From its stark black-and-white opening to its bloody cliffhanger ending, Casino Royale makes a statement: This isn’t the James Bond you remember. No punny one-liners. No ridiculous gadgets. No cartoonish henchmen. It’s just Bond, his girl, his fists, and his wits against a world-class threat in the form of underworld banker Le Chiffre, played by Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen.
Consider this scene. In it, Bond’s expert poker playing has bankrupted Le Chiffre, forcing the criminal to take drastic measures. He takes Bond hostage, strips him naked, and ties him to a bottomless chair. Then the torture begins. With a knotted rope, Le Chiffre repeatedly smacks Bond’s most vulnerable and valued organ, trying to get Bond to give up the password that’ll unlock his poker winnings. What follows isn’t just one of Craig’s best scenes as Bond. It tells you everything you need to know about this new, modern double-oh-seven, and makes it almost impossible not to fall in love with him. Here’s what we mean.
The old James Bond ended up in plenty of dangerous situations, but it rarely felt like he was ever in genuine trouble. For many fans, that was part of his charm. Whether he’s strapped to a table with a laser heading towards his crotch, tossed in a tank full of sharks, or locked up in a North Korean prison, it’s not a question of whether or not he’ll survive. It’s a matter of how.
In Casino Royale’s torture scene, things are different. Bond is trapped, and he doesn’t just endure a few bruises or scratches. He takes a legitimate beating at Le Chiffre’s hands. We’ve never seen double-oh-seven like this before: stripped down, in pain, and completely helpless.
He’s exposed psychologically, too. He knows he’s in a helpless situation. He knows there’s no help coming, and that, despite his prowess at the card table, he’s overplayed his hand. He’s worried about his love interest Vesper Lynd, and realizes that his affection for her exposed a weak spot that Le Chiffre can exploit. Physically, he’s a mess. Mentally, he’s a raw nerve. At one point, he finally loses his cool. His facade crumbles for a second as all of his carefully suppressed anger bursts out:
Then, Bond loses. He doesn’t miraculously break free of Le Chiffre’s ropes. He doesn’t dispatch the enemy using fancy doo-dads or near-supernatural fighting skills. He only survives because a mysterious third party interrupts, and because, as we learn later, Vesper bargained for his life.
The implication is clear: This is a Bond who can be defeated. This is a Bond who can be broken. That changes everything. Craig’s Bond isn’t superhuman. He can die like everyone else. As a result, every action scene that Craig’s Bond is in has real stakes. We’ve seen him fail before. Who’s to say it couldn’t happen again?
His vulnerability | 0:00
His old-school flavor | 2:52
His sense of humor | 4:37
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The One Casino Royale Scene That Makes Us Love Daniel Craig As James Bond | Netflix