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How Casino Royale Introduced The Daniel Craig Era Of James Bond

Daniel Craig wearing sunglasses in front of a plane in Casino Royale.

We’re almost there, James Bond fans. No Time To Die is about to bring Daniel Craig’s era as the modern Bond to a close, and there’s no telling where we’ll be headed next. But the road to this big finale has been a long and twisted path that’s brought 007 from Casino Royale to No Time To Die. Starting with that first Daniel Craig entry, let’s take a look at the modern era of Bond, James Bond, and see how all of the pieces fit; leading to the eventual conclusion that breaks down how No Time To Die caps off Mr. Craig’s legacy. 

While it's likely you've seen Casino Royale, in the event that you haven't, major spoilers ahead!

Daniel Craig shooting down a gun barrel in Casino Royale.

How James Bond Became A 00 Agent

What does it take to become a 00 agent in the world of Casino Royale? Well, it takes two kills, a process that’s discussed between Bond himself and one of those two targets, section chief Dryden (Malcolm Sinclair). Selling state secrets to make some money on the side, Dryden is confronted by the man who will become 007, and killed after failing to take out the proactive Bond.

The first kill in his 00 agent career was an associate of Dryden, known only as Fisher (Darwin Shaw). Presumably an intermediary that helped sell said secrets, as Bond mentions him as Dryden’s “contact,” things definitely do not end well for him. After a massive bathroom brawl, where James Bond presumes to have drowned Fisher, 007 seals his status by making his enemy the gunbarrel kill in Casino Royale’s opening.

Judi Dench and Daniel Craig looking at something grimly in Casino Royale.

James Bond & M: The New Beginning Of A Classic Relationship

Traditionally, the relationship between James Bond and M (Dame Judi Dench) was that of boss and employee. But even towards the end of Pierce Brosnan’s run as 007, that dynamic started to shift towards a more personal nature. With Casino Royale, the groundwork is laid for Bond and M to become something like a rebellious son and his studious mother.

Right from the start, James Bond’s 00 license to kill is exercised, as he kills when he could interrogate. Not to mention, he starts Casino Royale off by using his disdain for authority to access information that only M should have access to. Bond even knows her name, which is typically not addressed in the series, as it’s a matter of secrecy. (Though Skyfall and Spectre officially land on an answer.)

But while 007 doesn’t pay much mind to authority, he does respect M. While he pursues leads that keep leading him up the ladder of Casino Royale antagonists, and uses unconventional means to do so, Bond never looks down on M. Over time, these two will forge a connection that will see the ultimate test in Skyfall.

Jesper Christiansen and Mads Mikkelsen stand around while planning in Casino Royale.

Le Chiffre And Mr. White, Daniel Craig's First Bond Villains

Before Quantum or even SPECTRE were in the picture, there were two enemies that reintroduced the world to the concept of a Bond Villain. For its primary antagonist, Casino Royale brought to life the first baddie to ever square off against 007 in his literary adventures: expert card player Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). Using the world of finance and gambling to bankroll an unknown terror network, the only thing that’s keeping Le Chiffre alive is the money he brings in.

His superior is a figure that James Bond fans now know as a crucial thread throughout the Daniel Craig era of villainy: Mr. White (Jesper Christansen). A shadowy broker who oversees Le Chiffre’s activities in the field, we see little of this Casino Royale antagonist. But when he shows up, there’s usually a good reason; like when Le Chiffre’s failure in cards requires Mr. White to terminate his employment... fatally.

Eva Green takes her seat on the train in Casino Royale.

Vesper Lynd, Daniel Craig's First Bond Heartbreak

Much like the relationship between James Bond and M, Casino Royale picked up the torch from the Pierce Brosnan era when it came to developing the modern Bond woman. An ally from Her Majesty’s Treasury, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) would become the first Bond Woman in the modern era. Arguably, she’d also become the most important, as she represents two crucial lessons James Bond would learn in his first 00 mission.

Falling in love with Vesper Lynd leads to Casino Royale’s unique place in the 007 legacy, as it’s the first time in a while that we see Daniel Craig’s James Bond become romantically invested in a relationship. Planning to quit Her Majesty’s secret service to float around the world with the woman he loves, Bond eventually finds out that Vesper is a double agent working for Le Chiffre. Committing suicide out of the grief she feels in her betrayal, Vesper Lynd’s death is the first crack in the psyche of James Bond; and those fractures will soon begin to spread.

Jeffrey Wright plays cards while Giancarlo Giannini watches in the crowd in Casino Royale.

René Mathis And Felix Leiter, Brothers In Arms

Also assisting James Bond in Casino Royale’s mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre at the poker table are two fellow law enforcers. On the more local end of things, inspector René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) provides Bond intelligence on the ground, helping him navigate Montenegro. Though, by the end of their mission, Le Chiffre plants a seed of doubt that turns out to be false, claiming that “your friend Mathis is really my friend Mathis”. 007 follows that hunch, and Mathis is apprehended shortly after, which will come back to bite him a bit in Quantum of Solace.

But out of the blue, a fellow card player at Casino Royale turns out to be one of James Bond’s most iconic allies: CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). Introducing himself as a “brother from Langley”, Leiter sees potential in Bond’s abilities to break Le Chiffre at the tables. Transferring his remaining funds to 007, in hopes of the CIA making the collar, the once broke James Bond returns to win the day; all thanks to a new old friend.

Daniel Craig checks his phone while armed in Casino Royale.

How The Ending Of Casino Royale Sets Up The Daniel Craig Era

At the end of Casino Royale, Vesper’s suicide leaves James Bond heartbroken and jaded. The old Bond was, for the most part, a risk taker who loved a good drink, female company, and defeating the villains; all in the name of the Crown. But the modern Daniel Craig era sees Bond’s loyalties placed elsewhere, and his motivations defined by personal tragedy. It just so happens this tragedy is a thread to a much greater conspiracy at work.

Apprehending Mr. White in the film’s final moments sees James Bond somewhat return to factory settings; thanks to a tip sent to Bond's phone from the deceased Vesper. But as Quantum of Solace, and each succeeding Craig film will show us, those emotional scars are an integral part of what makes the modern Bond who he is. Plot wise, Mr. White is about to become an essential pawn in a greater game.

However, in terms of James Bond’s character, the hardened killer has a backstory that will drive him to the edge of his own limits time and again. Two factors will come to define Bond in the films to come: loyalty and vengeance. Those twin passions will push 007, with both stakes and consequences gradually rising to a boiling point.

And that’s where Casino Royale leaves the James Bond franchise with its finale, leaving Quantum of Solace to continue the trail. If you’re curious about watching the James Bond movies in order, be it classic or Craig canon, you’ll be able to pick that thread up rather easily. And should it be time to plan your next adventure in theaters, the list of 2021 new movie releases is also available for some post-mission debriefing.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.