This Distracted Globe random header image

Casino Royale (2006)

May 7th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Casino Royale poster 1.jpg

British Secret Service agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is introduced in Prague, where he’s been dispatched to kill both an MI6 section chief selling state secrets and his contact. The kills earn Bond his double 0 status within the intelligence bureau and grant him his mythic “license to kill.”

In Uganda, a terrorist financier named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) meets with a warlord to take possession of his cash and invest it in a no-risk portfolio. What the warlord doesn’t know is that Le Chiffre plans to use the money to buy up stock in an airline, then short sell the stock before engineering a terrorist attack on the airline, making himself rich.

Bond pursues Le Chiffre’s bombmaker through a construction site in Madagascar and blows up half an embassy in order to get the man. This brings a reprimand from his boss, M (Judi Dench) who considers Bond “too blunt an instrument” and regrets promoting him to double-0 status.

Casino Royale pic 1.jpg

Given time off, Bond instead traces a call on the bombmaker’s cell phone to the Bahamas, where he shadows one of Le Chiffre’s associates and seduces his wife (Caterina Murino) in order to get information. Bond pursues her husband to Miami International Airport, where he foils the airliner attack on the runway.

Desperate to recoup the warlord’s money, Le Chiffre enters a poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. M dispatches Bond to beat Le Chiffre in the tournament, so the financier will have to turn to MI6 for protection. A brass tacks liaison officer with Her Majesty’s Treasury named Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is sent to monitor Bond’s handling of the $10 million buy-in. Unexpectedly, the two develop feelings for each other.

When Pierce Brosnan agreed to take over the role of Ian Fleming’s James Bond – the longest running franchise in movie history, now at 21 films – he agreed to a three-picture contract, with an option for a fourth. After completing 2002’s Die Another Day, Brosnan agreed with producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli that it was time to move on.

Casino Royale pic 2.jpg

Director Martin Campbell – who introduced Brosnan as Bond with Goldeneye – was hired to helm the new installment, and the script by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade was upgraded by Oscar winner Paul Haggis. A global search ensued for the new Bond, though only one other actor was seriously considered: Henry Cavill, a 22-year-old ultimately deemed too young for the part. 37-year old Daniel Craig was cast instead, and drew some criticism initially for being blonde-haired and blue-eyed.

Of the many things I love about Casino Royale as a Bond fan, the film’s greatest achievement is that you don’t need to be a Bond fan to enjoy it. Eon Productions finally realized they had strayed too far from Ian Fleming’s source material and sought to return 007 to his roots. They contemporized Fleming’s 1953 novel and told a story about an assassin spy – “half hitman, half monk” – not out to save the world, but do a job.

Casino Royale pic 3.jpg

This 007 is more athletic, harder around the edges, but more vulnerable underneath all that. Daniel Craig’s Bond is first and foremost a killer, not a debonair fop. The script also gives Bond an actual relationship with an actual professional woman. A real actress was then cast as Vesper Lynd, and Eva Green simmers in this.

With a really good script and great casting, everything else falls into place. I haven’t been a fan of anything Martin Campbell has directed outside of Goldeneye, but I have to take my hat off to the filmmakers here. The budget was around $150 million – a relatively modest expenditure by today’s filmmaking standards – and instead of digital gadgetry, the filmmakers put imagination into this.

The title sequence by graphic designer Daniel Kleinman is captivating. The acrobatic free-running/jumping style of Sébastien Foucan – who plays the bombmaker – and the stunt sequence on the construction site really impressed me. There’s a barrel-roll done with an Aston Martin DBS that set a world record here. There’s also a convincingly brutal scene where 007 is actually tortured.

Casino Royale pic 4.jpg

The only gadgets employed are a high-tech survival kit 007 keeps in his Aston Martin, and his cell phone (Bond uses a Sony Ericsson K800i, due to the fact that the film was co-produced by Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony). Instead of resorting to explosions or lots of shootings, the film makes you feel almost every death Bond is responsible for.

There’s nothing about Casino Royale that doesn’t work, including the poker, the sensational music by David Arnold and the title song – “You Know My Name” – by Chris Cornell. Most action franchises get more cartoonish as they go and ultimately start to parody themselves. I’m interested to see whether the Bond series goes back to that, or can build on the strength and ingenuity of this picture, which is one of the top three in the franchise’s history.

Casino Royale pic 5.jpg

Tags: Based on novel · Famous line · Femme fatale · Hitman · Interrogation · Martial arts · Shootout · Train · Woman in jeopardy

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Al // May 5, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    I gave up on Bond movies a while ago, but you’ve convinced me to watch this. One of the main reasons I couldn’t stomach many of the Bond movies was precisely because of the “debonair fop” BS — which didn’t agree with Bond as presented in Fleming’s novel (a fun and quick read, btw).

  • 2 Piper // May 8, 2007 at 10:51 am

    This is the best Bond movie. Yes, better than Goldfinger. Yes I said it. This is the way Bond was intended to be. Flawed. Not cutesy.

    I’m not sorry I grew up with Roger Moore as Bond because as a kid those were fun movies. And Connery is the better Bond of the two and in my eyes the true Bond. But Daniel Craig is excellent.

    And Eva Green is the best Bond lady ever.

Leave a Comment