Death is not the end for Sir Sean Connery. The actor will likely spend the afterlife looming over the James Bond franchise the same way he did during his time alive. Connery is forever tied to Bond, defining the character outside of Ian Fleming’s novels and creating a promise of adventure that has captivated audiences since the 1960s.
Connery’s Bond ended up being a prototype for a variety of shades of masculinity throughout the 20th century, a roguish cad who could kill as quickly as he could seduce. Future Bonds, wisely not attempting to capture Connery’s elastic presence, would typically lean into one of those traits. By the late 2000s, Pierce Brosnan had honed in on the “roguish cad” element, happy to play up Bond’s sense of charm with the Cold War over.
Daniel Craig moved the needle in another direction. With 2005’s Casino Royale, Cad was out, cold-hearted killer was in. It was a reboot that revitalized the franchise. And it's the movie you need to watch before it leaves Hulu on November 30. Here's why.
In looking at where to take the franchise after Brosnan’s last performance as Bond in 2002’s Die Another Day, studios wanted to roll back from the special effects which had defined that movie. Recent hits like The Matrix and Minority Report made James Bond look outdated. Q’s special weapons and invisible cars couldn’t hold up, and while some humor was always welcome, it risked undercutting the action.
Casino Royale, which in an earlier iteration had once been a Bond parody, emerged as a hard reboot of the franchise. Gone was Miss Moneypenny, gone was John Cleese as Q, gone was the double-oh. One thing that wisely stayed was Judi Dench as M. But while the movie sticks to the Bond script, it tries to flip expectations whenever possible.
It’s most recognizable in the film’s first scene. Even during the dog days of formulaic Bond films, the opening scene has always remained a tour de force. Disconnected from the rest of the plot, the opener of any Bond film is a showcase, a pure action sequence meant to awe. (Though the upcoming No Time to Die is poised to break that tradition.)
Casino opens in black and white. Even when Sean Connery was headlining Dr. No, James Bond wasn’t in color. But the minimalism works, letting the audience watch Craig drown someone in a toilet. His death is visceral and painful to watch. When asked if he had a good death, Craig responds no.
Recalling noir more than Bond, Craig soon kills his target, a traitor within British intelligence. The film very much wants to emphasize that James Bond is a person who kills other people. While he gets off a one-liner, it feels crueler than before. The movie then jumps into one of the franchise’s best title sequences alongside one of its best songs, Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name.”
The mid-2000s were notable for their gritty reboots — Casino Royale came out the same year as Batman Begins. But while Casino Royale is a gritty reboot, it also captures the sense of wonder that would accompany the franchise’s heyday: the idea that buying a ticket to a Bond movie was buying a ticket to a sensory experience you couldn’t get anywhere else. That’s an idea that trickles throughout Casino, right down to the tears of blood from Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre — fantastic as an evil banker who might be over his head when taking money from warlords.
Casino Royale builds a new Bond mythology from scratch, emphasizing physically punishing fights (like it’s memorable parkour sequence) that show the agent as a bulldozer in a world full of walls. The franchise may have made some mistakes afterward, but this one earned its spot in the Bond canon by willing to tear down everything that didn’t work and build it all up again.
Casino Royale is streaming on Hulu through November 30.