007 earned his license to kill. After the classic credits sequence, Bond is seen in Uganda tracking down a bomb maker. Though Bond stops the terrorist, the secret service earns bad publicity and Bond is sentenced to the Bahamas. As Bond pursues wine, women and a 1964 Aston Martin, Bond learns of a terrorist plot affecting Miami International Airport.
The sequence in Miami is vintage James Bond. There is an intellectual chess game between Bond and his counterparts. The mind game progresses into a cat and mouse pursuit that eventually leads to an all out struggle between life and death on the airport tarmac. The sequence closes with a classic Bond coda that raises a great belly laugh.
Given Bond's talent for gambling, the master spy challenges La Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker for terrorist activities. While these card playing sequences seem to be a let down about the action sequences in Uganda, the Bahamas and Miami, the rest of the movie sticks to the original Ian Fleming novel, including a notorious torture sequence that never would have been considered in either a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan movie.
Bond is assisted by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green ), an accountant who acts as a liaison to the secret service. As James Bond influenced the action hero genre for the past 50 years, “Casino Royale” reflects the influence authors like Graham Green and Dashiell Hammett had upon Ian Fleming. There is character development and romance in “Casino Royale” that Fleming never quite achieved in future novels. Fortunately for the James Bond movie franchise machine, “Casino Royale” has secured a prosperous future for the 53 year old literary icon.