This is the first of two planned proposals I have for Daniel Craig's Bond villains.
Surprisingly after rewatching all of his films and seeing No Time To Die I'd say he definitely has the nastiest Rogues gallery out of any incarnation of this character, so let's get started on talking about them with appropriately his first and technically the first ever Bond villain there was (although we're talking about the 2006 Craig version here).
Who is He?
Le Chiffre is the main antagonist of the 2006 film adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale. He is a banker to terrorists who has connections with both Quantum and SPECTRE and a gambling addict who uses his mathematical genius to help him under both of these areas.
What's the Work?
Casino Royale is a spy thriller film based on the novel of the same name and is the first installment in the grittier reboot series of the 007 franchise.
What has he done?
Le Chiffre is a private banker to the world's terrorist organizations who has had a hand in several different national incidents, including the 9/11 hijackings. He first appears when being introduced by Mr. White to Steven Obanno who begrudgingly entrusts Le Chiffre with his finances after some convincing. Almost immediately upon being given access to Obanno's account however Le Chiffre bets all of his money into the stock market in preparation for another hijacking; the destruction of a new prototype plane by SkyFleet who he invested all of Obanno's money into, unfortunately for Le Chiffre however newly appointed 007 James Bond manages to foil his plot, causing a panicked Le Chiffre to set up a high stakes Poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro in a bid to win back what he lost.
MI6 having finally clocked onto Le Chiffre although lacking evidence in his crimes sent Bond into the tournament as a player while Treasury agent Vesper Lynd was sent to watch the money and pose as Bond's wife. On the first night of the tournament all was going smoothly until the game's interval, during which Le Chiffre was confronted by a furious Obanno who was eventually calmed by Le Chiffre when he promised he'd win his money back, Obanno however decided that for his betrayal he would take the hand of his girlfriend Valenka although stopped when he noticed Le Chiffre's completely unfazed reaction and lack of any objection, prompting to disgustedly tell her that she needed a new boyfriend before leaving. Fortunately for Le Chiffre Bond managed to kill Obanno and his goons, giving him a slight sense of breathing room.
The following day Le Chiffre decides to do what he can to get Bond out of the tournament, first by winning over him by tricking Bond into thinking he was bluffing a bad hand by using his own tell to his advantage and later when Bond was brought back in courtesy of CIA agent Felix Leiter he had Valenka poison his drink, although much to his surprise Bond managed to recover quickly thanks to the defibrillator fitted into his car as well as Vesper's last minute intervention which stopped him from having a heart attack.
Against all odds Bond manages to best Le Chiffre who in an act of sheer desperation decides to abduct Vesper and lead Bond into a trap which involved him swerving to avoid hitting Vesper who was now tied to the road leading to him crashing his car. Le Chiffre lied to Bond telling him that Mathis betrayed them before taking the two to an undisclosed location. While Le Chiffre had his henchmen deal with Vesper, he himself tortured Bond by stripping him naked, tying him to a chair with the bottom cut off and using a knotted rope he begins whipping Bond in the testicles while calming taunting him over the effects it can have. He demands the password from Bond who continues persistently refusing even after multiple attempts at persuasion.
Le Chiffre continues torturing Bond and was almost about to castrate him before Mr. White entered the scene. Le Chiffre tried to reassure him that he would get the money back however Mr. White wasn't having it, citing that Quantum could no longer trust him before shooting him in the head, killing him.
The Bond reboot series has a pretty high heinous standard, it should say a lot about the sheer nastiness of these villains when the most sympathetic are Raoul Silva, Mr White and Lyutsifer Safin who are hardly angels themselves, but with that in mind how does Le Chiffre stand out?
Well let's get started with this because I know someone is going to bring this up if I don't mention it but... Mr. White, Dominic Greene, Silva, Ersnt Stravo Blofeld and Safin all have more resources, are at least somewhat stronger than Le Chiffre physically and are much higher on the pecking order when it comes to their sheer power levels so please do not use this bunch as an argument against Le Chiffre counting as this would be unfair. Thank you.
Well when you take all things into account Le Chiffre is pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to resources, he's essentially a glorified errand boy and accountant with an ego so big that it manages to hide that, and with that in mind he definitely uses what he has to his full advantage. For starters his financing of terrorism has been responsible for countless deaths and property damage across the globe and he does this by using his client's money without their consent, something which would inevitably come back to bite him. On top of this Le Chiffre also has no regard for life in general, at one point even telling one of his henchmen to give the guests on their boat five minutes to leave otherwise just throw them overboard even though there was no specific reason to do so, on top of this he was happy to poison Bond simply to get him out of his hair and secure potential victory in the tournament. Finally perhaps his most infamous moment comes from his graphic torturing of Bond, arguably being the most brutal torture scene in the entire series which involved Le Chiffre whipping Bond in the testicles numerous times while his men tortured Vesper only so he could get the password to their account so to regain his winnings and get back into Quantum's good books.
Furthermore putting aside his resources and how he uses them it's made clear on multiple occasions that Le Chiffre is a total coward who doesn't care about anyone but himself, best exemplified perhaps when Obanno confronts him over his betrayal and decides to punish him by cutting off his girlfriend Valenka's arm, something which Le Chiffre doesn't object to, only happy that he's no longer threatened with harm, Obanno himself even calls Le Chiffre out on this and advises Valenka to get a new boyfriend showing that even in universe he's treated with disgust by other criminals. Le Chiffre also deliberately frames Rene Mathis and is indirectly responsible for him being falsely imprisoned and tortured for a supposed betrayal of Bond and Vesper that he didn't even commit.
Le Chiffre has a couple of very small mitigating factors that can easily be pushed aside.
For starters his relationship with Valenka is clearly loveless and he just views her as an object that he barely pays any mind to.
He also does genuinely compliment Bond during the torture scene ("you've taken good care of your body" and "you're a funny man Mr. Bond!") however this isn't exactly enough to clear him of anything as these are rather hollow and superficial compliments.
Finally what I would argue is the only genuine factor worth discussing would be Le Chiffre trying to appeal to Bond into giving him the password by saying he'll let Vesper live, however in context this doesn't mean much either as it's a rather empty promise that based upon his previous actions he likely wouldn't have kept and as soon as Bond refuses Le Chiffre continues whipping him meaning that it was likely another failed attempt at persuasion.
Considering the torture scene alone I'd honestly give Le Chiffre a yes, he's a textbook coward who manages to use every resource he has to full advantage and stands out as a particularly mean foe Bond has to overcome while also subverting what few mitigating factors he might have had.