Casino Royale (2006)
October 15, 2015 4:34 AM - Subscribe

Armed with a licence to kill, Secret Agent James Bond sets out on his first mission as 007 and must defeat a weapons dealer in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, but things are not what they seem.

This is the 21st James Bond film adventure.

The Wikipedia entry. reviews Casino Royale.
The James Bonding podcast (Matt Mira, Matt Gourley and guests Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci) covers Casino Royale.

Some Top Critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Bob Mondello, NPR: "Bond as a human being? Who'd'a'thunk?"

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "Casino Royale has the answers to all my complaints about the 45-year-old James Bond series, and some I hadn't even thought of."

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: "I hope Craig finds more moments like that in Bond. And I hope he gets to wear that tuxedo again and again and again."

Andrew Sarris, New York Observer: "I consider Daniel Craig to be the most effective and appealing of the six actors who have played 007, and that includes even Sean Connery."

Dana Stevens, Slate: "Martin Campbell (who also directed Pierce Brosnan's first outing as Bond in Goldeneye), has chosen to give us a Bond who's both metaphorically and literally stripped bare. Let me take this opportunity to thank him for both."
posted by doctornecessiter (37 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The part where Hannibal Lecter tortures Bond was pretty hardcore.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:57 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Remember all the controversy when Daniel Craig was chosen to play Bond? Me neither but then I had nooooo doubts whatsoever. I loved *everything* about this movie. Right from the start with the parkour scene, I knew it would be fantastic. What really intrigued me was that during the Bahamas scenes, I completely forgot we were watching a contemporary movie because the art direction said "early 60s". So when it shifted back to Europe, I was disoriented, like wait, what time period is this supposed to be? Delicious. The drowning scene? I've never been affected by a death in a James Bond film before. Just a great reboot which the next outing could not match.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:54 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

To be fair, if you'd just watched Our Friends in the North would you have really pegged these two as James Bond and the Doctor?
posted by sobarel at 8:10 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's hard to overstate what a revelation this movie was, even for someone who had seen all the films multiple times and took his Bond very, very seriously indeed. It just opened up a whole new world of what could be done with the character. The only reason for not just outright crowning it as the best film of the series is, as one of the linked reviewers said at the time, Connery got there first and planted the flag, and he'll always be the original. But Craig is every bit as good in the part, and while the original Connery films were equally successful in achieving what they set out to achieve, Casino Royale is considerably more ambitious.

It's hard for me to even talk about the movie in detail - as you'll have noted, not a problem I generally have talking about this series - because I'm just so overawed at how perfect it is.
posted by Naberius at 8:15 AM on October 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think what makes Connery and Craig so effective is the same thing that made Fleming dislike Connery in the first place. Bond is ultimately a thug; he's a "blunt instrument". He's just the ultimate evolution of the sort of colorful thugs he fights in the movies. When you make him too suave, you lose that and the films lose texture as a result.

Both Connery and Craig look like guys who could beat the crap out of me, and you need that.
posted by selfnoise at 8:43 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Remember all the controversy when Daniel Craig was chosen to play Bond?

Amazingly, is still updating. It does seem like he's sort of accepted that other people seem to like this Daniel Craig fellow and is mostly blaming EON for ruining Bond.
posted by Copronymus at 8:57 AM on October 15, 2015

When they're on the crane and the bombmaker throws his empty gun at Bond, when Bond catches it, throws it back and knocks the guy off of his footing...I was ready to bear Daniel Craig's children.
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:09 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Parkour enters the Bond-i-verse! Hooray!

This poker game ... is not how poker is played. But I guess Texas Hold'em is more cinematic than Baccarat these days.

I ended up reading the book after seeing this and was SHOCKED to discover that the "beat Bond's bollocks" part of the film was actually in the book.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I like the Daniel Craig Bond films* because they are running at Big Themes in ways that work for me. I like to complain about modern action movies because there are about two directions that they often go in: a) self-aware action comedies like anything Joss Whedon or J. J. Abrams is involved in, and b) overly-pompous pseudo-intellectual action dramas like Christopher Nolan makes. I felt like Casino Royale and its successors nicely sidestep that question by saying, yes, we're going to have themes, but we're not going to pretend these movies are smarter than they are.

