The countdown is on for the return of Daniel Craig with one of this year’s biggest action blockbusters with No Time To Die. Craig will once again be assuming the role of secret agent 007 James Bond and this one is going to be packed full of everything we love about Bond.
For Craig, life as Bond began back in 2006 with the release of Casino Royale, which attempted to re-set the Bond character and present his origin story, and how this tough, but yet untested secret agent would become the man every guy wants to be and every woman wants to be with. We’re going right back to the beginning with Casino Royale as we countdown to the release of No Time To Die, and Casino Royale is a great place to start.
After earning 00 status and a licence to kill, Secret Agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) sets out on his first mission as 007. Bond must defeat a private banker funding terrorists in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, Montenegro.
Starting right back at the beginning, New Zealand director Martin Campbell was once again selected to re-introduce audiences to Bond, just like he had done with Pierce Brosnan with Goldeneye, and he started Casino Royale off with a bang! Adapting the first of Ian Fleming’s spy novels, Casino Royale is an incredibly faithful adaptation to the original source novel and keeps much of the plotting and characterization of both Bond and the first Bond girl, Vesper Lynn, although updating it for a modern setting and tieing in elements of contemporary terrorism and money laundering into the plot. Casino Royale also hits audiences hard, and this is felt in the very first scene. Its action scenes are in-your-face and contain some gut-punching moments which reinforce the idea that Craig’s Bond is a new Bond, a tougher Bond, a more capable Bond. Campbell’s direction of Casino Royale reinterprets the landscape of just what a Bond film is, and the audience’s reaction to this film is something altogether completely different.
Buttoning up the tux and stepping into the gun barrel this time is Daniel Craig as secret agent 007 James Bond, and the actor completely makes this character his own. Recalling the devil-may-care flavour of Sean Connery, while also offering up an aggressive and concentrated performance, you buy into Craig performance as Bond here. Craig invests in Bond’s history as a Navy man and a former Special Forces Operator who is now taking on the new challenge of service to Queen and Country within MI6. With his unique charismatic cool and tough guy capability, Craig was effortlessly able to hold the attention of his audience. He’s a peak alpha male, with the coolest cars, the best suits, one hell of a physique, the ability to charm any woman he meets, and to jump into any sort of action at ease. And this made for the most entertaining of viewing experiences.
But stepping aside from his action and heroics, Craig’s Bond is a complex man, who is juggling an intense and dangerous morality and who is having to reconcile with the ugly world in which he operates in. Craig’s performance feeds into the character here and there was a real honesty and integrity that he brought to Bond’s characterization in Casino Royale. Throughout the film, we’re seeing James Bond become James Bond and it’s not until Casino Royale’s ending and the final iconic scene that this man finally becomes the legend. It’s in this final scene where Craig asserts his command over the role and puts his stamp on the character. No one truly does it better as Bond than Craig and audiences couldn’t help but be charmed and inspired by his performance.
Standing next to Craig’s Bond in Casino Royale is the gorgeous Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, the very first Bond girl and the one to steal his cold heart. As Vesper Green shapes the very definition of the Bond girl persona with her performance. Glamourous, confident, intelligent, beautiful, alluring and the first woman who can match Bond and go toe-to-toe with him, Vesper gives Casino Royale it’s character drama and as the interaction of these two eventually grows to that a loving affair, the stage is set for some very big twists that many viewers did not see coming. Like Craig, Green is on top of her game here as Vesper and she helps to bring audiences into the narrative of Casino Royale, while also giving them a unique frame to view Bond in. While there is an amazing romance that is shared between the two of them, Green’s Vesper is also able to recognise the self-destructive character of Bond, along with giving us a reaction to the constant violence that informs the character. In terms of Bond Girls, Green re-characterizes her character here and sets the scene for what audiences should expect from future Bond Girls with Craig’s career as Bond.
Alongside Vesper, another key character to the Bond universe is re-introduced in Casino Royale in the form of the ever-dependable M who is once again played by Dame Judi Dench. Returning to the character after overseeing Pierce Brosnan’s turn as 007, Dench once again provides an interesting foil to Craig’s Bond as M, this time around as an authority figure who is trying to rein in an overly aggressive employee. While there is a respect held between the two of them, here in Casino Royale we see Craig’s Bond testing M and seeing just what he can get away with in terms of operational procedure, while M is far more observant and widely focused than Bond is aware of. But of course she knows he’ll get the job done. Casino Royale is the first chapter of a more intensive relationship between M and Bond and it shapes the canvas for what is to come.
Casino Royale had a big job in re-igniting the flame behind James Bond and this film is all action! From its brutal opening beat down where Bond gains his 00 license, to the film’s showcase of the art of parkour, it’s explosive Miami airport showdown, fights scenes in staircases, Bond’s disturbing torture at the hands of Le Chiffre to the penultimate Venice chase, Casino Royale delivers with the blockbuster spectacle. The action in Casino Royale revolutionizes the Bond franchise and pushes it into a fresh new direction and those who were witness to it couldn’t help but be enthralled by it. Of all of its blockbuster action sequences, its parkour chase scene in Madagascar is definitely the most thrilling and is the first time that we get to see Craig’s Bond let loose. It’s an intensely shot scene that gets your heart rate going and the high-flying energy of this scene is what brands Craig’s Bond as a tougher more extreme character.
Going hand-in-hand with its action scenes, Casino Royale also invests heavily into the glitz and elegance of James Bond’s world and Campbell brings plenty of debonair flair to the big screen here. From locations that stretch from the sun-kissed tropical beaches of the Bahamas to the courtly elegance of Montenegro, Casino Royale pulls back to Ian Fleming’s long-hand and the gentlemanly life that he led, and which would, of course, inspire the world of Bond. And even though it’s heavy on the action, Casino Royale is a very romantic affair and builds on the intimate and passionate relationship that grows between Bond and Vesper. This film is a love story and along with giving Bond plenty of time for romance, it also helps to shape his character and showcase an operative who isn’t as closed off as he first appears, and who for the first time in his life is starting to shed his armour.
Casino Royale set the standard for what James Bond could be for a new generation and Daniel Craig delivered an exceptional performance as the world’s greatest super spy. With Casino Royale, we got the first chapter in a bold new reinvention of the franchise that has become a stalwart of modern blockbuster cinema and audiences sure were pumped to see more of Bond to come.
No Time To Die will arrive in cinemas on October 7.
Image: Sony Pictures