CASINO ROYALE (SONY/MGM, 2006)

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


★★★★: The twenty-first film in the Eon Productions James Bond series. US release date: November 17, 2006. Budget: $150 million. Worldwide box office gross: $594.4 million (US gross: $167.4 million; international gross: $427.1 million).[1] Running time: 144 minutes.

The Setup

A mysterious financial expert named Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is introduced to an African rebel leader (Isaach De Bankolé) who decides to funnel him a huge trove of cash for investment purposes. Although he informs his new client that there will be no risk, Le Chiffre immediately uses most of the money to short stock in an aeronautics company—knowing that the terrorist organization he belongs to (what we later learn is a reincarnation of SPECTRE) will blow up their touted airliner prototype. When James Bond (Daniel Craig) foils that plot, Le Chiffre is forced to enter a no-limits, winner-take-all poker tournament in Montenegro to win back the money he lost. To prevent this, Bond joins the tournament, using funds supplied by the government and supervised by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a woman who initially despises 007’s arrogance.

Behind the Scenes

One of the great challenges facing the Bond series as it entered the twenty-first century was competition. As Hollywood studios began focusing on big tentpole franchises, the action genre started to grow crowded. Bond suddenly was competing for box office dollars with the likes of Jason Bourne, the Mission: Impossible films, and the Fast and the Furious series. This new breed of action film featured a high level of gritty violence and sophisticated action set pieces and stunt work. Although the Pierce Brosnan era had done well financially, producers knew that Bond stories would have to change with the times. That change came with the introduction of a new James Bond: Daniel Craig.

Many Bond fans were not initially thrilled with the casting of Craig. Some even referred to him disparagingly as “that blond Bond.” But once Casino Royale opened, most critics found their initial skepticism giving way to jaw-dropping awe. The film essentially rebooted the series, remaking Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel and reimagining 007 as a gritty, extremely physical, and vulnerable secret agent. Gone were many staples of the previous films—the comedy one-liners, the bed-hopping, the larger-than-life supervillains—in favor of more grounded plots, mainly terrorism. The new focus played to Craig’s strengths. He possesses a thuggish quality—he is no longer the suave, polished agent who knew the right wines—but that thuggishness gives him believability as a twenty-first-century double-0: essentially a hired government killer.

Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen are also terrific as Vesper Lynd and Le Chiffre. Martin Campbell’s direction is truly thrilling—he does action like few other directors—and David Arnold’s score is wonderful. The decision to change the penultimate card game from baccarat to no-limit poker was also brilliant. The film garnered the most nominations ever from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts: nine BAFTAs, including Best British Film, Adapted Screenplay, Actor in a Leading Role (Craig, the first Bond to be nominated), Film Music, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Sound, and Special Visual Effects. Its only win: Sound. Casino Royale also featured a number of firsts for an Eon Productions Bond film, including: first to have a major black and white sequence; first not to feature Miss Moneypenny; first to place the gun-barrel sequence after the pre-credits teaser, without Bond’s signature walk; first to have a blond James Bond; first since Dr. No to have an animated opening sequence; and first since Live and Let Die not to feature the character of Q.

The Cast
Role
Actor/Actress
James Bond Daniel Craig
Vesper Lynd Eva Green
Le Chiffre Mads Mikkelsen
M Dame Judi Dench
Felix Leiter Jeffrey Wright
Rene Mathis Giancarlo Giannini
Solange Caterina Murino
Alex Dimitrios Simon Abkarian
Steven Obanno Isaach De Bankolé
Mr. White Jesper Christensen
Valenka Ivana Milicevic
Villiers Tobias Menzies
Carlos Claudio Santamaria
Mollaka Sébastien Foucan
Dryden Malcolm Sinclair
Mendel Ludger Pistor
The Crew
Role
Crew Member
Director Martin Campbell
Writers Neal Purvis
Robert Wade
Paul Haggis
Producers Barbara Broccoli
Michael G. Wilson
Director of Photography Phil Meheux
Music by David Arnold
Production Designer Peter Lamont
Costume Designer Lindy Hemming
Casting by Debbie McWilliams
Stunt Coordinators Gary Powell
Pavel Cajzl
Title Designer Daniel Kleinman
Editor Stuart Baird

[1] “Casino Royale (2006),” The Numbers, accessed April 28, 2020, https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Casino-Royale-(2006).