Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorists, is scheduled to participate in a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro, where he intends to use his winnings to establish his financial grip on the terrorist market. M sends Bond – on his maiden mission as a 00 Agent – to attend this game and prevent Le Chiffre from winning. With the help of Vesper Lynd and Felix Leiter, Bond enters the most important poker game in his already dangerous career.
The only thing missing from Casino Royale is a truly memorable theme song. Otherwise, this has almost everything you could want from a Bond movie, plus qualities you didn’t expect they’d even try for. It does all the location-hopping, eye-opening stunt stuff and lavish glamour expected of every big-screen Bond, but also delivers a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Fleming’s short, sharp, cynical book with the post-WWII East-vs.-West backdrop persuasively upgraded to a post 9/11 War on Terror.
From Goldfinger on — especially in the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan films — the usual gambit has been to open with a pre-credits sequence highlighting amazing stuntwork and a larger-than-life exploit. Here, with a new actor cast as a Bond only just issued with his license to kill, we get an intense, black and white scene set in an office in Prague. Bond has just killed his first man – as shown in brief, brutal fight flashbacks which strain the 12A rating – and confronts a traitor in British Intelligence, exchanging pointed dialogue which leads to the ice-cold agent’s demonstration that the second killing is easier (‘Considerably’). The famous iris pose brings in colour, and a brilliantly-designed (shame about the song) titles sequence that highlights not an anonymous beauty but the silhouette of Daniel Craig himself.
For a few reels, Casino Royale lets the new boy settle in to what could almost be a Brosnan or Dalton movie – hard-hitting, but tinged with the fantastical. Bond goes off the map to harry the organisation of ‘banker to the world’s terrorists’ LeChiffre, with a beddable beach beauty along the way, and a thwarted attack on a super-sized jet aeroplane which could have been the climax of any other adventure. Then, with a notable click into focus, the movie segues into Fleming’s tight, twisted plot. Readers will be amazed to find the book’s most memorable scene (involving a wicker chair with the bottom cut out) is included, as is Bond’s brutal Mickey Spillane-ish last line (though, here, he doesn’t quite mean it).