***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B
starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench
screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, based on the novel by Ian Fleming
directed by Martin Campbell
by Walter Chaw A genuinely good updating of the James Bond mythos from plastic, moldering relic to bloody, sweaty sociopath drunk on his own virility and general misanthropy, Martin Campbell's Casino Royale--though the umpteenth chapter in a decades-old testosterone fever dream--is very much a part of this day and age. It's a film that makes sense of the franchise using a modern vernacular of vengeance, terrorism, Texas Hold 'Em, and paranoia. It's unnecessarily padded by at least fifteen minutes, but when it switches into gear it announces itself a worthy peer to the Jason Bourne films with action that's fantastically choreographed and alive with weight and violence. Most importantly, it finally has a protagonist who is, if not already, well on his way to becoming a serious psycho--post-modern man. What Daniel Craig brings to the role is a feral intelligence, this self-awareness that he's a bad person. Any good that he does is tainted by the knowledge that this Bond's only in it for the cheap thrills (drugs and murder, in particular) that lube his insect brain. Casino Royale summarizes the trend of detached, savage pictures from the last couple of years (Miami Vice, in particular, another bleak updating of a camp curio); when we talk about good action films now, we seem to be talking about the degree to which we have, as a culture, regressed to the Old Testament in matters of the heart and the hand. Call it "caveman vérité."