BY LEAH ROZEN
Change is often difficult. But not this time. English actor Daniel Craig steps into James Bond's shiny black tuxedo shoes as if they were custom made for him. Not since Sean Connery has an actor as brawny played the role and, after a string of urbane, even slightly effete 007s, a tough-guy spy is refreshing. When Craig punches bad guys, they stay punched. This accomplished actor brings a calculated cocky gruffness to the role: When a bartender asks Bond if he prefers his martini shaken or stirred, our hero snaps, "Do I look like I give a damn?"
Casino Royale breathes new life into the 44-year-old franchise. The film offers a serviceable plot (Bond must win a high-stakes poker game against a villain—played by Mikkelsen—who finances terrorists), a convincing romance (Bond falls for a winsome accountant, played with verve by Green), stupendous European locations and an early action sequence (Bond chases a suspect up and down a high-rise construction site) that dazzles. Okay, so the card playing drags on a bit and later action scenes can't match that early one, but Royale delivers exactly what you want in a Bond movie: stylish fun and thrills.
While Craig owns the movie, he gets much capable support. Green's Bond babe believably has more on the ball than many of her predecessors, while Dench, returning as M, Bond's boss, has perfected her sighs of exasperation. (PG-13)