Casino Royale Review and Dossier

Casino Royale
the perfect Bond movie?

Here are 8 reasons why Casino Royale is one of the best Bond movies of all time.

  1. A classic Ian Fleming source 
  2. The action is raw and feels real
  3. Vesper!
  4. The battle between LeChiffre and Bond is one of the most epic poker games of all time.
  5. The torture scene
  6. The shower scene
  7. Slow moving scenic shots to establish location.
  8. Daniel Craig nails it on his first try

 

Daniel Craig with Gun Casino Royale

Back to Basics

After watching James Bond earn his license to kill in a grainy and effective pretitle sequence, we are treated to an epic first first third of the movie. While Casino Royale certainly jumps right into the action, it also takes time to develop the characters of Bond and Le Chiffre. For example, after an intense chase through Madagascar, the movie slows down for an excellent scene involving Le Chiffre playing poker on his yacht.

In this scene, you first get a glimpse of Le Chiffre’s cold and calculated persona — as well as his ruthless streak, when he tells his henchman to show his guests out or push them overboard. Combined with his earlier dealings in Africa, Le Chiffre is a fleshed-out villain very early in the film: something a Bond film has not delivered in a long time.

Of course, this movie is about James Bond’s adventures, not Le Chiffre’s. As such, the next chunk of the film is devoted to redefining the character of James Bond. This is where the movie succeeds best of all.

After 20 films and 43 years, the movie-going public has a predefined image of 007. Casino Royale manages to hold true to that while showing that Bond is much rougher around the edges than in previous incarnations.

Early on there is a pivotal scene in M’s flat that truly shows how different Bond is from when we last saw him in Die Another Day. In addition to the now-famous “blunt instrument” line, she spends most of the scene criticizing and berating Bond and essentially telling him if he doesn’t change his ways he is not far from the cold hands of death. It felt a bit like the scene between Bond and M in GoldenEye, but with far more disdain in M’s voice.

M and Bond in Casino Royale

Casino Royale is beautifully paced and filmed

When criticizing the older Bond movies, people often say, “they sure did take their time.” To me, that was always a plus! It allowed for better character development and for incredible sweeping cinematography of exotic locations. “Taking their time” is exactly what made the early movies so great.

When you rush pivotal scenes to get more explosions and chases, you often lose the heart and soul of a film. The real key is finding a satisfying mix between the two, which is where Casino Royale succeeds.

For now, let’s jump past the brilliantly staged Bondian action sequence in the Miami Airport and move onto where the movie really enters classic-Bond mode. When Martin Campbell slowly follows a wide angle shot of Bond’s train to Montenegro traveling through the countryside nostalgia really kicks in and the audience knows they are in for a treat.

The train ride also gives us a chance to really get to know Vesper. Rather than quickly introduce the Bond Girl as yet another piece of eye-candy, the film takes this opportunity to flesh out both her and Bond’s characters.  As the two of them enjoy a meal, they also have a chance to share some of the sharpest dialouge in the entire series.

“You think of women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. So, as charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money and off your perfectly formed ass.”

~ Vesper Lynd to James Bond

This scene was very reminiscent of the dining car scene in From Russia With Love — and is interlaced with more exterior shots of the train passing through stations.

The slow-pace and beautiful cinematography continues at Casino Royale, with more sweeping shots of Bond and Vesper’s arrival … and Bond inspecting his practically gadget-free Aston Martin: a welcome change after Die Another Day‘s asinine invisible car.

Bond and Vesper have dinner on a train

The Poker Game

The beautiful cinematography continues at Casino Royale, as the camera follows Bond walking through the casino to a private table for the epic poker game.

Some feared that using a poker game as the movie’s centerpiece was a sure-fire formula for a boring film. However, both the screenwriters and Martin Campbell rose to the task and created one of the best extended segments in Bond’s long and storied history.

The entire scene at the poker table is full of suspense and you’re never quite sure how Bond is going to make his comeback. Mads Mikkelsen’s icy demeanor accentuates his small amount of dialoug, while Daniel Craig’s calculating and intense eyes and body language keep the audience on the edge of their seat.

Interlacing the action, character development and near-death experience scenes with the well-paced poker ones shows a real sense of urgency in the marathon card game. When Bond finally does beat Le Chiffre it feels like a job well done: something that he worked long and hard for and was well deserved.

