Daniel Craig enters the picture as Casino Royale comes along at a much-needed time in 2006 to reboot James Bond for the 21st century.
The road leading up to Casino Royale is a blockbuster documentary in and of itself. However, this is another story for another day. In the decade leading up to the film, the Bond franchise was geared more towards fantasy than being grounded in reality. What else could you do after Die Another Day? Listen, I like Pierce Brosnan and his contract was over. Moreover, his final film did to the franchise what Batman and Robin did for the Dark Knight. You can make the argument that they were at rock bottom and needed to do something.
With the rights to Casino Royale back under the fold, it was time to just bring things back to the beginning and give the James Bond franchise a fresh start. This was a risk for the studio and producers but it was the right time for the franchise. In doing so, they honor everyone that came beforehand and finally brought justice to Ian Fleming’s book in a way that the 1967 spoof never could.
The casting for this film is absolutely perfect. Sure, there was some initial scrutiny when it came to casting Daniel Craig. His rugged look and blonde hair didn’t mesh with the five actors who preceded him in the role. Craig’s performance harkens back to Timothy Dalton’s work on-screen. He plays more to the seriousness of the role than the humor that we saw from the likes of Roger Moore. What he has to do more than the others is take it back to the start of Bond’s career. There are always high expectations that come with Bond–maybe more so than with any other franchise because of the history. Craig absolutely delivered in his performance–one of the best of 2006 and Oscar-worthy if you ask me. Fifteen years later, we’re a day away from the world premiere of Craig’s final performance as Bond in No Time to Die.
As Vesper Lynd, Eva Green feels so much different than previous Bond women. Her character doesn’t feel like she’s there for show. She’s not the type that Bond will just screw around with in other to get information. In the end, of course, she turns out to betray James but she has her own reasoning. It’s something that we learn more about during the WGA strike-affected Quantum of Solace. But still, I like how start driving away from the tropes that made the Bond films what they are.
Mads Mikkelsen does justice to the villainous role as Le Chiffre makes his on-screen debut in the Eon productions. When he’s torturing Bond following the card game, he’s not torturing a stunt double. He’s torturing Craig himself. You can read a lot more about this scene in Nobody Does It Better. But anyway, Mads joins Benicio Del Toro in being the only people to date to appear in the James Bond, Star Wars, and Marvel franchises. A number of actors have appeared in two of the three franchises so we’ll see if this number increases over time.
Musically speaking, David Arnold’s fourth Bond score works for the film. Being a veteran of the franchise, he knows what works best for the film and what doesn’t. It’s an interesting choice to hold off on the classic Bond theme until the end of the film. In its place throughout the film, however, is a recurring motif from the title song, “You Know My Name,” sung by Chris Cornell. But hey, this also speaks to where Bond is in his career. He’s not the veteran 007 that we know from the previous movies because he’s at the start of his career. Look at how M (Judi Dench) treats Bond when he breaks into her place!
I wouldn’t change a thing about Casino Royale. It is as perfect as a James Bond film can get for a script based in reality rather than fantasy. Martin Campbell is a Bond veteran as he helped retool the franchise with Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye. Gone are the gadgets but some of the other classic Bond tropes return. Instead of depending on CGI, they largely focus on practical effects especially during the major set pieces at the Madagascar building site, the Miami International Airport, and the Venetian house sinking. While Bond is in the Bahamas, he wins Alex Dimitrios’s (Simon Abkarian) 1964 Aston-Martin DB5, a callback to Goldfinger. Dimitrios’s wife, Solange (Caterina Murino), is soon discovered dead.
Casino Royale takes things back to the start for James Bond with a new actor and delivers one of the best films in the franchise.
DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
SCREENWRITERS: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis
CAST: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, with Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench