Released in 2006, Casino Royale was the first Daniel Craig Bond film and quickly became a modern classic in the James Bond series, serving as a reboot of the character and a departure from the series’ previous entries.
Starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, the film takes a darker, more realistic approach to the character’s origin story and his first mission as a 00 agent.
After the outcry the producers endured for casting a blond haired, blue eyed Bond (how dare they?), the film was very well received and was a critical and box office success, and is regarded by many as one of the best Bond films of all time.
In this post, we delve into the reasons why Casino Royale is regularly voted as one of the best James Bond movies. We look at Daniel Craig’s performance as Bond, and also that of the Bond villains and Bond girls.
We also take a look at some of the best moments and scenes in the film, and discuss why the producers omitted long term characters Q and Miss Moneypenny.
At the start of Casino Royale, Bond assassinates a traitorous British Embassy contact, Dryden, in Prague, and is then awarded his 00-agent status and a licence to kill.
Meanwhile in Uganda, a certain Mr White introduces Steven Obanno, a high-ranking member of the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda to Le Chiffre, a private banker to terrorists. Obanno gives Le Chiffre $100 million to invest for him.
Bond is then sent to Madagascar, on his first 00-mission, to capture bomb-maker called Mollaka. He is supposed to take Mollaka alive, but the bomb maker sees him and tries to get away. Bond pursues him over a Madagascan building site, before Mollaka runs into an Embassy.
Bond goes in there and causes a mini war among the Mollaka and the Embassy guards. Bond eventually shoots Mollaka but is caught on camera, and it’s reported as he’s killed an unnamed prisoner.
Bond takes Mollaka’s backpack, and he finds a bomb and Mollaka’s cell phone, and he notices a US phone number alonside the word ‘ELLIPSES’. Back in London, M admonishes Bond for his reckless behaviour for causing an unnecessary international incident.
Bond discovers through the cell phone data a call linked between Mollaka and someone in The Bahamas. Bond tracks down the caller to a certain Alex Dmitrios, a wealthy Greek henchman who had hired Mollaka to bomb the launch of a prototype airliner, Skyfleet, so Le Chiffre could short the company with the $100m.
Bond beats Dimitros at cards, taking all his money and his 1964 Aston Martin from him. He then seduces his wife, Solange, to get more information about him. He learns that he’s going to Miami that night, so he leaves Solange alone and heads straight to Miami himself.
Bond follows Dimitrios to the Body Worlds exhibition and sees him leave a bag with the check in staff. Dimitrios puts the bag claim tag on a table for someone to pick up and confronts Bond.
In the busy hall Bond and Dimtrios square up and Bond turns the knife that Dimitrios has on him and kills him. But Bond notices the bag claim token has gone and quickly pursues the man, Carlos, hired to take it.
Carlos goes to Miami airport and sets off the emergency sprinkler system in the building to cause chaos that allows him to get onto the tarmac. Bond is chasing him and works out the password to get through security doors is ELLIPSES.
On the tarmac, Carlos kills the driver of a refuelling tanker and attaches an explosive to it, and starts driving it towards the Skyfleet airliner. Bond manages to leap onto the tanker, and the two have a vicious fight around the runways.
Carlos leaps off the truck as Bond takes control of it, and he just stops it from ramming into the brand new airliner. Bond is then arrested by Miami police on the tarmac as a smiling Carlos presses his remote to detonate the explosive.
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However, Bond had taken the explosive off the tanker and attached it to Carlos’ belt, and so the terrorist ends up blowing himself up. With the Skyfleet airliner untouched, the stock price has remained ok, and so Le Chiffre loses the $100m he used to short the Skyfleet stock.
Frustrated, Le Chiffre decides to recoup his clients’ losses by organizing a high-stakes Texas hold ’em tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. MI6 enters Bond, their best poker player, into the tournament, believing that a defeat will force Le Chiffre to seek asylum with the British government in exchange for information on his clients.
Bond travels by train to Montenegro with a young woman named Vesper Lynd – a British Treasury agent overseeing the $10 million buy-in. During their dinner conversation, Vesper observes Bond’s aloof demeanor, while Bond notes Vesper’s fastidiousness, and it’s clear the two don’t like each other.
Bond and Lynd meet their contact, René Mathis in Montenegro who fills them in with all the information. The game of poker begins and Bond loses a big hand to Le Chiffre early on, but he clais to have done so to work out Le Chiffre’s reactions.
