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Soundtrack review: Casino Royale (David Arnold, 2006)

Film scores Franchises James Bond franchise

Soundtrack review: Casino Royale (David Arnold, 2006)

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To me, the James Bond franchise was dead and buried by the time Daniel Craig took over the role. The awful Pierce Brosnan movies had ruined the love I had for the series and character, and the days when I was enjoying Roger Moore’s outings seemed forgotten. The only good thing about the final three Brosnan movies had been the music. David Arnold had taken over the franchise from John Barry, and while his compositions were very different in style and tone from the maestro’s, I loved them even more.
Until Brian Tyler’s explosion, David Arnold was my favorite action movie composer. I still hope he’ll return to movie scoring, and I’d even like to see him do a Star Wars movie. He’s the only one I’d see capable of continuing John Williams’ work on that saga. I still listen to his awesome, powerful and adrenaline rushing scores for “Stargate”, “Independence day” or, my favorite “Godzilla”.
So Casino Royale came out, and Daniel Craig stole the show. The movie was an origin story, honest, intimate, and vulnerable, without ridiculous gadgets and plots to destroy the world. I forgot all the history and picked up James Bond from here, from this beginning. Casino Royale is my favorite Bond movie to date and the soundtrack is also my number one from the 23 Bond scores so far.
James Bond’s journey in this origin movie, from reckless and inexperienced blunt instrument, through a tragic and intense love story rarely matched in his life since then, to the James Bond we know who appears in the final moments of the movie, is mirrored perfectly in the themes of the score.
No Bond score would be complete without an exciting theme song, and Chris Cornell’s “You know my name” ranks with the best of them. The orchestration David Arnold uses is marvelous, entertaining, alert and, for me, the best since Duran Duran’s “A view to a kill”. Instrumental parts from it appear in many cues in the score, giving “Casino Royale” a true and recognizable identity. It appears in fast action form, or in a tender rendition is cues like “I’m the money” or “Dinner Jackets”.
There aren’t many composers who can pull off a great 12 minute long action cue, one that doesn’t bore and keeps the listener entertained and connected for its entire length. David Arnold brilliantly manages to blow through this risky task with “Miami international”, a terrific chase scene track that takes me out of my chair and throws me on the roof of a moving car which I have to eventually drive to pursue a bad guy.
My favorite theme from this score though is Vesper’s theme. After all the chasing and fighting, over the most tender scene of the movie (where Bond comes to comfort Vesper who was shivering in shock, under a cold shower, unable to wash the feeling of blood away from her fingers) plays a theme that once it touches me, it slowly spreads through my entire body and gives me goose bumps. It’s a theme fitting for the intensity and doomed fate of this love story. It’s the love story that made Bond so unable to attach himself to anyone else, so it must leave a poignant impression. Listening to this simple, but piercing theme over and over again (especially when it returns, a little slower – as if to have time to deliver precise blows to the heart – and more haunting in “Death of Vesper”) makes me feel the sadness Bond must have felt, makes me understand Vesper’s fragility and admire the tenderness between them…
…and once Bond finds out the truth and recovers, the tenderness turns to ice and he becomes the effective and untrusting agent we know. He truly becomes Bond…James Bond, and this terrific score ends with a fresh and spectacular orchestration of John Barry’s immortal Bond theme.
PS : if you’d like to read another Bond review, I’ve already written about Moonraker. Also, if the memory of Vesper made you want more of Eva Green, you can find some other themes written for her in Penny Dreadful
My ratings:
Cue score: 89 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 75/ 96
Album excellence: 77%
Cues good for running / working out: “You know my name”, “African rundown”, “Miami international”, “The name is Bond…James Bond”
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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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