Casino Royale

Casino Royale ★★★½

Campbell's energetic direction returns from GoldenEye, bolstered by upgraded acting, writing and tone. Brutalised action drama replaces the fantasy formula.

Vesper (Green) and meat-Bond Craig's flirting provides the series' best chemistry. Violence has weight. Action scenes connect, and especially the stairwell. Bond, less effortless chancer than streamlined thug, plays Texas hold 'em, not baccarat, and subordinates libido to vocation. Le Chiffre (method Mikkelsen) channels a tight, clicky Peter Lorre.

Some crap remains in a Branson cameo, product placement and gender politics. Muting indulgences jettisons charm. This muscular, characterful film can take it, though. Destroy Bond's balls x