It was with much excitement and anticipation that Daniel Craig rocked up onto the big screen, stepping into the big shoes of Pierce Brosnan as the 21st century 007. Casino Royale was the 21st film in the James Bond series. James Bond enthusiasts raised their eyebrows when the latest version of Casino Royale was announced, given that a version of Ian Fleming’s original 1953 novel had already been released in 1967. However, it wasn’t produced by Eon, which explains the move to try and improve upon Columbia Pictures’ initial release and put it firmly in the shade.
What plagued the most recent Bond films prior to the release of Casino Royale was their overuse and over-reliance on gadgetry and tech. James Bond has always been able to use his charm and charisma – and more than a hint of bravery – to get himself out of sticky situations, and it was great to see Casino Royale return to the adrenaline-fuelled high drama of GoldenEye.
Daniel Craig may have demonstrated his more macho, ‘Action Man’ persona in more recent Bond movies, but Casino Royale is classic 007. His cold-blooded performance at the poker table in the high-stakes tournament against Le Chiffre is enough to bring out a tension headache in the calmest of viewers.
Le Chiffre, played superbly by ice-cool Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, has a captivating air of strength and authority as well as a vulnerable side that Bond looks to exploit throughout. His poker tell – blood pouring from his left eye – made it clear to Bond when his nemesis was bluffing, allowing him to prevail against all odds. There is something glamorous about the addition of card games in Hollywood movies. In Ian Fleming’s original novel Bond faced his bitter rival at the baccarat table, but the increased popularity of poker in recent generations saw it cleverly introduced in the 2006 remake.
In Fleming’s original storyline, Le Chiffre was a banker to Smersh, but in this 21st-century reboot, he plays a dangerous financier of global terrorists. Bond is tasked with winning all of Le Chiffre’s money at the poker table to prevent him from bankrolling more criminals. The fly in the ointment, as ever with James Bond, is his female relationships. Vesper Lynd is the archetypal Bond girl – with sass, sophistication and more than a hint of sex appeal to entice 007.
The one time that Bond falls head-over-heels for a woman’s charms, it comes back to haunt him. Vesper breaks his heart and betrays him, stripping back Bond’s cold exterior and exposing his vulnerable inner layers. Despite Vesper’s betrayal, forced by the hand of the real villains in the shadows, Bond still manages to keep his eyes firmly on the prize. He reclaims the poker winnings from Mr White at an estate in Lake Como, Italy. Although Bond’s love life appears doomed to failure, there is no doubting his continued loyalty to ‘Queen and country’.
With fewer gadgets and unnecessary quips, this storyline flowed effortlessly throughout and was certainly one of the most gripping Bond movies of the modern-day era. It was the highest-grossing 007 movie of all time until 2012’s Skyfall release, and its success allowed Daniel Craig to truly take the reins and drive Bond into the 21st century.