The James Bond franchise is the very definition of variable quality. The highs – Skyfall, Goldfinger, GoldenEye – are incredible, while the lows are excruciating. Die Another Day’s invisible car was so poorly-received that it led indirectly to the franchise’s rebirth in 2006’s Casino Royale, which recast Bond in the Bourne mould; gritty, edgy, and grounded in reality.
To this day, Casino Royale remains the best James Bond movie, despite a host of contenders for that throne. Skyfall is a more effective celebration of the franchise in its entirety, and Spectre may boast more flamboyant setpieces, but Casino Royale integrates everything fans love about Bond into a package that’s easier to swallow if you have no taste for the over-the-top antics of Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. Here’s why Casino Royale is still the best Bond movie.
If you want to tell a story about espionage, there are few places better to set that story than a casino. Poker is the obvious choice; as participants watch one another for tells, so can Bond watch his opponents to see if their masks slip and they reveal themselves as his enemies. The glitz and glamour also match Bond’s slick, smooth aesthetic, and this proved to be the case in Casino Royale.
If you’re setting up a Casino Royale watch party – which we highly recommend you do – then it can be fun to try and recreate the casino ambience yourself. Try putting up some casino-themed decorations around the house, and fire up a casino site like novibet.co.uk to play some casino favourites. You’d be amazed how much this can enhance the viewing experience!
In the years leading up to the release of Casino Royale, the James Bond franchise had lost its way a little. While Pierce Brosnan had revitalised the ailing series with the suave, likeable GoldenEye, his subsequent outings as Bond lacked that movie’s instant charm. Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough were serviceable action movies, but Die Another Day was a truly execrable offering.
With that in mind, the time was ripe for Bond to be reborn, and Eon found its golden boy in Daniel Craig. Whisper it, but some say he’s a better fit for the role than even the legendary Sean Connery was. Craig’s Bond is just as smooth as his predecessors, but there’s a harder edge to him that makes Casino Royale a far more satisfying action movie than previous instalments.
The flying cars and ridiculous gadgets of the Bond movies may have been a staple for many, but Casino Royale proved that they weren’t essential elements for a successful Bond adventure. Of course, Craig’s Bond does get some toys to play with, but they’re decidedly less outlandish than those of the Brosnan era; a mobile phone, a microchip tracker, and a portable defibrillator are all prosaic in comparison to Q’s previous inventions. Sure, there was the explosive keychain, but we all need to have our fun.
It wasn’t just in the gadgets that Casino Royale employed a back-to-basics approach, either. The cinematography and narrative structure of the movie are much clearer than they’ve ever been; Bond is yet to earn his license to kill, and must prove himself to the Crown by taking down Mads Mikkelsen’s icy Le Chiffre. Everything in Casino Royale is more muted and understated than previous Bond movies, which just makes the action feel more weighted.
Despite something of a backlash at the time of its release, Chris Cornell’s theme song for Casino Royale has been reassessed in recent years. It matches the vibe of the movie perfectly; as you might expect from Cornell, the song is a tough, guitar-driven rock number, but it does have plenty of the orchestral theatrics that characterise classic Bond themes as well.
Cornell’s theme is a mixture of lush sonics and heavy rock, which echoes Bond’s transformation. While much of Casino Royale is still immaculate suits and high-stakes poker games, there’s an underlying dirt and darkness that is evoked brilliantly by “You Know My Name”. Cornell may have left us far too soon, but his contribution to this evergreen franchise will be remembered as one of its best.
Of course, the James Bond movies are essentially fantasy; espionage doesn’t really work the way it does in Bond’s escapades, which Q brilliantly highlights in 2012’s Skyfall. If you want a primer on the realities of spy work, you’re better off with the work of John le Carre, which is still heavily fictionalised but which gets much closer to how spies actually operate.
Despite this discrepancy, in Casino Royale, we actually get to see Bond carry out some real spy work. He’s infiltrating a terrorist organisation, which is a far cry from previous Bond movies, in which much of the narrative was simply an excuse to move from overblown set piece to overblown set piece. Craig is a perfect fit for this more industrious, diligent Bond, too.
These are just some of the reasons that Casino Royale is our favourite Bond movie. It soared over its predecessors, and it hasn’t been bettered by subsequent instalments either, not least by the depressingly confusing Quantum of Solace. As far as we’re concerned, the Bond franchise has plenty of mileage left in it, and whoever takes over after Craig will have some very big shoes to fill indeed.