“Casino Royale” is an adaptation of the first Bond novel by Ian Fleming. It’s a film that takes Bond back to his roots, and in doing so lets us discover him (or rediscover him) and form a new appreciation for the man behind the mythos. It’s the only time Bond truly meets his match: not in villain form, but in female form, presumably. the wife, one of the few he ever loved.
The film brings back Martin Campbell, who directed “GoldenEye”, the introduction to Pierce Brosnan and another of the best Bond films. “GoldenEye” is the origin of this choice expression “sexist misogynistic dinosaur” in the series. Between this and “Casino Royale,” a new breed of Hollywood action heroes had emerged. His name was Jason Bourne and he was, of course, played by Matt Damon, an actor who once called Bond an “imperialistic, misogynistic sociopath.”
Bourne influenced the new Bond aesthetic (just ask Doug Liman), but “Casino Royale” submerges hand-to-hand combat, love, and loss in an altogether different globetrotting story. It kicks off with a brutal black-and-white bathroom brawl, featuring a more brutal Bond than we’ve ever seen. He smashes men’s heads in urinals and drowns them in water from the sink.
It comes via flashback, as Bond sits in the office of the man who is going to be his second confirmed kill. He finishes the guy’s sentences for him, and at this point we can also finish Bond’s sentences. As Chris Cornell’s title track tells us, we know his name. We know this whole game, the rules of Bond. Yet, as Cornell sings, they are about to “change the game we play.”