The Casino Royale poker scene

Le Chiffre

With Le Chiffre bankrupted and Bond victorious, we come to the most intense scene of the movie, if not the entire series: the torture sequence. Having read the novel numerous times I knew what was coming, but I was still shocked at the brutality of the scene.

Parts were truly cringe-worthy, but the film did a good job of giving a few moderately humorous lines to balance out the horror of what was being done to him. Craig and Mikkelsen’s deliveries are the keys to this scene and truly make it stand out.

All the world is going to know that you died scratching my balls.

~ Le Chiffre to 007

Before getting to the finale of the film, let’s take a moment to dissect Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Le Chiffre. While he was not a classic over-the-top megalomaniac villain a’la Blofeld or Hugo Drax, he succeeded in a way that few before him have.

Mads was sinister – both in appearance and actions – and his line delivery was top-notch. His facial reactions of sheer shock every time Bond returned to the poker table after being seemingly “knocked out” as well as his reactions during the torture sequence quickly escalate Mikkelsen to the upper echelon of Bond baddies.

LeChiffre and Bond - Portrait

The Final Act:


Finally we get to the film’s third and ultimate act…or as I like to call it: the only thing wrong with Casino Royale. As has been discussed in numerous other reviews, the relationship of Vesper and Bond was too rushed.

While the movie did a bang-up job of making us believe there was sexual tension and both mutual admiration and dislike, it never made the audience believe they had fallen in love. It seemed more like constantly waking up from near-death and seeing Vesper by his side – and vice versa – was the cause of their love…not actual love. This in no way ruins the movie, but it is a major flaw.

Another problem I have with the movie was the need to throw in one final action sequence: the Venice scene.

It starts out brilliantly with another From Russia With Love (my favorite Bond film, BTW) homage as Bond and Vesper float into the city. However, it all goes wrong when the main baddie of the final action sequence is someone we have never met before.

The glasses/eye patch guy (AKA Gettler) is introduced moments before and all of a sudden we are supposed to care about him? In Bond films the henchman often dies after the villain in the final battle, but we are usually introduced to said henchman far earlier.

It would have been more effective to battle Dimitrios (were he alive) or someone we already knew rather than this unknown. Oh well, you can’t have it all I guess.

Fortunately for the film, it ends on a high note.

After Bond utters the best line in the novel, “the bitch is dead,” he heads out to find Mr. White. After shooting him in the leg and watching White crawl towards him and ask him who he is the camera pans up to Bond who is standing tall and ruthless with his machine gun as the Bond theme finally is played for the first time in the movie.

As Daniel Craig utters “Bond, James Bond,” the theme explodes, the screen goes black and the credits roll. This one-minute segment completely makes up for all the other flaws in the third act and made me ready for Quantum of Solace right now!

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig IS James Bond

With a new Bond, a new series direction and a classic Ian Fleming novel as the backbone, Casino Royale stormed into theatres worldwide surrounded by controversy. Critics and Bond fans alike lamented the casting of Daniel Craig and panned the idea of a “Bond Begins” type film.

Message boards were abuzz, anti-Craig Web sites were created and it seemed everyone was ready to declare Bond dead. However, after the film’s release most every critic was silenced (including this one) and the movie is now regarded as brilliant and a cornerstone of the franchise.

The moment the gritty, violent black and white pre-title sequence begins, the audience knew they were in for something new and exciting.

The wisecracking portrayals of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan have been replaced by a ruthless killer; a man capable of brutally murdering an informant in a bathroom before coldly dispatching an MI6 employee turncoat. Essentially, after a mere five minutes, the audience knows that this is a whole new 007.

 

Initial Reactions to Daniel Craig
Written in 2006

“Well, It’s official: Daniel Craig IS James Bond. He put on the tux, he said the line and he came through brilliantly! While I was not amongst the Craig-haters, I definitely was holding my breath when I went into the theater. However, by the end of the pre-title sequence Craig had already won me over.

There was no acceptance-curve…he was instantly James Bond. Something about his demeanor or the look in his eyes or the way he cold-heartedly murdered the man in the bathroom made me instantly think of this man as 007. Granted he doesn’t have the natural good looks of Connery or the other non-Dalton Bonds, but he was believable from minute one.”

