James Bond has been many things, some of them very camp. Actually, most of them very camp. Do you remember the flying cars, the submarine car, the dwarf with the blowdart gun, all of Moonraker?

Up till Casino Royale, the most aggressive Bond got was a well-timed Judo chop or being one of the many, many people who have killed Sean Bean. In Casino Royale, we got to see a different side of Bond, one hinted at before, but then glossed over with exploding lighters and watches that control cars.

Daniel Craig’s Bond is a bitter, caustic, misogynistic, state-sponsored assassin. The world might be sick of gritty reboots now, but back in the tender days of 2006, watching Craig punch through a wall in the opening scene was a revelation.

But there is so much more to like about this film than just the character, so here are just some of the reasons I love Casino Royale.

Image result for craig casino royale
Daniel Craig gives us a newer, more action focused Bond without reducing him to a meathead

The Action

Crisp. Hard-hitting. Missing all the pratfalls, Wilhelm screaming and slightly overweight British actors sweating their way through sloppy choreography of its predecessors. At its heart, Casino Royale is not an action film. In fact, it goes long periods without punching anything, but when it does action, it does it so well.

The opening sets you up with everything you need to know. A black and white nod to films like The Maltese Falcon followed by blistering violence that would have looked far more at home in a Batman or Borne film than anything Timothy Dalton ever did.

Martin Campbell has already cut his teeth on the Bond franchise with GoldenEye, and in this film, he managed to import modern action sensibilities while still keeping that Bond feeling the entire time.

The Setting 

Like Bond, this movie is a lot of things. It’s a Bond film and it has all the things you expect from a Bond film: a femme fatal, a slightly over the top bad guy, a plucky American sidekick, gadgets and a Walther PPK.

But it neatly transitions away from that when it needs to. As the name suggests, it’s also a Casino movie and has become one of the many emblematic movies featuring a casino theme. The big tension/release moment comes not with a gun, but with some flipped cards.

It is also a spy movie, there under the table dealings with other agencies, assassination attempts and poisonings. It also has chase scenes, a believable connection between the two leads and some snappy gunplay, and it transitions between all of those things without getting disjointed or giving the impression that the director got bored easily.

The film has a fair number of nods to the rest of the Bond franchise, but none quite as iconic as Bond’s Walther PPK

The Enemy 

When the movie came out, lots of attention was focused on Craig’s new take on Bond and, as I mentioned, there is a lot to like there. But, as every Marvel flop will tell you, you can’t have a good hero without a good villain.

I don’t think I have to tell anyone that Mads Mikkelsen is a great actor, but the depth and bland, almost disinterested menace he imparts to the character of Le Chiffre is one of the defining parts of the film.

Without Le Chiffre, the film could only have been half as good as it turned out to be, a new kind of Bond needs a new kind of Bond villain. Can you imagine Craig’s bond facing off against a man whose greatest weapon was bad dentistry, or a woman with an uncomfortable sex pun for a name? I think not.

Vesper Lynd

New Bond, new Bond Villain, New Bond Girl, and boy did we get a winner. Veteran actor Eve Green’s portrayal of Vesper Lynd is every bit as fragile, caustic, and bitter as Bond, but rather than bouncing off each other, the two leads mesh exceptionally well.

And let’s not forget that she is the one that saves Bond from a fate worse than a fate worse than death and it is her underlying story that drives some of the most thrilling twists and turns of the film, not Bond’s. 

Licensed to Thrill

Overall, Casino Royale is both an entirely new take on a bloated and badly aged film series, and a pleasant return to characters that still have some stories left in them. A much-needed update that adds a little grit to the series without making everything too depressing, and a little action without devolving into a mindless gun-fest. A real tour de force.

Quantum of Solace? Sorry, never heard of it.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle