Casino Royale (2006) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sometimes we pay so much attention to our enemies, we forget to watch our friends as well.

The 21st Bond gives us a new face and reboots the franchise taking us all the way back to, what was, Sir Ian Fleming’s first story about the MI6 agent. “Casino Royale” introduces us anew to James Bond, first as he acquires his double-0 status, and then into the heart of his first mission playing high stakes cards against a terrorist funded opponent.

After earing his license to kill in Prague, Bond is sent to Madagascar to pursue a bomb maker called Mollaka, who he kills, causing an international incident. Clues he found point him to a corrupt Greek official called Alex Dimitrios who is in the Bahamas. Bond wins his 1964 Aston Martin in a poker game and seduces his wife and then must follow him to Miami, where Bond manages to thwart the destruction of a Skyfleet prototype airliner. This does not go down well with Le Chiffe, an Albanian private banker/ terrorist who has invested in the aerospace manufacturer Skyfleet. He has insider knowledge about the attack from high ranking Lord’s Resistance officer, Steven Obanno and his mysterious financier, Mr White. To recoup the money lost on the investment, Le Chiffe arranges a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale, in Montenegro. MI6 enters Bond into the tournament believing that if he beats Le Chiffe, he will force the banker to seek protection from the British government, allowing them to get information in exchange. Bond’s contact in Montenegro is Rene Mathis, and Bond is staked the $10million buy-in under the watchful eye of British Treasury agent Vesper Lynd. In the tournament Bond initially gets the better of Le Chiffe, noticing his tell. On the quiet, Obanno confronts Le Chiffe and confirms that Bond has found Le Chiffe’s tell, and then Obanna goes after Bond and Lynd. Obanna is killed and Bond returns to the game, only to lose all the money he has. In steps CIA agent Felix Leiter, who agrees to stake Bond the money to continue the game in exchange for taking Le Chiffe into American custody. While this is going on, Le Chiffe’s lover poisons Bond’s drink mid-game. Bond is forced outside to his car where he has a defibrillator, and luckily Vesper is on hand to help him survive the attack. He returns and finishes the game, and duly beats Le Chiffe. Angry about this and at losing money which wasn’t really his, Le Chiffe kidnaps Vesper and uses her to trap Bond so he can get the account number and password for the money. During torture Bond or course refuses to give any details, and when Mr White bursts in and kills Le Chiffe, Bond and Vesper are just about left alive. Waking up in an MI6 hospital Bond outs Rene Mathis as a traitor who fingered him to Le Chiffe and then decides to retire from the secret service in order to live a happier life with Vesper. When M reveals that the treasury never got the money/winnings Bond had entrusted to Vesper he suspects something is wrong and follows Vesper. It turns out she is a double agent, and she is going to meet Mr White. Things get chaotic and Bond is unable to save Vesper from drowning. Later Bond finds out from M that Vesper’s lover would have been killed if she had of refused Mr White, and she undoubtedly made a deal to save Bond’s life too. It does not matter though, “the b***h is dead” according to Bond. Vesper did leave a clue about Mr White though, so Bond tracks the mysterious figure down to Lake Como.

Released in 2006, this is the third screen adaption of “Casino Royale“. It is directed by Martin Campbell who sat in the directors’ chair for “007: Goldeneye” (1995) too, and features writing by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis (the first two of who both worked on previous Bond films). Music in the film is composed and scored by David Arnold who has also worked on previous Bond titles too. Phil Meheux returns to lead cinematography, who like Martin Campbell, last worked on a Bond film with “007: Goldeneye” (1995) Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of Eon are course are producers in this film, as they have done many times before.

With a budget of $150million a lot went into this film to make sure it was a success, and if global takings are anything to go by, grossing $606 million world-wide, it can definitely can be seen as a successful venture.