So with Casino Royale the theme that stood out to me most was masculinity. We have a villain who literally tries to injure/destroy Bond's maleness via genital torture. We get to see Bond as a person with emotions and for once we are actually allowed to question whether the culture of (British?) masculinity that requires him to obliterate his emotions in order to become a real double-0 is a harmful one. And yet, either way, my enjoyment of the movie doesn't hinge on me sitting there and thinking through this theme in the moment.

One little touch I particularly enjoyed about Casino Royale was that one of the things you'll find me repeatedly complaining about in the James Bond club FanFare threads is the extended denouement/coda that shows up in almost every Bond film pre-Craig, where the big action scene is over but Bond still has to defeat the main villain and make it home. Come Casino Royale, we just have a jump cut to ~6 lines of dialogue and Bond shooting a guy, and it works so well. Also how cool is it that the majority of the "action" in this movie is an extended poker sequence, and yet I was still totally enthralled by it? That's a rare victory in the cinematic world.

*I really just mean Casino Royale and Skyfall because everyone told me Quantum of Solace sucked so I didn't see it.
posted by capricorn at 9:18 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

My ex-boyfriend, who is an adorable, kinky bear, went to see this movie with his mother. So when the chair with a hole in the seat and the knotted rope came out and she asked him what they were for...

Sometimes you know the answer to a question, but you just can't bring yourself to say it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:01 AM on October 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

Trust me, there are far, far worse movies to see with your mother.

Bad Santa comes to mind...
posted by Naberius at 10:36 AM on October 15, 2015

My favorite moments in this particular Bond movie, and both of them involve Bond as a sociopathic brute.

1. During the parkour chase, the henchman flings himself horizontally through a ventilation cutout at the top of a wall. Two seconds later, Bond runs through the fucking wall.

2. At the end of the airliner bombing sequence, Bond clips the bomb to the baddie just before Bond is apprehended and forced down by police. The camera closes on Bond as he looks past to the unseen bomber. A flash of light accompanied by a soft explosion illuminates Bond's face... and he smirks.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:01 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

My theory is that Craig's Bond was influenced by Red Grant, one of the villains in From Russia With Love. Evidence:

-Bond is now a taciturn blond colossus.
-As infinitewindow points out, Bond's brutality sits closer to the surface than usual.
-Accordingly, his veneer of cultural polish is thinner. This Bond doesn't really give a shit about the cut of his dinner jacket or the preparation of his martini. (Compare with Grant, who nearly blows his cover by pairing red wine with fish.)
posted by Iridic at 11:33 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

(The later installments walk back the vulgarity a little bit. In Casino Royale, Bond allegedly "didn't come from money, and [his] school friends never let [him] forget it." In Skyfall, he's the laird of an ancient manor in Scotland.)
posted by Iridic at 11:44 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

In the British civil service that is coming from no money.
posted by dng at 11:48 AM on October 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

You could argue that Vesper got that part wrong. Though I've always assumed that she would have had access to Bond's file before meeting him on the train, and could easily be "Crossing Over with John Edward"ing him.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2015

In Skyfall, he's the laird of an ancient manor in Scotland.

In the remote Scottish deserts apparently. It didn't strike me as a particularly wealthy manor. Just a suitably old one with a long-obsolete social pedigree that its descendants clung to with the desperate tenacity of the drowning.
posted by Naberius at 11:54 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

As someone who had gotten pretty jaded on the Bond films by the time this came around, it was amazing. I think I saw a piece of it on TV and was like "wait, what? This is a Bond film?" and then tracked down the DVD.

To build off capricorn's comment above, one of the reasons I became disillusioned with Bond in general was that (to me) the films were always about masculinity, and somewhere in the nineties/early oughts I really started to grasp what a toxic view of masculinity (and as a result, femininity) the films had. And it was unquestioned within the film universe and the fandom. And I was very slowly realizing what horrific ideas and attitudes that idea of masculinity had done to me and my attitudes and such.

Anyways, Casino showed us a Bond who was damaged or who could be damaged, not just physically but emotionally. That being the thug/blunt instrument was taking a toll; that he couldn't just walk away from this stuff with a quip and go have a martini. Just rewatching some bits this morning, and I was struck by Craig's eyes at the end of the parkour chase - he's in the embassy yard, holding a gun to a man's head and has several soldiers pointing rifles at him - and his eyes are just blank. There's no fear, no spark, no sign of any emotion: he was sent to do a job, and he'll get it done, no matter what the cost. It would be nice if he could get it done quietly and be a scapel instead of a club, but it will get done, even if it whittles the club down a bit more.

I enjoyed seeing a Bond who was tough and capable but also paying a price; it gives the characters more places to go and it also was a more modern reflection of our concepts of masculinity and male bravado that I appreciated. A Bond film that acknowledged that Bond was not really a healthy person while still being a fun movie.

And whatever the faults with the poker scene, I was tickled to see a Bond film in which a plan to take down a villain involved a game rather than a blow-out fight sequence.
posted by nubs at 11:54 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

I was pretty tickled at "tickling my balls"
posted by numaner at 11:59 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, who wasn't?
posted by nubs at 12:28 PM on October 15, 2015

My ex-boyfriend, who is an adorable, kinky bear, went to see this movie with his mother. So when the chair with a hole in the seat and the knotted rope came out and she asked him what they were for...

Oooh, yeah, I am going to talk about this some more because this is also the first movie to really, really go all-in (no pun intended) on sexually objectifying James Bond. I like that the last few Brosnan movies also started to really think about gender roles vis-a-vis being a character in a movie series all about male-centric fantasy, and with Craig we really start to see the evolution of that thought. Not only do we have beefcake-y shots of Craig emerging from the ocean, we also have this scene where he's taking a submissive position in a setup that is being used as torture in the film but is a kink thing people do for fun in real life. And I would argue it's pretty lovingly sexualized, with that extended focus on Bond's facial expressions as he goes through the torture. Bond gets tortured in Die Another Day too but it mostly isn't shown on screen and definitely isn't shown in terms of things being done to Bond's body.

To me, this objectification is not just a nod to the idea that hey, maybe women (and other people attracted to dudes, but specifically straight women because it's women who have been objectified in Bond in the past) are watching this movie and the films can't assume the male gaze. It's also a nod to the idea that Bond basically is an object in a lot of the plots. Since the very beginning he has been fighting with MI6 over his own agency. (Haha, he's an agent without agency.)
posted by capricorn at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Having read the books multiple times before, I started wincing as soon as the chair scene started. My wife could tell I was uncomfortable, but couldn't figure out why. I waived it off, because I knew they wouldn't take the movies that far. I prefer the movies that are more faithful to the spirit of the books, but I'd resigned myself to the Hollywood changes.

But then the scene continues, and it does go there. It was the strangest feeling, to be so happy and so uncomfortable at the same time.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:10 PM on October 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

*I really just mean Casino Royale and Skyfall because everyone told me Quantum of Solace sucked so I didn't see it.

Everyone says this (not actually everyone but an overwhelming majority) and I entirely disagree. QOS is the perfect follow-up to CR. It feels like the third act of that story. I honestly don't know why people hate it so much. Maybe it couldn't live up to CR but for me its a perfect companion piece - and the first proper sequel in the franchise. I'm sure I'll rant some more in the QOS thread.
posted by crossoverman at 6:39 PM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

The opening scene, the bathroom fight, completely rewrites Bond movies.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:45 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

This has been on TV for the last couple of weeks so I got to watch it again, and was taken aback by how good it is. Partly because the scale is so small - in Skyfall, the scale is sort of Enormous Small (it's just a house, yes, but the whole thing gets blown up in a giant fireball); In Quantum of Solace you have a modernist hotel standing in for the super villain's base, and it's perfectly effective (I think, anyway), but nowhere near as effective as a total stranger bursting into the room and shooting the super villain in the head, because that works in relation to the intimacy we've built up over the preceding hour or so. Solace works to put the stunts and the scale back in, but I think Skyfall integrates them much more effectively. It currently looks like Spectre is going to go for full-on operatic, and hopefully that will be just as much fun.

At the time Casino Royale came out there was a lot around about how it was the Bourne-izing of Bond, but to be honest (as the Bourne films also turn up a lot on TV), I'd say Casino Royale is much more effective, without the insanely complex and circuitous plotting that the Bourne films seem to have.
posted by Grangousier at 11:32 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

This has been on TV for the last couple of weeks so I got to watch it again, and was taken aback by how good it is. Partly because the scale is so small...

