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The One Casino Royale Scene That Makes Us Love Daniel Craig As James Bond

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

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. In Casino Royale, 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.

It didn't just work — Casino Royale changed the James Bond franchise forever, and Daniel Craig is the key to its success. While plenty of great actors have played Bond in the past, Craig's performance gave cinema's most famous superspy a depth and inner life he's never before had on the silver screen. Craig's Bond is just as stylish as his predecessors. He still swills martinis, drives fancy cars, and loses control around beautiful women. And yet, there's something more to him. For the first time, the big-screen Bond is a character, not a caricature, and the movie is better for it.

If you're still not convinced, consider this scene. In it, Bond's expert poker-playing has bankrupted Le Chiffre, forcing the criminal to take drastic measures. He kidnaps Bond's love interest, Vesper Lynd. 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 the new, modern 007, and makes it almost impossible not to fall in love with him. Watch it. You'll see what we mean.

It's his vulnerability

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 007 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 Vesper, 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. "Your clients are going to hunt you down and cut you into little pieces of meat while you're still breathing," Bond threatens, his facade crumbling for a second as all of his carefully suppressed anger bursts out.

And then, at the end of the scene, 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?

It's his old-school flavor

Author Ian Fleming created 007, but as fans know, the James Bond of the books is very, very different from the one on the screen. Fleming's Bond is a cold, calculating killer who's fussy about particulars and driven by a pursuit of pleasure. When Sean Connery brought Bond to movie theaters, he added a masculine, sadistic edge. Later actors, like Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, layered aristocratic charm and a flippant sense of humor on top of that. To book readers, the end result is almost unrecognizable.

That goes for the older movies too, which borrowed titles from Fleming's novels but little else (for example, in the book, Moonraker is a missile, not a space shuttle). Not Casino Royale. While the opening sequences in the Bahamas and Florida were created for the movie, most likely to pad out a sparse and efficient book, the rest of the film is remarkably faithful to the source material.

This scene is no exception. While the corresponding moment in the Casino Royale novel lacks the movie's modern touches and takes place in a different setting (Le Chiffre's villa, not an abandoned boat), the major beats are the same. Le Chiffre's monologue about the simplicity of torture is even directly adapted from Fleming's prose.

Along with Craig's restrained performance, that goes a long way toward cementing the idea that Craig's Bond is also Fleming's Bond (although admittedly, there's a little bit of Connery's version mixed in, too). For casual fans, that was a fresh take on a character that had started to grow a little stale. For diehards, it was something they'd been waiting to see for 44 years — and when it finally arrived, it didn't disappoint.

It's his sense of humor (or lack thereof)

Daniel Craig's Bond doesn't crack many jokes — in fact, it's hard to find a scene in which he even has a real, sincere smile — but in this scene, he does make one. "I've got a little itch," Bond says, between beatings. "Would you mind?" As predicted, Le Chiffre complies, swinging his rope to deliver another blow. "No, no, no!" Bond yells, but he's not screaming in pain. "To the right! To the right!" he cries.

That's a far cry from Pierce Brosnan's Hollywood one-liners, or Roger Moore's goofy puns and dad jokes. Oh, sure, it's a darkly funny moment. Craig's delivery is perfect, as is Mads Mikkelsen's exasperated reaction. But it's a different use of humor than we've seen in other James Bond movies. In the past, Bond seemed like he was performing for the movie's audience, delivering quips when no one else was around. Here, the joke is another form of violence. Bond's hands are literally tied, but that doesn't stop him from fighting back. He just uses sarcasm instead of his Walther P99.

It works, too. Bond's taunts get under Le Chiffre's skin, even though he's the one holding all the cards. When Bond laughs after making the joke, it's not because he's amused. It's the growl of a cornered animal warning its attacker to back off. We've already watched Bond show remarkable resilience during this scene. Now, we're seeing that he's so stubborn that he'll still make jokes even when his life's on the line. That's not funny. It's scary — and an excellent hint as to just how dangerous and committed Craig's Bond really is.

It's his cold-bloodedness

Here's the thing about Daniel Craig's James Bond: He's not a hero. Not really. Yes, he fights bad guys, but he doesn't do so out of an innate sense of justice. He does it because it's his job. At best, Craig's Bond battles villains because that's what his orders say. At worst, he's motivated by a need to prove his superiority, or by revenge. Either way, that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for empathy, especially if it gets in the way of his goals.

Casino Royale is a romance, a tragedy, and an origin story. He doesn't complete his transformation into a cold-blooded killer until the very end of the movie, after Vesper betrays and breaks him. At this point, Bond genuinely loves the woman. And yet look at what Bond does when he hears Vesper screaming from the next room. He laughs.

We've seen Bond's malicious side come out before. Just moments ago, he gleefully described Le Chiffre's impending death. Still, the fact that Bond is willing to let Vesper die in order to complete his mission makes it hit even harder. This is a man who will do anything and sacrifice anyone to get the job done. It's not that Bond doesn't care, of course. It's that he simply doesn't care enough. Forget things like emotions or personal attachments. Ultimately, the mission is the only thing that matters.

That's a chilling revelation, but a fascinating one. Unlike his predecessors, Daniel Craig's James Bond is a complex and complicated person, and while it only takes one scene for Casino Royale to strip him bare and expose who he really is, his impact on the franchise will be felt for decades to come.