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Monday, 3 December 2012


Cody rambles on about Daniel Craig's Bond debut.

 
Eon Productions weren't able to make an adaptation of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, the first novel in the literary James Bond series, until forty-four years into their cinematic series because they didn't receive the rights to do so until 1999. When Eon producers Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman first secured the rights to make films based on the Bond novels, the rights to Casino Royale were not included because they had already been sold off individually.

The sale of the Royale rights first resulted in a one hour live television production of the story that aired as an episode of the CBS series Climax! in 1954. For that production, the character of James Bond had been Americanized, being referred to as Jimmy and played by an actor named Barry Nelson. Following the TV version, the property was developed over the years by producers Gregory Ratoff and Charles K. Feldman with the aim of making it a big screen production, but they never could properly figure out how to turn it into a screenplay, and they weren't sure about this lead character, there was something about the idea of a British secret service agent that they just found hard to work with. One script that was written stuck very close to the novel, but replaced Bond with an American gambler called Lucky. There was thought given to making the lead character a female, to be played by Susan Hayward. At another point, Gary Cooper was considered for the role of the protagonist, but was deemed too old since he was pushing sixty. Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. churned out several drafts, but none ever made it in front of a camera. Concurrent to the production of Eon's adaptation of Dr. No, Feldman briefly got director Howard Hawks interested in making a Casino Royale film, potentially to be written by Leigh Brackett and with Cary Grant as Bond, but Hawks moved on as Dr. No neared release.

When Eon's Bond films hit and hit big, Feldman attempted to bring Casino Royale to Broccoli and Saltzman with the idea being that they would co-produce an adaptation. A satisfactory deal couldn't be reached, since Feldman's demands would've had him making three times more money than Eon, so Broccoli and Saltzman let Casino Royale go and partnered with Kevin McClory on a co-production of Thunderball instead. Since Bond was hot property now due to the success of the Eon films, Feldman was quickly able to get Casino Royale set up at Columbia Pictures. For over twenty years, Feldman had wanted to produce a film that would be assembled by multiple writers and divided into segments with each to be handled by a different director, and he was finally able to do that with his Casino Royale. With many writers working on the script and six directors shooting segments, Feldman brought his version of Casino Royale to the screen in 1967. Rather than a faithful adaptation of the novel, it was a comedy, a spoof of Bond, because Feldman didn't want to compete with the Eon series by making a straightforward Bond movie.

I talked a bit about both the '54 TV production and the '67 spoof in the article that started this 50 Years of 007 project, The Other Royales.

After the '67 spoof, the Casino Royale rights lay dormant at Columbia Pictures for many years while Eon continued on with their Bond series. Several years later, a filmmaker started showing public interest in making his own version of the story: Quentin Tarantino. I remember reading an interview with Tarantino sometime around the release of Jackie Brown, I think, where he talked about wanting to make Casino Royale, set it in the same 1950s period as the novel and cast Daniel Day-Lewis as James Bond. As time went on, Tarantino also daydreamed of making his 1950s, black and white Casino Royale with Pierce Brosnan as Bond, and by the early 2000s said that he'd only make a Bond movie if it starred Brosnan. Once the rights went to Eon, Tarantino even said that he'd be willing to work with them and play by the franchise rules to get the chance to make CR. Of course, neither Brosnan nor Tarantino ended up having anything to do with the film, and in years since Tarantino has claimed that the only reason Eon decided to make it was because he had shown interest in it, as if they would've just sat on the rights forever otherwise.

Interestingly, Thunderball rights holder Kevin McClory had a hand in the events that inadvertently led to Eon gaining control of the Royale rights. As covered in the Thunderball write-up, McClory held the rights to that story because he had co-written the treatment Ian Fleming used as the basis for the novel. After co-producing the film version with Eon, McClory retained the right to get a remake made once ten years had passed since the film's release. In 1983, the same year Eon put out Octopussy with Roger Moore, McClory got a second adaptation of Thunderball made at Warner Bros., Never Say Never Again, featuring Sean Connery returning to the role of Bond for the first time since the 1971 Eon film Diamonds Are Forever.

A man named John Calley was the head of production at Warner Bros. when Never Say Never Again was made. In 1993, Calley became the president of the MGM company United Artists, distributor of the Bond films, where he oversaw the production of Eon's GoldenEye as the companies were coming out of the tumultuous time that I wrote about in The Lost Dalton Film. As noted in that article, Calley is said to have not been a fan of Timothy Dalton as Bond, and as such was a driving force behind getting him replaced by Pierce Brosnan.

