Casino Royale was Ian Fleming’s first bond novel and marked the start of Daniel Craig’s run as Bond. There were lots of questions as to whether Craig would make a lasting Bond or go the way of George Lazenby or David Niven. The latter only played Bond once in 1967’s Casino Royale, though it was not from the same production company as most other Bond films. Fortunately, Craig and the film turned out well and still holds up. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the start of what would be the most connected storyline for any Bond.
The film starts in typical Bond fashion with him chasing down a mark with plenty of gunplay and stunts. A quick scolding by M, Dame Judy Dench, and we are right back into the Bond universe. A trip to the Bahamas has Bond meeting Solange, Caterina Murino, and the DB5. The age-old Bond seduction kicks into full gear, this was 2006 after all. The ensuing scenes leave doubt that Bond sleeps with Solange. Was this film more progressive than we thought at the time? Not really.
What sets this film apart from the rest is the entrance of Vesper Lynd, Eva Green. Vesper is a highly intelligent agent of the treasury sent on a mission to ensure Bond does not lose too much money in the poker match the film revolves around. The on-screen chemistry between Green and Craig is spectacular. They are just as quippy as each other and both slowly let their shields down around each other. It was a stroke of genius in the casting and pays dividends as Vesper haunts Bond for the rest of Craig’s run as Bond.
I am a fan of Mads Mikkelsen. Here, he plays the main bad guy Le Chiffre who finances terrorism around the world. Mads is a talented actor who, is great at playing a scenester role like Hannibal, but also fully capable of playing the every-man like in Another Round. While Le Chiffre is only in Casino Royal, there are layers of a criminal enterprise above him that are revealed late in the film. This is the other major tie-in between Craig’s films and where you can easily get lost between the shell organizations of criminals in this connected Bond Universe. A more minor tie-in is the introduction of Felix Leiter, Jeffery Wright, a CIA agent. This cross-Atlantic partnership extends through Craig’s run.
I have to geek out a little beyond just the cars in this film. The scenes at the Miami airport have a few fun easter eggs. Sir Richard Branson can be seen getting a pat-down after going through the metal detector. There are plenty of Virgin Atlantic planes used in the scene and it was filmed in England. The brand new Skyfleet S570 is a modified B747. The upper deck is extended even further than the B747-8I and some of the beauty of the plane is lost when the nose is flattened. The four engines are also grouped in two pods of two and there are outboard extra fuel tanks where the 1st and 4th engines typically go. This is most like the B52 for the engines and the fuel tank is common in many military aircraft to extend range. The tail number, N9747P, is a special one set aside by the FAA for use in film.
I did not like Casino Royale when it first came out. Pierce Brosnan was my James Bond. Daniel Craig was blonde with blue eyes. He wasn’t as suave nor as much a pretty boy as Brosnan and I did not like the change. I have grown to enjoy the Craig run as Bond despite its 15-year duration. Re-watching this film, it is far better than I thought when it came out, but I am also fifteen years older. It is a fantastic start for Craig and maybe the high point of his run as Bond.