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He's Shaken, We're Stirred

Daniel Craig brings us a new James Bond in Casino Royale. He's not only rugged, fearless and -- when the chips are down, as they often are in this poker-faced thriller -- a lethal weapon. He's also vulnerable.

This blond 007 falls in love, and wonders whether that might not be better for him than being a globe-trotting killer. This not only shakes him up, it shakes up the franchise in its 21st official outing. Bond as a human being? Who'd'a'thunk?

Of course, this Bond wasn't even born by the time Sean Connery had churned out five double-oh epics. The series already had turned silly by that time, with motorboats flying over bridges and car tailpipes turning into machine guns.

Craig brings it back to life, not with gadgets -- all he has is a nifty glove compartment -- but with derring-do that gets daring-done with panache. The chase on a construction crane is pretty breathless.

But his finest moment may be when he finds his girlfriend shaken after a machete battle in a stairwell (how's that for low-tech?), sitting in her bloodied evening gown in a shower.

Most men would turn the water off and pull her into their arms. Craig's Bond does something none of the blown-dry pretenders since Connery would ever have done: He joins her in the shower, not for sex or to make a joke, but because he's starting to fall for her, and she clearly needs a shoulder to lean on. And she leans.

A moment or two later, he's back playing poker. And not long after that, half a world away, a building is falling down around their heads.

But that moment of tenderness has done what decades of special effects haven't been able to do: made you care about what happens to 007.

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Bob Mondello
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.