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2. 'Casino Royale'
Film No.: 21
Bond: Daniel Craig
Why: The Bond franchise will, from time to time, careen wildly over-the-top, but the people in charge are usually smart enough to correct for that with the next film. So after the Pierce Brosnan era went into pure cartoon territory with "Die Another Day," the franchise went back to basics with this crackling adaptation of the very first 007 novel. The opening sequence is even in black and white, as we get a flashback to Bond's brutal first kill; by the time the opening credits roll, any doubts the purists may have had about Daniel Craig because of his hair color were long gone. He is cold and hard and a more plausible licensed killer than any man to have the role before him. Martin Campbell, back in the director's chair, helps out with perhaps the most thrilling action sequence of the series, as Bond chases a bomb maker trained in parkour through the streets of Madagascar — the bad guy leaping over and around obstacles, Bond smashing right through them. The film's climactic poker sequence goes on perhaps a bit too long, but the movie compensates with Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, one of the most compelling, well-drawn Bond Girls of them all, Jeffrey Wright as a Felix Leiter who actually seems almost as cool as Bond, and more great action (including a chase through the runways of Miami International Airport and a gunfight inside a sinking Venice house) before we get to the most tragic ending since "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." "Casino Royale" the book was published in the early 1950s; "Casino Royale" the film made James Bond very relevant again in the mid-2000s.