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Retrospective: Casino Royale (2006)

In the eyes of many film critics and fans of the franchise, Casino Royale remains the best Bond film ever made. Combining the acting gravitas of Daniel Craig and the enigmatic charm of Eva Green, it inarguably set the bar for every new title that came after.

It was Craig at his finest: ineffably British and with a blue-hued gaze that could freeze the most incinerating fire. It was also his first outing in the role, and he entered on a high. When Craig landed the role, it was a turn that defied the naysayers and proved that, as a casting choice, his appointment was impeccable.

15 years after the film’s release, we look at why it remains the pièce de résistance among the series’ slew of box office-breaking titles.

Premier acting, a pop-culture film

There’s no doubting the magnificence of Daniel Craig as an actor. Having assumed the mantle of many more serious roles, from his turn as Tuvia Bielski in Defiance to playing Steve in Munich, he’s proven time and again he can deliver incredible performances.

Able to convey steadfast nobility and stomach-churning inner turmoil as few others can, he brings a weight and gravitas to any part he plays. There’s a class to Craig – a sophistication akin to that of a classic British car whose caliber can never be in doubt.

It’s these qualities he brought to the role of the world’s most famous spy and beloved British man in 2006: Bond. James Bond. Yet while the core character has a seriousness to him, the films – dare we say it – do not. They are, at their core, a pop-culture phenomenon, with a steadfast audience who’ll always turn out to watch them. They’ve nothing left to prove, and so they’re not afraid to have fun.

With a less adept actor, they might run the risk of becoming not only predictable but almost cartoonish with their far-fetched car chases and impossible action sequences. In the hands of Craig, though, the movies have always retained the same impeccable class that first debuted in Casino Royale.

A dark love story and high-stakes action

Now for the other elements that place Casino Royale in a class of its own: principally, queen of the screen Eva Green. Until her addition to the franchise, female love interests were rarely used for more than decoration. Placed in secondary roles within the films, they had little impact on the action.

That changed with Vesper Lynd. Not only beautiful but haughty, sophisticated, and brilliant, she is Bond’s betrayer – but also one of the few women to ever truly get beneath his skin. So brightly does she sparkle on screen that her legacy is felt throughout the films that follow.

Just as key to the storyline is another – more surprising – star: the film’s casino setting. For anyone who’s ever played, the anticipation of the high-stakes games on-screen will be familiar. While casinos have been synonymous with the Bond franchise, the industry has changed since the release of this film, with online casinos becoming a thriving industry. It wouldn’t make a compelling viewing to watch Bond gamble online with various bonuses, but the reality is that many of the sites do offer bonuses to compete with one another. BonusFinder has a great section on their site featuring special offers and promotions for those who want to understand this for themselves. In the meantime, expect Bond to continue to visit land-based casinos, as he has done in almost every film.

Even for those who haven’t felt it in a real-life setting, the expectation and fear inherent in every onscreen move is clear. It’s this, more than anything, that keeps the audience poised on the edge of their seats, hearts pounding in their chests. The film, throughout, is a cat-and-mouse game, and this is never more perfectly exemplified than in its climatic card-playing scene.

A story of trust and betrayal, of sacrifice and sinister villains, Casino Royale is everything a Bond film should be: slick, sophisticated, and unapologetically escapist in the scope of its incredible stunts and unstinting heroics. Everyone should watch it at least once in their lifetime.