When it comes to casinos in movies, there is a clear distinction between those films – such as the 1995 movie Casino, and the 1998 one Croupier – which are all about these establishments and gambling, and those which simply feature a single key scene set in a casino. When it comes to the latter there is no question that one of the most famous examples would be Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. This scene is famous because of the spectacular card counting abilities of Hoffman’s autistic character, as well as his adverse reaction the flashing lights and noises of the casino environment, and it provides key insight into both his character and that of his selfish brother (Cruise).
The remake of Ocean’s Eleven which was directed by Stephen Soderbergh on the other hand, is set almost entirely in the casinos of Las Vegas, but the film is not really about casino gambling. Instead it is about a gamble to rob one of these casinos, and the poker scene which takes place early in the film, establishes the character qualities of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) which will lead him to attempt a lunatic stunt of this kind. Like other famous movie casino scenes – such as the one from the James Bond film Casino Royale – it is not especially realistic from an actual gambling point of view, but it is certainly cinematic.
The scene in Casino Royale is absolutely pivotal to the plot, as the villain Le Chiffre that Bond is playing against plans to use his winnings to fund terrorist activities. This scene has been greeted by some scepticism amongst enthusiastic online casino gamblers, but Bond films have never really had anything to do with reality. The purpose of the scene is not to provide poker instruction, but to create a sense of tension and excitement in the movie, and in that it succeeds brilliantly.