Which is one of the big reasons I love From Russia with Love, as well. Bond works best when scaled back to something a bit more human-scale, and a distinct lack of gadgetry.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:46 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is a terrific movie and absolutely saved the franchise (until it almost blew up again thanks to behind-the-scenes mismanagement). As many have mentioned, this is Bond the blunt instrument, and, in general, his thoughtlessness about himself is on broad display. The parkour-vs-running-through-the-wall is one aspect, the woman he sleeps with in the Bahamas is another. She dies and it.. somewhat affects him? But she was really just a drink to him, in sexual terms. Something to be consumed and then forgotten.

But then Vesper. He so desperately wants her. I think it almost frightens him. He starts by trying to impress her with his "witty" lines, of course, because that's what a man does. But that scene after the attack where he finds her in the shower and simply sits there with her, literally taking the damage off of her fingers into himself? Amazing. Her fate breaks him. He loses everything he gained, everything that made him better. "The job's done and the bitch is dead". Oh James, it turns out that you might have had a soul, and found out just how dangerous that is in this job.

One final point: that line about "the bitch is dead" deflects not so much M's concern, as her interest in Vesper's motivations. It highlights the difference between M's job and 007's. She's a chess master, he's a pawn. She has to see the whole board, and he only needs to see what's in front of him. If you think about it, most of the plot-driving revelations are from Mathis, Vesper, or Felix. Bond is just the shark, always moving forward, not really thinking at all.
posted by aureliobuendia at 10:00 PM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Does anyone know if the "blunt instrument" description pre-dates Warren Ellis's usage in his essay on what he'd do with Bond from back in 2002?

He is England’s blunt instrument of international assault — the spiteful, vicious bastard of a faded empire that still wants the world to do as it’s bloody well told.

I assume the more common parlance at this point is down to M's usage of the term in this movie, but it is such a perfect description of this version of the character.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:19 AM on October 17, 2015

I think it goes back to the Fleming novels, but I'm not absolutely sure.

The Craig films are certainly about what happens to a person when you use them as a hammer.

I tend to think that the most interesting meditations on masculinity are in movies and TV (Breaking Bad, for example), and Craig's Bond is one of the best for me. The "Bitch is dead" line always read to me as fronting the situation out, a bravado. It's very interesting the way they use the fact that he answers to a matriarchal figure throughout the three films (most subtle here, most blatant (of course) in Skyfall). He's allowed his emotions to put him into a position of very embarrassing failure, so obviously he's going to redouble the bravado. In Skyfall, when they're talking about Moneypenny and Mallory not being suited to the field, it's because they realise that it will eventually result in their death - physical, very likely, but inevitably a kind of emotional and psychological death. They are able to see that abyss and step back from it. Bond sees it and can't do anything other than leap into it.

I personally like the way that this carries through into his relationship with Camille in Quantum of Solace (which is definitely, and understandably given the story of its production, a curate's egg of a film, but I really don't see it as a disaster) - someone else who is freefalling into that abyss.

So Casino Royale is his journeyman period - it begins with his first (and second) killing and ends with him suiting up in an armour of callousness.
posted by Grangousier at 3:39 PM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed Casino Royale, and I felt that both Quantum of Solace and Skyfall (the former particularly) really suffered in comparison, because I felt like they actually forgot all the things that made Casino Royale such a breath of fresh air, so invigorating and present; they preserved the veneer but actually slip back into the Bond of yesteryear, with their ridiculous plotting (Skyfall the worst offender here), garish supervillain and world-ending plots.

There were moments I enjoyed in both subsequent films, but they were always counter-balanced by moments of utter stupidity that I found intensely irritating. Royale, I feel is, if not more than the sum of its parts, at least equal. Quantum of Solace and Skyfall both are definitely less, however. Moments of pure enjoyment constantly tempered by laziness in scripting, directing, acting.

Royale is so tight compared to the others, it's as lean as Bond himself. I fear it's a high water mark we may never repeat.
posted by smoke at 4:43 PM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

1. During the parkour chase, the henchman flings himself horizontally through a ventilation cutout at the top of a wall. Two seconds later, Bond runs through the fucking wall.

When I saw this in the theatre, the entire audience spontaneously cheered at that moment.

I'm with Naberius on the utter perfection of this film. What makes it exquisite for me, however, is that it is not only perfect as a Bond film--it's perfect as a film, period.

