Early in Casino Royale, the head of British Intelligence, M (Dame Judi Dench) makes an offhand comment about how her job used to be much more simple: "Christ, I miss the Cold War." Well, that makes two of us, lady -- and the good news is that Casino Royale, the latest film celebrating the adventures of double-0 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is a great, gripping throwback to the Cold War intrigue, action and brutality of the early, best Bond films; in fact, Casino Royale is hands down the best action film of 2006.
My understanding and appreciation of the Bond character can pretty much be summed up in one written phrase -- and, ironically, it's not one by Ian Fleming. George Orwell noted how "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." That, to, me, is Bond -- he may stand ready in a great-looking suit, but nonetheless -- and fortunately, Casino Royale seems to understand that. Bond is a tool, a thug, what M calls "... a blunt instrument," Her Majesty's Neckbreaker. At the beginning of Casino Royale -- in a black-and-white pre-credit sequence -- Bond isn't even a double-0 agent yet. He's working on earning his wings, explaining to a fellow intelligence officer that he's already killed a man on orders. "How did he die?" Craig, as Bond, answers with a weary predator's smile: "Badly."