Lights, Camera, Gamble: Casino and Its Presence in Cinema

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From action to comedy and even dramas, casinos seem to make the perfect setting for just about every movie genre. The constant chatter of players, mixed with the dark, smoky setting, creates this lively yet dark and mysterious place where anything can happen. So in honor of casinos and their place in cinema, we’re going to look at a few films and how they were able to use these gambling icons to their advantage.

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Casino Royale (2006) and Drawing Parallels

Probably the least shocking on the list and the film with the most action, Casino Royale is an entry in the long-running James Bond series that has actor Daniel Craig take over the role of 007 for the first time. Although not all of the movie takes place in the Montenegro casino, the plot advances the most when our British spy is playing Texas hold ’em against allies and enemies alike.

The game, one in which Bond must be bought back into, is one of skill and a healthy amount of luck, and represents the game that each main character is playing outside of the game as well. Some characters lose their money and others lose their lives, and director Martin Campbell does a great job of drawing parallels between the game of cards and the game of life within each of these struggles.

The late Roger Ebert even praised cinematography during the poker scene because of the tension created during something as close and intimate as a hand of poker can be – especially when one of the men finances terrorism while the other looks to bring an end to it.

Rat Race (2001) and Character Building

Rat Race, although it spends most of its time out on the open road, starts off in a casino. Donald Sinclair, the film’s “antagonist” pits a group of people against each other to get to Silver City, New Mexico. The first person to get there gets to keep the money he has stored there.

While most of the film centers on the action stemming from everyone’s frantic quest to be the first to Silver City, every so often the action will slow down and we can see how Sinclair, the owner of a casino himself, and his wealthy friends are constantly betting each other as they wait for the race to conclude.

By taking these short breaks to get a closer look at Sinclair, we can see his morals and motivations, a picture painted so much more vividly in the foreground of a casino. So although the casino is used more sparingly here, it is used to great effect to build personality as we can see Sinclair’s motivations clearly during these scenes, a technique writers often take advantage of when creating well-rounded characters.

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Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and Building Suspense

Some say casinos offer some of the most exhilarating action on the planet. Sitting down amongst a group of like-minded competitors in hopes to take home the money that everyone else is vying for is a feeling almost completely unique to gambling. Live Casino roulette at William Hill even goes to show that when people aren’t able to physically go the casino, they still prefer the watching the game play out in real time because of its inherent adrenaline-building nature. Combine this elation with a heist movie and you have a double dose of intensity that director Steven Soderbergh wowed audiences with in his comedy heist film Ocean’s Eleven.

Everyone knows casinos make you work to come out prosperous from a trip to the blackjack table, so when a group of wise-cracking criminals devise a plan to rip off not one but three well-known Las Vegas casinos, the tension reaches an all-time high. Soderbergh partly accomplishes this by feverishly switching shots back and forth between each member of the heist team but also by showing the audience in great detail the security measures each location goes to in order to secure their money.

A good portion of the movie is spent planning the specifics of the heist, so when something goes wrong in the casino, the impact of that mistake resonates that much more with the viewer. When you pair that up with the high-intensity atmosphere of a casino, you get the explosive flick that is Ocean’s Eleven.

So whether it be a movie that challenges you to think about the intricacies that would go into robbing The Bellagio or one that follows the most dangerous man in the world on his mission to win a poker tournament, casinos have and will continue to offer inspiration and a unique setting for any director looking to roll the dice on their next project.

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