2006’s Casino Royale marked a reboot for the James Bond franchise. Not connected plot-wise to any of the previous Bond films, Casino Royale allowed for a recreation of Bond as a character, and allowed another chance to witness an inexperienced 007. He doesn’t even begin the film as a “double-0 agent.” This is how early in Bond’s career we start off with.
He quickly gains double-0 status however, despite almost losing it minutes later following one of the most action-packed chase sequences I can remember. He messes up during this scene though, potentially compromising both himself and the organization that he works for. While on a forced vacation, Bond (played this time by Daniel Craig) discovers a man who was working with a well-known criminal, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Things go wrong after tailing this man, and Bond is soon forced to stop an attempted bombing of a brand new model of aircraft.
After this frantic action scene, we learn that in order to stop Le Chiffre, Bond must enter into a high-stakes poker game. Bond’s organization doesn’t want Le Chiffre dead, but instead want him to lose his money, and then come to them to get protection. This plan all banks on one thing though, Bond needs to win the poker game.
The actual poker game ends up having the most tension of the entire movie. Broken up by action scenes, (this is a Bond film after all), when the cards are dealt, the film goes silent. Hand after hand is played, and you can feel the impact of every single one of them. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to play poker, the movie explains everything important that is happening through its secondary characters. One of them apparently doesn’t know how to play poker, while the other seems to understand it just as well as Bond does. He ends up explaining every important play, meaning the audience won’t get lost if they aren’t poker-savvy.
With Casino Royale being a reboot, some things from previous Bond films have been removed. Instead of the often silly situations that Bond gets himself into, Casino Royale plays everything realistic and gritty. Bond acts more human than ever before–superhuman strength, durability and accuracy aside–and is a character that grows on you. Is Craig the best Bond ever? That’s definitely still up for debate, but he certainly gives a fresh and different performance from previous portrayals of the character.
James Bond, the character, is still learning throughout the film. We can see his immaturity in the field as it opens, and despite being highly talented, we do question whether or not he deserves to be a double-0 agent. We also see him improve as he makes mistakes; he’s going to be sure that they don’t get made a second time. With the added realism, we do lose the charm that made the Bond films different from say, the Bourne series, and yet, I think this is a step in the right direction.
Prior to Casino Royale, the Bond series didn’t take itself all that seriously. The actors playing Bond were suave, sex-driven individuals who made audience members, males in particular, want to be like them. They didn’t have to work very hard to do anything, but this also made the films predictable and slightly boring. Casino Royale goes away from this monotony, and brings a new angle to a somewhat-tired franchise.
Something else fresh with the series is the much improved action scenes. The aforementioned chase scene that takes place at the beginning is filmed in about as realistic manner as possible. Yes, there are tricks to hide how implausible the events are, but the point is that director Martin Campbell tried to make it seem as real as possible. The chase is a man who has extensively trained in parkour–free running, overcoming all obstacles that the person meets. Bond may not have such training, plowing through objects instead of avoiding them, but he manages to stay close enough to his target throughout the chase to make it an entertaining one.
Seeing this chase scene again after watching the rest of the movie makes it have an even greater impact. Casino Royale has characters that you sympathize with, Bond included. Seeing a more human Bond doing these amazing stunts certainly leaves its mark on the audience. He gets sufficiently beat up throughout the film, and since he does a good job making himself available to the audience, we don’t like to see him in such a state.
Casino Royale is a solid film, whether or not it is part of the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig’s portrayal of the lead is cold, calculating and most importantly, real. The film feels fresh when compared to the previous installments, and it is an excellent way to reboot the franchise. It has emotional connections, explosive and entertaining action scenes, as well as one of the most suspenseful poker games I’ve seen, real or not.