The Title Sequence


Despite the lack of naked silhouettes dancing around, the title sequence works brilliantly. The entire piece felt like a moving book-cover from the earlier Bond novels. Chris Cornell’s song, which I hated at first, has grown on me and works perfectly with the animation.

The sequence also tells the story of Bond becoming 007 through its use of black and white and later red, which I found quite interesting. I did not, however, like how they used Craig’s face. I was not a fan when it was done in the past and it still does not work for me. But aside from that, no real qualms.

Casino Royale with a foreign audience


When Daniel Craig was first announced as the next James Bond I read about it in a Nicaraguan newspaper traveling in a school bus (the primary method of transport there) back from Managua. I remember thinking, “Really? Is that the best they could do?” Later, while still in Nicaragua, I saw Munich and left thinking, “ok … he could do a good job after all.”

Perhaps it was only fitting that I be abroad when Casino Royale debuted. All my friends couldn’t believe it. “Who are you and what did you do with Greg,” they all wondered. That I would not be there on opening night was inconceivable. However, I wasn’t about to let a little thing like a European vacation stop me from seeing it on opening night…it just happened to be Germany’s opening night.

While in Nuremberg the night before the German opening day I found a little theatre with “movies in original version.” Naturally, I put my sightseeing on hold and went there. Surrounded by a German audience who all spoke English, I reveled in the fact that everyone around me loved the movie and left buzzing about it.
My Amsterdam ticket stub

Upon my return to my hostel I immediately hopped onto the MI6 Debriefing Room forum and started posting in every thread I could find about the film until all of a sudden it was 2am. Oops!

As the days passed and my vacation continued I couldn’t stop thinking about how great the movie was. I had to see it again. Finally, my last night in Europe after a flight mixup stranded me in Amsterdam for an extra day I decided to use that time to see it again with a Dutch audience. The reaction was the same; everyone loved it and left talking about how great it was…much the same way it’s been ever since.

Review written on November 30, 2006. Revised on October 26, 2008 and September 10, 2019.

Shop Casino Royale

FIRSTS

First time a Bond movie has parts in black and white

First appearance of Daniel Craig as James Bond

First time Casino Royale was made as an “official” Bond film

First time Bond’s birth year changes (it’s now 1968, the same as Craig’s)

First (official) time Felix Leiter is played by a black man

First film to feature a scene with rain

First movie not to feature Miss Moneypenny

TRIVIA

This is actually the third version of Casino Royale. The first was a 1954 CBS tv special and the second one was a 1967 spoof.

Casino Royale is also the name of the casino where Bond and Largo face-off in a video game battle in Never Say Never Again.

The bond girl character name of Solange has previously appeared in two Ian Fleming stories. She was the name of the girl in OO7 In New York and a girl named Solange was referenced in From A View To A Kill.

The movie’s high-stakes game of Texas Holdem poker, was actually a Bacarrat game in the novel.


MISSION DOSSIER

Codename:
Casino Royale

UnivEx Rating:
007

Released:
November 16, 2006

Bond Actor:
Daniel Craig

Director:
Martin Campbell


BY THE NUMBERS

Budget:
$150 Million

U.S. Boxoffice:
$167.4 Million

Worldwide Boxoffice: 
$594.2 Million

Running Time:
144 Minutes

Bond’s Kill Count:
12

Bond’s Conquest Count:
1 — (he never actually has sex with Solange)


CR DOSSIER

Villain:
Le Chiffre

Organization:
QUANTUM (later revealed to be a part of SPECTRE)

Scheme:
Financing terrorism

Henchmen:
Dimitrios, Mollaka

Girls:
Vesper Lynd, Solange

Allies:
M, Felix Leiter, Mathis, Villers


Universal Exports is the world’s oldest James Bond fansite.

Established in 1996, it features thousands of pages about the cinematic and literary adventures of Agent 007.

Since it’s inception, UnivEx has been a site for the fans.

That’s why you’re encouraged to submit articles, artwork, or anything else you want to share about James Bond.

Reach out for more info.


Follow UnivEx on Facebook

 

What sharp little eyes you’ve got.

Just wait ’till you get to my teeth.


Latest Intel

Experience the classic UnivEx

a hand-coded 007 art project

Visit the classic Universal Exports

Search the 00-Archives