After seeing GoldenEye through production and securing Brosnan as the official series' new James Bond, Calley left United Artists and became a chief executive at Sony, the company that had bought Columbia Pictures in 1989. Calley knew well that there were stray Bond rights out of Eon's hands, and once at Sony he tried to get another rival Bond film off the ground with Kevin McClory. McClory had been shopping around a second Thunderball remake since 1989, at that time to be titled Atomic Warfare or Warhead 8 and to potentially star Pierce Brosnan. In 1992, McClory licensed his rights to producer Al Ruddy to develop a James Bond television show, which Ruddy also hoped would star Brosnan. Eon blocked the television show with a lawsuit.

MGM and Eon also filed a lawsuit against Sony to stop the rival Bond film that McClory and Calley were working on in the late '90s and which they had high hopes for - this time, the idea wasn't just to make another one-off version of Thunderball, Calley was aiming to start an entire separate Bond franchise at Sony. You can understand why Eon would have a problem with that idea. The Sony version of Thunderball was meant to be titled Warhead 2000 A.D. and rumors filled the press that Bond might be played by Liam Neeson, Timothy Dalton (highly doubtful, due to Dalton's friendship with the Broccolis and Calley's disinterest in him), or maybe even Sean Connery again.

At the same time that MGM was trying to block Sony from making a rival Bond, the studios were also in disagreement over which of them held the rights to make a Spider-Man movie. The lawsuits ended in 1999 with an agreement: MGM would allow Sony to move forward on their Spider-Man project, and in exchange Sony would drop the Thunderball remake and hand over the rights it held to Casino Royale. MGM gained the distribution rights to the 1967 spoof Casino Royale and Eon, now run by Broccoli's heirs Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, finally got the rights to make an adaptation of Ian Fleming's first Bond novel.

After making Die Another Day for release in 2002, Eon decided that the adaptation of Casino Royale would be the next film in the series. At first, the idea was to bring back Pierce Brosnan to play James Bond for the fifth time, but Brosnan had fulfilled his "three films with an option for a fourth" contract and a new deal would have to be negotiated for him to return. An agreement of terms could not be met, and by the end of 2004 it was looking very unlikely that he would be playing Bond again.

On February 3, 2005, the director of Casino Royale was announced to be Martin Campbell, returning to the Bond series ten years after directing GoldenEye. In the Campbell announcement, it was said that no decision had yet been made about who would be playing James Bond in the film. Two days earlier, Brosnan had posted on his website confirming that he would not be coming back, so the director who had handled his debut film would now be introducing a new Bond to the world.

I became a Bond fan during the build-up to the release of GoldenEye, so this was my first time experiencing a change in actors. I was disappointed to hear that Brosnan's era was over, I had enjoyed him in the role, but I was very interested in seeing who the new guy would be and spent a lot of time following the rumors and developments. I followed the production of Casino Royale more closely than any of the previous movies and the whole process intensified my Bond fandom.


As Eon searched for their new Bond, many, many names were floated around in the press. The most popular suggestion among people online was Clive Owen. Julian McMahon, James Purefoy, Ioan Gruffudd, Karl Urban, and Ewan McGregor were brought up. A lot of people were rooting for Hugh Jackman. Around March or April of 2005, there came word of a dark horse contender: an actor named Daniel Craig. Though Craig had roles in some high profile movies previously, his career had largely been made up of low-key dramas, so this was the first time a lot of people really heard his name. I didn't know who he was when he was first brought up and was uncertain about him in those first moments, but I went right from reading an article on the rumor and checking his filmography to watching a trailer for the 2004 British gangster film Layer Cake, which he had starred in. Within those 2 minutes, I began to see him as an intriguing possibility.

Craig was soon counted out, although the rumor persisted through the year. Sam Worthington and Rupert Friend were among the actors who screen tested for the role, but by the summer of '05 the search was said to be down to four: Alex O'Lachlan, Goran Visnjic, Henry Cavill, and Ewan Stewart. Stewart seemed out of place among those candidates, given that he was balding and nearly fifty. Cavill was said to be a favorite of Martin Campbell's, but at 22 was too young.