After Pierce Brosnan finished the fourth movie, he was committed to do in his Bond contract he stepped away or was let go/ fired – depending on what source you go by. Producer Michael G. Wilson claimed that there were around 200 people who he had considered for the role from Karl Urban, to Goran Visnjic, to Henry Cavill, Dougray Scott and Sam Worthington too. In 2005 though, Daniel Craig stated that Eon producers Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, as well as MGM, had offered the role to him. This was not strictly true, and Craig didn’t like the idea of being Bond due to its formulaic approaches. After reading the rebooted script though, and reading all of Fleming’s novels, as well as speaking with Mossad and British Secret Service advisors on the set of “Munich” (2005) he changed his mind. By this time there was already a backlash brewing, with UK tabloids getting behind a “” movement. Nevertheless, in 2005 Craig was indeed unveiled as the new face of Bond. He might not be the tall, dark, and handsome stereotype that people wanted, but he had the backing of the producers.

Casting Vesper Lynd would prove to be equally tricky with names such as Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Audrey Tautou and Cecile de France considered, but in 2006, French actress Eve Green, was announced. Craig delivers a fantastic performance as Bond, who cares if he is blond, he does well as the hard man, wounded by life and his job, yet loyal to the cause. What he lacks in hair colouring he makes up for in his performance – even his eyes should get a credit here as they carry off a multitude of emotions. Craig manages to switch from a cold-hearted killer to a cock-sure gambler; from an uncertain and unplanning agent, to a tired and beat up shell that is loved up and ready to throw it all away. I previously thought Timothy Dalton would be the closest we get to a true representation of Bond, but Craig’s performance blew up my expectations. Opposite him, Eva Green gives one of her best performances, she makes Vesper more complicated and cleverer than she is in the book. She carries off the role with style and grace, while being the harbinger of a secret plot that is not revealed till much later in the film. As Le Chiffe, Mads Mikkelson is great. I have long been a fan of him and in this film, he works well as the cold and complex banker that has got too close to real terrorists that use force opposed to money. All the cast do a fantastic job and it is great to see them all on-screen.

In the book vs film debate I can say that, unlike some other Bond films, “Casino Royale” is not that far off the book version. In both, Bond is sent to bankrupt Le Chiffe at the casino, both have the characters Le Chiffe, Vesper Lynd, Felix Leiter and Rene Mathis. Vesper is also a double agent that manages to get under Bond’s armour and ultimately betrays him too. Considering the 53-year gap between book and film, and with other film’s taking such liberties (like Moonraker, for which the book does not involve space travel at all!), it is nice to be close to the source material here. There are of course a few differences; thanks to the exchange rate the money in this is grander; Le Chiffe is working for SMERSH in the book but not so here; Vesper is cleverer than the dumbed down version in the book too; and also the beginning of the film is to give an origin story while the book just throws the readers straight into it.

So, in this, Bond is more like the version in the book, and less like the previous versions of Bond that have appeared in film. I did not actually realise how much I wanted a cold-hearted yet naive version of Bond until I saw this. I guess I had got used to the versions previously portrayed and was just settling for a version I liked. In this film I did not have to settle for anything anymore. Gone are the drink specifications; he is not interested in a fine cigar or beluga caviar; he is not that bothered about flirting and bedding every single woman in the room; and he certainly doesn’t stop randomly to reel off a comical quip before dispatching the bad guys. Also, forget about the gadgets, there is no need for them when Bond is reactionary and improvises on the spot – who needs an unrealistic invisible car! Bond, like this film is grounded in more reality than any of the films before. This might not be the Bond that so many people have grown up with, but it is a Bond that is truer to his origins.

I really enjoyed watching this film, not just as a Bond film, but as an action/espionage film. It is dark, it is moody, it is gritty, and it is dangerous. It reaches the heights that other films have not reached in the franchise, but it also goes lower and becomes darker than others have gone before too. The runtime of 144 minutes makes this the longest Bond film we have been given so far, but I was engaged throughout. With a 12A-rating you should be able to put younger audience members in front of this, but I would advise caution due to the graphic nature of the content and the themes contained. “Casino Royale” embeds itself as one of my favourite Bond films and with Daniel Craig in the lead role I am happy with the direction the reboot has started from.

Title Song: You know my name – Chris Cornell

In terms of Bond films this is a 9 out of 10.

In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 8 out of 10.

1Casino Royale (2006) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Goldeneye (1995) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
2007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: License to Kill (1989) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: The World is Not Enough (1999) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
3007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007: Die Another Day (2002) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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