Film Review: ‘James Bond: Casino Royale’

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffery Wright

Originally Released in November 2006

Review by Miriam Atkinson

Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond is also arguably his best. As the film is based on Ian Flemming’s first novel it is suitable that this adaptation starts at the beginning of Bond’s journey as a ‘double-O agent’. Following a trail of clues across Uganda and the Bahamas, Bond and MI6 are led to Le Chiffre – a man known to fund terrorist organisations. After Le Chiffre sets up a high stakes card game to win back lost funds, Bond is entered into the game to challenge Le Chiffre. Things go awry when the mysterious Mr White interrupts the power struggle between the two men.

A new actor in the title role signals a new era of the 007 franchise. Today it’s crazy to think that, at the time, there was such strong opposition from fans at Craig’s casting as they argued he didn’t look or appear to fit the part. Fortunately Craig immediately proved his critics wrong and has become a ‘favourite Bond’ for many fans of the franchise.

From such an impressive cast it’s no surprise that there was excellent acting from all involved. Honestly there is no weak link in this cast with everyone fitting together perfectly. Daniel Craig (Bond) and Eva Green (Vesper) make an excellent pairing and are completely believable as a couple. They do most of the heavy lifting in this film and are outstanding both when separate and together. Judi Dench will always be a national treasure and it was a smart move to maintain her tenure as M from Pierce Brosnan’s films to bring continuity to this new instalment. Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre) was a fantastic choice as the soft spoken yet always dangerous villain of the film. I think Le Chiffre may be my favourite villain of Craig’s era of Bond.

One of my favourite scenes in Casino Royale comes at the very beginning. The free running chase scene involving Bond and Mollaka (played by Sébastien Foucan the man who invented free running) was high energy, high intensity, and gave audiences an exciting alternative to the car chases that are a staple of the franchise. As well as bringing variety to the film, this opening scene gives the audience an idea of what they can expect from this new era of Bond – less reliance on gadgets and CGI effects and more focus on the physical action and practical chase scenes.

If I had to give the film one small criticism it would be the opening song. The songs played over the opening credits are such an iconic part of all 007 films and unfortunately Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name is one of the weaker entries and time has proven that it has been unable to compete with the large number of far more memorable title credit songs such as Adele’s Skyfall or Shirley Bassay’s Diamonds are Forever.

That being said the graphics of the opening credits are one of the better in recent years with the clever use of playing cards linking to the clear casino inspired theme.

Despite watching the climatic card game several times I am still confused about how to play poker and what constitutes as a good hand however I like how, as an audience member, you don’t need to understand the mechanics of the game to follow the scene. You can visually tell who is winning and losing simply through body language and the amount of poker chips on the table. This allows the audience to enjoy the tense scene as Bond swings from winning and losing hands.

Full of action, great characters and an interesting plot, Casino Royale is one of my favourite Bond films (out of those I’ve seen). It manages to get the blend of storytelling and actions scenes just right. There’s a lot to like about this film and in 2006 it was a great start to a new era of the 007 franchise.

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