Few things are more cinematically exciting than free running. Also known as Parkour, this acrobatic running style centers on getting from one place to another as creatively and with as little arrest of momentum as possible. In an earlier article regarding our favorite action scenes, Scott Weinberg talked about how this kinetic stunt work was explored with hypercool flair in District B13, but up until then few major Hollywood productions had utilized it. Apparently all Hollywood was waiting for was a reboot to one of cinema’s longest-running franchises.
In 2006, Daniel Craig was given simultaneously an amazing and unenviable opportunity when he was cast as the new James Bond. Obviously, this is a great thrill for any actor, but Craig’s ultimate and daunting task was to rebuild a floundering franchise from the ground floor. This required him to bring us a Bond we had not seen before, or at least one who’d been absent for quite some time. The opening chase scene of Casino Royale accomplishes this in an explosive way.
As Bond chases a suspected terrorist through a construction site, the man demonstrates his prowess as a Parkour master. Suddenly every beam, every precipice, every platform separated by seemingly nonnegotiable distance is in play. The site becomes a veritable free running playground and the two foes match each other step by unbelievable step. This scene is relentlessly dynamic and features a greater scope than we’d seen in most Bond films up to that point.
The thing that makes all Parkour so thrilling to watch is the fearlessness of its performers. The laws of physics and the threat of severe bodily harm don’t seem to faze them at all. This fearlessness and single-mindedness of objective are precisely what Craig brought to the role. As the chase moves through the dangerous construction site, Bond thinks nothing of following this bomb maker to the most dizzying heights. Their precarious battle atop the cranes is jaw-dropping and even more impressive given the knowledge that Craig, as fearless as the agent he portrays, did a lot of his own stunts. Nothing will stop Bond from apprehending his quarry, not even impossible feats of athleticism.
The chase also reveals the other new facet Craig brought to the table as Bond: brute force. When M describes him as a blunt instrument, she is not kidding. The guy secures entry into the construction site with the aide of a freaking bulldozer for Fleming sake! And then, as his prey leaps nimbly through a small opening at the top of a wall, Bond finds his own means of tackling that obstacle; hulking right through the wall itself without a moment’s hesitation. You also have to love the scene wherein Bond snatches from the air the gun his opponent has thrown at him and heaves it right back.
The amount of punishment both men sustain and the insanity of their efforts makes this one of the greatest action scenes in cinematic history.