ASSIGNMENT #021: Casino Royale (2006)

After the disastrous Die Another Day, it was time to reboot Bond in a new age of reboots ruling the film industry. It is pretty easy to toss this alongside the Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy just starting with Batman Begins as a dark gritty reboot and new vision of the character, when in reality, Craig’s Bond is closer to the character’s roots in the novel. The franchise needed a fresh start once again due to another franchise becoming popular.

Bond’s biggest competitor at this point in time was the critically acclaimed Bourne series, which I do enjoy watching. Craig’s era is Bond versus Bourne and critical acclaim is what both are after. No gadgets this time around, no comical plots, and no BS, this is Ian Fleming’s Bond tried and true. Now onto Casino Royale.

In the opening teaser, Bond obtains his 00 agent status by killing a corrupt MI6 section chief after killing his right hand man, as he needs two kills in order to be promoted. Bond heads to Madagascar to track a international bomb maker named Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) and start to chase him in a parkour style chase (great stunt casting since Foucan is the founder of freerunning). Bond chases him to a embassy, kills him, and blows part of the building as a distraction to escape. This incident pisses off M since he did it in pubic and not in private. Bond looks through Mollaka and discovers a text leading to Alex Dimitros, an associate of terrorist financer and banker, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen [Sidenote: The greatest name ever]). Le Chiffre involves in short selling stock in companies in order to crate terrorist attacks to sink the shares of their profits, a step up of half the previous Bond villains’ plans. Bond goes to Dimitro’s house in the Bahamas and beats him in a card game, wining his car. Bond uses this to his advantage to seduce Dimitro’s wife, Solange (Caterina Murino), to find out information that Dimitros is heading to Miami. Bond doesn’t sex her up and decides to head to Miami to stop Dimitros. Bond finds Dimitros attending the Body Worlds exhibit and kills him. Bond then seeks out Le Chiffre’s henchman Carlos who is headed to Miami International Airport to destroy the prototype for a Skyfleet airliner. Bond foils Le Chiffre’s plan to destroy it in a engaging chase throughout the airport. Le Chiffre, hard up on cash, to recoup his client’s losses sets up a high stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker at Casino Royale in Montenegro.

MI6 sends Bond to enter the tournament hoping that defeating Le Chiffre will help him aid the British goverment in exchange of protection from his creditors. On a train headed to Montenegro, Bond meets an ally in the form of Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and Treasury agent looking after the money, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green who is just lovely as ever). After getting to known one another and partake in some delicious back and forth, they head to their hotel to prepare for an evening at the high stakes game with more character development, ringing flashbacks to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond enters the game (complete with cameo by former Bond girl Tsai Chin from You Only Live Twice), losing the initial stake of $10 Million and Vesper refuses to give him a $5 million  stake to still be in play. Bond wants to assassinate Le Chiffre, but an another man in the game stops Bond and reveals himself to be long lost Bond character, Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright). Felix offers to help Bond out in exchange for Le Chiffre. Bond and Vesper head to the room, until Bond spots some random mooks and kills them. This sends Vesper into a panic and Bond tries to care for her as she sits under a cold shower writhing in fear. After this poignant and beautiful moment, he enters the game once again and gets poisoned with a drink sending him into cardiac arrest in a sequence close to Crank, but survives thanks to Vesper coming in the nick of time to save him. Bond heads back to win against Le Chiffre and has the winnings transferred to a Swiss bank account. After this, Mathis betrays them and abducts Vesper to bring to Le Chiffre. Bond almost kills her by acciddently running her over in a trap. Le Chiffre tortures Bond by smacking him in the nads constantly in a terrifying sequence to gain the access code with Vesper as bait to get him to talk. This doesn’t work when Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) shows up and straight up shoots Le Chiffire and his associates. The film isn’t even over and the villain is dead, but that is nothing bad.

Bond wakes up in a hospital in Lake Como in Italy and order Mathis arrested as being a double agent. Bond sees Vesper once again and professes his love for her and would love to start a new life with her, ready to send his resignation to M. Both head to Venice to begin a new life, but Bond soon finds his poker winnings have not been transferred and realizes Vesper has stolen them to pay some associates, which Bond feel betrays and proceeds to start a gunfight in a sinking building. After killing them, he tries to save Vesper from dying as she is trapped in the elevator. Vesper kills herself knowing she was screwed anyway in death with Bond looking at her dead in the eyes (sorry for the pun) knowing his love is lost. Mr. White leaves with the money while looking at the building sink with Bond surviving. Bond returns to the service with M revealing Vesper was blackmailed to pay for the ransom of her boyfriend by Le Chiffre and Mr. White in exchange for saving Bond’s life. Bond calls upon Mr. White for a ending so satisfying I might as well show it.

His name is Bond…James Bond and he proved it.

Casino Royale is not only one of the best Bond, but one of the best movies of the past twelve years, bar none. Packed with a serious take on the character, great performances by the most stunning actors imaginable, action that doesn’t dull or stop the story dead, Casino Royale is the near perfect Bond film. I really do not have any complaints about it. Daniel Craig fits into the role with ease, only coming second to Connery in the best Bond in his personal take on the role. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd as depth and character to a Bond girl, something that reminds me of Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, perfecting a role with style, grace, and dazzling skill. Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre is brilliant with a great mind and a sense that this man will kill you no matter what, but also plays him with a sense that he is still human. Judi Dench as M is still wonderful as always, so nothing to complain about there. Jeffery Wright as Felix Leiter is good, even if his scenes are quite small. Moneypenny and Q are nowhere in sight, but that is okay because this film works fine without them. The action set pieces are magnificent with the free running chase in Madagascar really stealing the show. The story is just stellar giving the character new life, even though this was established years ago in the novel it was based upon, bringing Bond to a new era without having to appeal to the lowest common denominator (another flaw that Die Another Day suffered). It seems EON really put their heart and soul into this feature ready to deliver a thrill ride that satisfies to the very end.

The theme song is phenomenal with Chris Cornell delivering a new take on a Bond theme that doesn’t fail to capture the original feel of the themes of yesteryear. Also, the opening titles sequence I’ve seen over 15 times on its own. It is just gorgeous and a masterwork that Maurice Binder would be proud of. Casino Royale is the pinnacle of reboots and bringing an old character to life with the best of Connery-era Bond with novel influence, giving a fresh take with performances to die for. Even if you never seen a Bond film or just want to see great movies, Casino Royale is great and only second to From Russia with Love in my book.

Assignment Status: 5 out of 5

Next mission, Bond is back and up against Dominic Greene, leader of Quantum, a new terrorist agency planning to seize control of Bolivia’s water supply. It is time for Daniel Craig to prove himself again from what I hear is just a mediocre Bond film.

Next Mission: Quantum of Solace

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