With Daniel Craig’s final bow as Bond coming up in No Time to Die, we look at his explosive, game-changing debut as the character in 2006’s Casino Royale.
The Bond franchise had taken a bit of a hit with the poorly received Pierce Brosnan entries, lest we forget the tsunami windsurfing antics of Die Another Day (2002), and it was high time for the character to get a modern-day facelift. The answer was casting relatively unknown Daniel Craig in the role, much to the expected murmurs of fans and critics. Coupled with director Martin Campbell, the finished product was something to behold.
Casino Royale is not just one of the best Bond movies ever made; it’s a contender for one of the best action films ever made. Everything about this film is a testament to what can be done when a studio hires creative, driven people who genuinely care about the source material while also having enough of a spine to challenge and contort the formula of an entire franchise into its own beast.
Casino Royale takes every element from the films before it and changes them in unexpected, fun ways that leave the audience guessing where the story is going. From playing on Bond’s iconic “shaken or stirred” response to giving the typically underwritten ‘Bond Girl’ a plot, Martin Campbell and screenwriter Paul Haggis challenged the audience’s expectations of what a Bond film could be. Every character here, including the traditionally cheesy villain, is one for the ages.
Even if that kind of creativity goes unnoticed by the average moviegoer, the action that most flock to these films for is top tier. The opening foot chase with breathtaking stunts stands head and shoulders over nearly any comparable scene due to its sheer scope and feel. The Bond theme by Chris Cornell is one of the best there is, potentially only beaten out by Adele’s incredible Skyfall theme. Eva Green as Vesper is one of, if not the best, Bond Girl because, as mentioned before, she has a voice and a place in the film beyond being just eye candy.
Craig is excellent as the iconic spy; you can really tell he cared about the character going in, a sentiment that waned as the films went along. His bravado and machismo shine here, but he is extremely vulnerable too, nearly dying at the hands of the excellent villain played menacingly by Mads Mikkelsen, who himself is a layered character with dimension.
Casino Royale is a true game-changer in all the right ways, setting a very high bar for the franchise that future entries have seldom met. Craig as Bond is arguably the best the character has ever been portrayed, and the film that started his tenure as said character does not disappoint. He will be sorely missed as the man in the tuxedo; here’s hoping whoever follows him does so with the same amount of respect.
The way Bond orders his first vodka martini is lifted directly from the Ian Fleming novels.