During a break in the game, Le Chiffre heads back to his room after a call from his mistress Valenka. However, he’s confronted by Ugandan warlord Steven Obanno and his henchman, who’re demanding the $100m back. They threaten to cut Valenka’s arm off, but allow them to live to give him time to get the money.
As they leave his room they see Bond, who’s in the corridor with vesper, but they notcie Bond’s earpiece and so they attack them. A fight ensues into the fire escape, and Bond throws the henchman down the stairwell to his death.
Bond and Obanno fight all the way down the stairwell, and then Obanno wields the machete, but Bond overcomes him and strangles him. Vesper is there, and is shaken from seeing people killed, so Bond has to comfort her.
The next session of the card game goes ahead, but Bond loses his $10 million stake after Le Chiffre is tipped off about his cards. Vesper refuses to authorize the additional $5 million for Bond to continue, but another player, an American CIA Agent, Felix Leirter, who’s there to arrest Le Chiffre allows Bond to play for him, as long as the CIA can take him afterwards.
Back at the tables, Le Chiffre’s lover, Valenka, poisons Bond’s martini, which causes Bond to suffer severe tachycardia. Bond notices what’s happening and runs out to his car to get help from medical specialists at HQ.
They try and explain what to do with the defibrillator, but a loose wire stops it from working and so Bond loses consciousness alone in the car. Vesper runs out, and plugs the loose wiore in which then sends a charge to Bond’s heart and starts it working again.
Bond returns to the game all shaken, but coherent. The game comes down to the final hand when all four players go all in. Bond wins the game with a straight flush and with it over $120m, leaving Le Chiffre with nothing.
Vesper is then abducted by Le Chiffre after being set up by Mathis. Bond gives chase in his Aston Martin DBS and almost runs Vesper over who’d been left on the road. Bond manages to skirt around her but his car crashes and rolls over several times.
Both Bond and Vesper are then taken to a hideaway by Le Chiffre and his henchmen. Le Chiffre wants the password for bank and tortures Bond. Suddenly gunshots are heard and Mr White walks in and shoots Le Chiffre dead.
The next thing Bond knows he’s regaining consciousness at a hospital in Montenegro. Vesper is there, and they were the only two that weren’t killed by Mr White and his henchmen. At the hospital as Bond gains strength he and Vesper openly share their love for each other, with Bond promising he will resign from MI6 so they can start a new life together.
The couple sail to Venice, but things take a dark turn when M informs Bond that his winnings were never transferred to the British treasury. Vesper has told him she’s popping out after getting a call, so Bond calls the Siss banker who promises the money was transferred.
He looks at the bank details and tells him the money is actually being withdrawn there and then. This leads Bond to suspect that Vesper has betrayed him. He then tracks her down and follows her, seeing her hand over the money.
The man sees Bond and the shot at each other which ruptures the flotation bags that hold the building above water-level and kills the men. Vesper is in the elevator, which sinks into the Grand Cnala as the building collapses.
Bond dives down to free Vesper but he can’t get the elevator door open in time and she drowns. Bond recovers her body and takes her above water but is unable to revive her. Mr. White is seen leaving with the suitcase full of money.
M explains to Bond that Vesper had betrayed him to save their lives. It was probably the only way them two had been the only survivors when Mr White had killed Le Chiffre, and she said she would be able to get the money for him.
Bond then picks up Vesper’s phone and notices a message she had sent for him. When he opens it the message reads ‘Mr White’ with his phone number.
Bond tracks Mr. White to an estate in Lake Como, where he awaits him. WHen White turns up, Bond calls him from his cell phone and tells him they need to talk. Mr White asks who he is, but is then shot in the leg.
As Mr White is crawling on the ground, Bond confronts him with his Heckler & Koch UMP-9 submachine gun and tells him, ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond.‘ as the film ends.
Daniel Craig as Bond
Daniel Craig had a tougher start to his Bond career than any other actor before him. A blond haired-blue eyed Bond, how dare they? Well, they did, and he and the producers were berated for it, but after the critical reception of Casino Royale, it seemed like he ameliorated the decision.
The film was a new beginning, not just for a different looking Bond, but for Bond himself. It takes us back to his early days and he’s not even a 00- at the start of the film. He gets his promotion and causes an international disaster on his fist mission in Madagascar.
