Casino Royale: Reviewing The Best Bond Movie Of The Last Decade
Back in 2006, the world didn’t realize it but it was in need of a new James Bond. Pierce Brosnan had just put out his last turn as Bond in Die Another Day, which wasn’t the best Bond movie ever. His deal with EON Productions, the studio that puts out the movies, ended after that, and the world was kept waiting on as to who would take up the mantle of the world’s most famous spy.
When Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond to star in the first-ever film adaptation of Casino Royale, the first book in Ian Fleming’s series, people weren’t really convinced the moment he was announced for the cast, and even when they saw him in the trailer. Craig was an unconventional choice to be Bond; he didn’t look traditionally good-looking for the role of the debonair spy. Craig looked a little rough to play Bond, and it seemed as though he would have a hard time filling in the spy’s dress shoes. Were people wrong back then.
First, a quick rundown of the film’s plot: again, Casino Royale is technically the very first chapter in the long-running James Bond series of novels. It establishes the character and his backstory, and is the entry in the series that portrays his growth and transformation into the secret agent that became famous. (Not literally; it was the metaphorical journey of how he acquired the skills and experience to make the leap.) The story involves an important poker game in the eponymous Casino Royale in the country of Montenegro (not Las Vegas, as people commonly mistake it), as Bond must beat terrorist financier Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen) and stop him from winning back all his money. If Le Chiffre loses the game of poker, he won’t have enough money to remain in the good graces of the world’s bad guys.
Casino Royale must be credited as the movie that resurrected a flailing James Bond franchise.
Many people are actually claiming that it’s the best Bond movie in years, and it won’t be a claim truly challenged until Skyfall six years later.
The Bond films before this had teetered on the edge of self-parody and ridiculousness; the approach to further humanize the Bond character and give him a relatable (if not more sympathetic) story arc worked. The movie resonated with people as an uncharacteristic character piece, instead of simply being a mindless over-the-top action movie.
The film’s choice of portraying a younger, inexperienced Agent 007 that is reckless about taking risks in both the poker table and in his top secret missions was smart, and the audience liked a more emotionally vulnerable Bond. This portrayal is important because the main point of the movie was also to properly highlight Bond’s transformation into the real 007, the one we know and love.
On top of a good overall plot, Casino Royale was also a beautiful movie. The locations the production chose and the way they highlighted it in the film was top-notch as well, making the aesthetics just as solid as the storytelling. The reformatted roles, with Judi Dench playing Bond’s boss M and Mikkelsen’s turn as Le Chiffre praiseworthy. It’s notable, of course, because both were superb actors.
As for Daniel Craig, it’s pretty much safe to say that he was a huge part of Casino Royale‘s success and the revitalization of the James Bond franchise. Craig definitely did his part. Bond purists have taken to calling Craig’s portrayal of the character as the closest thing to what Ian Fleming originally intended 007 to be. It seemed impossible, but Craig started out being Bond by taking the character to the top of his game. It just so happened that people merely assessed Craig from the way he looked, without actually taking into consideration the fact that he was indeed a good actor.
His acting is especially compelling as he manages to depict the transformation Bond goes through convincingly, allowing a refreshing take on a character everyone around the world is familiar with. In many ways, it’s like watching James Bond for the first time again, an experience better appreciated by those who have been fans for a long time. The perfect Bond movie for a brand-new generation.
Unfortunately, Casino Royale was followed by the surprisingly mediocre and baffling Quantum of Solace, immediately almost undoing the good will earned by the first movie. Thankfully, Daniel Craig’s Bond bounced back with Skyfall and tread water with Spectre in 2015. If anything, however, it just shows that the Bond franchise was bold enough to take creative risks like the spy did on that poker table in Montenegro, going all in when the hand looked terrible and it seemed so wrong to push all your chips. (Sometimes, all you have to do is just bluff and see where it takes you, but that’s beside the point.) Casino Royale gave them that confidence to try and be great, and there’s no better way to fail than in the pursuit of greatness.
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