And I really, really loved the mirroring of the friendly-slash-sexual-harassment banter of Bond/Moneypenny with that absolutely deadly interchange with Vesper on the train. I love that he doesn't even have an inkling that she has an agenda throughout that whole conversation--she's trying to get him into bed to get something out of him, just like Bond has done to so many women in the past. It was a very clever and pretty subtle punctuation of the idea that these aren't going to be the Bond films of the past. QoS, for all its suckitude, was the next major statement on the theme--the events ran on directly from the end of CR, which I think? is unusual for Bond. Up until CR it was very episodic, not a lot of continuity from one movie to the next. The new series of movies kinda reflect, I think, the shift from episodic TV to longform storytelling.

Anyway this is the best movie and I will commit a heresy: Connery may have planted the flag, but Craig owns the whole mountain.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:26 PM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

People bag on QoS and I was underwhelmed by it but nowhere near as bored as I was during Skyfall. Like everyone else I loved this one. It was a delivery of the tease I felt I got with the return to a tough bond with Dalton.
posted by phearlez at 7:58 PM on October 18, 2015

In the novel You Only Live Twice, the villain calls Bond “a common thug, a blunt instrument wielded by dolts in high places.”

And in a 1962 interview, Fleming said “When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument.”
posted by mbrubeck at 9:01 AM on October 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

Royale is so tight compared to the others, it's as lean as Bond himself. I fear it's a high water mark we may never repeat.

I have high hopes for Spectre and the early reviews have been mostly good. Not that it matters because I'll probably be seeing it two or three times regardless.

Connery may have planted the flag, but Craig owns the whole mountain.

Absolutely. I think Connery was the right Bond for his time and Craig is the right Bond for now.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:46 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I LOVED this movie and have to admit I think it's actually my favorite Bond movie of all time. There were so many delicious moments, so much good stuff that made you think and feel while you still totally believed you were watching James Bond.

My only nitpick is that I didn't quite buy that he fell so deeply for Vesper. I'm not sure what made her so different from all the other clever and strong women he bedded throughout the years? But that's a minor flaw for me in an otherwise excellent movie.

I had pretty much given up on Bond after the Brosnan years, but this brought me right back into the fold. I wasn't excited about Daniel Craig when I first heard about the casting, but he's actually my favorite Bond. A ruthless killer with a chip on his shoulder who can codeswitch to upper crust with the best of them - that's what Bond should be, IMO.
posted by widdershins at 1:15 PM on October 23, 2015

Because she made Bond think she needed him--none of the other women Bond-as-a-character have ever been involved with have had much need beyond "yet another asshole is trying to kill me; I need revenge and then I will vanish." Vesper made Bond believe that she needed him specifically, not just any dude who could keep her from getting killed.

Being needed for himself, as opposed to being needed by Queen And Country for his sociopathic skills, is unusual for Bond and so he was uniquely vulnerable to Vesper's own agenda.

On top of that, she also challenged him ("How is your lamb?" "Skewered;" "This suit is tailored") in a way that is new for him. Bond is used to running into women who are unspeakably sexy, very clever--and totally submissive. Vesper insisted that he meet her on her terms, not his. And then she went on (though he didn't realize it until the end) to treat him precisely as he has treated so many women through the years--as an object to use, to trifle with, and to discard when it has outlived its purpose.

Small wonder she had such an impact on his life--she is his mirror.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:47 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I read reddit so you don't have to: The whole point of the film is the last 20 minutes.
The whole point of Casino Royale is to get Bond to the last 20 minutes and then shatter him. So now Vesper's in the picture and Bond starts to have those first niggling thoughts about what his life might have been like outside government service. He's falling for her after the train scene -- if you're a heterosexual man with a pulse you've fallen for her after the train scene -- and he's definitely all the way there by the time he finds her shivering under the shower. It's not too late for him to leave MI:6 and do something else if she'll have him. Happily, she will, but he's already seen that she has no appetite for what he does professionally, and he has no appetite for it either if it limits what he now sees of the future. To borrow a phrase from that outstanding soliloquy from Rowan Pope on Scandal, he loves her in part because she is a door marked Exit.
The last gasp of the old Bond is in the torture scene. Remove Vesper from it entirely and Bond's modus operandi is fairly straightforward: Torture me, don't torture me, kill me, don't kill me ... you're not getting the money either way so fuck you, who cares. Up yours, frogface. The only point at which he evinces actual concern over the proceedings is when he hears Vesper begin to scream. Now he has a reason to care about the outcome, but he passes into unconsciousness without knowing that Vesper's already cut the deal that saves his life.
And that's why Vesper has to die.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:23 PM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

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