M was livid, but just as the watching public did, she forgave his faux pas. The scene in Madagascar is up there with the very best action sequences. Craig did many of his own stunts, and the fight and chase over the Madagascan building site is both enthralling and a perfect tonic for the next 2 hours.
If a young Sean Connery was in shape, then Daniel Craig in Casino Royale was on another Mr Universe level. The scene where he walks out of the ocean with his muscles ripping in the sunlight is almost as iconic as Honey Rider‘s in Dr. No.
Slight exaggeration maybe, but when you compare his physique to his films in the years before Casino Royale, it shows how committed Craig was to his new role.
So, the blond hulk who could put Bruce Willis to shame with his action scenes, Daniel Craig has to be an all action hero, no? Not quite. He’s definitely great at the action, but we see a new darker and grittier Bond with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
Not too dissimilar to Timothy Dalton in his two films The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). As with Dalton, Craig is more grounded, fallible, and serious, and he’s also quite an emotional chap too.
He meets and falls in love with Vesper Lynd, a British Treasury exec that’s sent to Macedonia with him. The two distance themselves from each other at first, but as time goes by, they start to bond, and she even saves his life.
Like George Lazenby‘s Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), he is determined to quit MI6 and spend a new life with his dear love, but as it did back then it ends in tragedy for a smitten Bond.
But Bond’s personal torture is good for us, because it meant that Daniel Craig would be back, and more importantly it also meant that he’d be back playing James Bond, 007, instead of a former agent.
The main villain in Casino Royale is Le Chiffre. Portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, he’s a complex and compelling character in the James Bond franchise. As the main antagonist, Le Chiffre has the scars and dour personality expected of a Bond villain, but instead of being driven by pure greed, he’s a gambler who loses his clients money.
It just so happens that his clients are some of the world’s most dangerous criminals and terrorists, and his entrusted fortune would have been safe if it wasn’t for Bond being on his case.
A mathematical genius, an expert chess player, and a talented banker, Le Chiffre is associated to criminal organizations around the world through a certain Mr White. They get to wash their money through him, but he uses the money to short stocks knowing that a disaster is going to happen to certain companies.
He loses over $100 million shorting Skyfleet stock, because he arranges for a bomb to blitz its new airliner at its grand opening. Bond averts the explosion, stopping the stock price from tumbling and ultimately losing Le Chiffre all of his clients money.
Le Chiffre’s intelligence is both a strength and a weakness, because he arranges a game of high stakes poker to try and claw back the money lost. MI6 get Bond in the game, and he and le Chiffre battle it out over a few sessions of cards.
Bond ultimately wins, but Le Chiffre isn’t going to lose more millions, especially when he owes over $100m out. He abducts Bond and Vesper and excruciatingly tortures a naked Bond by slinging a heavy knotted rope into Bond’s double-0-jewels. Ouch!
Ironically, Bond is saved by Mr White, who kills Le Chiffre and all his henchmen because he knows only Bond and Vesper can get the money he won out of the bank he won.
Mads Mikkelsen’s nuanced portrayal of Le Chiffre perfectly captures the character’s calculated and precise demeanor. His calm and collected performance highlights Le Chiffre’s unwavering self-confidence and his ability to manipulate those around him. In many ways, Mikkelsen’s portrayal of the character is the epitome of a classic Bond villain.
Vesper Lynd is much more than just a financial overseer in Casino Royale. As played by the talented Eva Green, she’s a character with depth and complexity that adds a richness to the film’s narrative.
From the moment she steps onto the screen, it’s clear that Vesper is a woman of intelligence and independence, with a sharp wit and an equally sharp tongue. She and Bond clash at first, with neither one shy about sharing their opinions of the other.
But Vesper doesn’t fall for Bond’s charms, remaining professional and focused on her job. In fact, she even overrides Bond’s request for extra funding, seeing his loss of the money as reckless and refusing to enable him further.
As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Vesper is more than just a straight-laced professional. She is a woman with conflicting emotions towards Bond and her own role in the mission. Their relationship evolves over time, with the two falling deeply in love and Bond even promising to leave MI6 to be with her.
However, the plot twists and turns, and Vesper’s true motivations are gradually revealed. Bond and Vesper are the only survivors of their abduction, and it is revealed that Mr. White spared their lives in exchange for Vesper handing over the money in Venice.
When Bond realizes what she has done, it’s too late. Vesper has stolen the money, but only to save them from being killed. Tragically, as she becomes caught up in the violence of the finale, she ultimately takes her own life out of shame.
Played by Catarina Murino, Solange Dimitrios is the first Bond girl of the Daniel Craig era. She’s the wife of Alex Dimitrios, a shady but very rich criminal who Bond is investigating in the Bahamas. Solange is depicted as a beautiful and sophisticated woman, unhappy in marriage but trapped by the lure of Dimitrios’ money.
At first, Solange appears to be a passive character who’s content to accompany her husband and play the role of a dutiful wife. Bond beats him at cards and takes his 1964 Aston Martin from him, and not long after takes his wife, too.
Bond charms her easily and offers her a ride back to his villa in his new car for a drink, she seizes the opportunity to escape from her unhappy marriage and is only too willing to go back. The two spend some time in Bond’s hotel before her husband calls to let her know that he has to fly to Miami immediately.
Perfect for the two of them you might think, but Bond put the mission before his own pleasure and heads straight to Miami to follow him, leaving Solange alone at Bond’s place. Bond goes to Miami, kills her husband and averts an explosion at Miami airport, but the next we see of Solange she’s dead in a hammock at her home in the Bahamas.
Bond Chases Mollaka in Madagascar
The scene in Casino Royale where Bond chases the bomber through a building site in Madagascar is an intense and exhilarating sequence that sets the scene not only for the film but for Daniel Craig’s whole tenure as Bond.
The scene starts with Bond and his contact, Carter, staking out the freelance bomber, Mollaka, at a mongoose vs snake fight. Mollaka notices Carter with his ahnd towards his ear piece, which give shim away, so Mollaka runs away.
Bond gives chase onto a construction site in Madagascar, chasing him in a frenzied pursuit through the unfinished building’s scaffolding, cranes, and narrow beams. But Mollaka, who is skilled in freerunning, proves to be too quick and nimble for Bond to get near him.
Watch the scene
Mollaka runs into a nearby embassy thinking he’s gotten away, but Bond jumps in over the barbed wire fence. Bond gets hold of him and tries to take him alive, but has to face off against the Ambassador and embassy guards.
Despite being held at gunpoint and instructed to capture Mollaka alive, Bond shoots him dead along with a gas cylinder nearby, causing an explosion and an opportunity for Bond to escape with Mollaka’s backpack and phone, and all the information he needed.
Bond is poisoned by Le Chiffre’s Mistress
James Bond almost dies after guzzling down a poisoned martini during the game of cards with Le Chiffre. Bond orders a drink, and Le Chiffre’s mistress, Valenka is at the bar and drops some poison in without anyone seeing.
Bond take sa drink and almost immediately feels the onset of poison’s symptoms. Despite his usual suave demeanor, he struggles to maintain his composure as he rises from the table and orders to be dealt out.
The camera mirrors his fading vision, blurring and spinning uncontrollably as he makes his way out to the car. He contacts HQ through the chip in his arm, and they are immediately aware that he’s suffering from ventricular tachycardia.
They explain to Bond how to use the defibrillator, but a dazed Bond struggles to get the kit ready, and just as he tries to send the electric signal to reengage his heart, the signal is lost, and Bond loses consciousness.
Watch the scene
Just as it seems Bond is about to fall into a coma and die, Vesper comes out, reconnects the defibrillator, and gives give the electric shock his heart needs. This revives Bond who suddenly awakens, and eventually staggers to make it back to the poker table.
Casino Royale – A New Beginning
Casino Royale is an action-packed spy thriller that reinvigorated the James Bond franchise with its gritty and realistic portrayal of the iconic spy. With Daniel Craig’s impressive debut as Bond, along with some stunning action sequences and a compelling plot, the movie successfully brought the character back to his roots while still pushing him in new directions.
Beyond its entertainment value, Casino Royale is also notable for its exploration of Bond’s character, showing us a more vulnerable and emotional side of the typically stoic secret agent. Bond’s new to the game, he falls in love, is ready to quit, but ultimately his heart is broken.
Despite facing initial criticism, Daniel Craig proved to be a standout Bond with his debut in Casino Royale. Alongside him, the characters of Le Chiffre and Vesper Lynd, played masterfully by Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green, respectively, were all major ingredients of this modern classic.
Whether you’re a longtime Bond enthusiast or a newcomer to the franchise, Casino Royale is a must-watch.