I sought out and watched movies featuring most of the rumored candidates that year. I watched O'Lachlan in Oyster Farmer, Visnjic in Elektra, Cavill in Hellraiser: Hellworld, Worthington in Somersault. I watched several movies that starred Daniel Craig. The Power of One, Love Is the Devil, The Trench, Love & Rage, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Road to Perdition, Copenhagen, The Mother, Sylvia, Enduring Love, The Jacket. As I made my way through his filmography, even though his characters were usually far away from 007, I began to believe that Craig was the perfect choice to play Bond. I was very impressed by his acting ability and his charisma, he was always captivating to watch. The idea that he might be in the running seemed too good to be true, to get him to sign on to the role would be a huge coup, yet at the same time, judging by the outrageous reactions some people online were having to the rumor, it might also be too risky.

I rented Layer Cake the day it became available. That's apparently the one film that had the most to do with Craig coming into consideration for Bond and, according to the film's director Matthew Vaughn, Craig's early meetings with Eon were joint meetings with Vaughn going in with him to be vetted for the Casino Royale directing gig. Though Vaughn thought he would "nail" a Bond movie if given the chance, he ultimately didn't make the cut, saying in an interview that "they liked (Craig) better than me."

As the casting process was winding down, some details about the film itself started filtering out through interviews. Michael G. Wilson said that it would be a faithful adaptation of Fleming's novel, but "an expanded adaptation" with additional angles. It was soon revealed that the film would be a "reboot" of sorts, an origin story taking Bond back to the beginning of his career as a 00. The series has never been averse to following the trends of the day, see Live and Let Die taking Bond into the blaxploitation genre or The Man with the Golden Gun featuring martial arts, and the 2000s were the age of reboots and origin stories, which really opened the door to something Wilson had long been interested in exploring. He had previously shown interest in Bond's early days between A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights, when he and screenwriter Richard Maibaum drafted a treatment that took place while Bond was still a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Cubby Broccoli had rejected the idea because he didn't think audiences would be interested in a Bond who wasn't already a 00. This time a middle ground had been found.

The adaptation of Casino Royale was handled by The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with Paul Haggis then coming on to do a character and dialogue polish. At the time of his hiring, Haggis was fresh off of winning a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his film Crash, which also won Best Picture at the 2006 Academy Awards. Haggis was quoted as saying that the Bond in the script was twenty-eight years old, and Martin Campbell reiterated that Bond would be twenty-eight or thirty in the film.

I was worried, for a couple reasons. As an overly invested movie fan, I was still fighting against the tide of remakes and reboots at the time, I wanted history and continuity in my franchises, so the reboot concept was a bit concerning to me. That seems very quaint now, since the majority of big franchises have had a remake or a reboot of some sort the days of worrying about timelines is pretty much over, but the period of adjustment was still going on in 2005. It was actually the amount of history the Bond series had that made it easier for me to come to terms with the idea of going back to the beginning. I mentioned in the The World Is Not Enough article that the series already had to be viewed as existing on a floating timeline at that point, there's no way an agent who was Pierce Brosnan's age in 1999 could've lived through the '60s movies exactly as they were presented, he would've had to have experienced a version of the stories at a later date. So if dates are already meaningless, what does it matter if Bond earns his 00 in 2006?

My other concern was that the age of Bond being 28 or 30 might count the 37-year-old Daniel Craig out of the running. But Craig could still pass as early 30s and the character had a military career, making his way up to the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, and worked in the secret service for a while before becoming a 00, so I thought he was still in the proper age range.

As the summer of the "final four" passed, the Craig rumor came back with a vengeance, with word going around that he may in fact be the front-runner. I remained cautiously optimistic as the press conference at which the actor would be announced neared. I wanted Craig to get the job and it was looking likely, but didn't want to build myself up for a letdown if he didn't.

The press conference happened at 11:30am GMT on October 14th, 2005, which means I got up at 6:30am EST to watch the news coverage of the event. When I saw Daniel Craig arrive at the press conference via boat with Royal Marine escorts and make his way past the press line, I knew all was right in the Bond world.

According to the media, though, Craig's reception among fans was overwhelmingly negative. There were fans who ranted and raved against his casting with mostly ridiculous complaints, but the amount of attention this vocal, childish, anti-Craig website starting minority got in press was appalling and embarrassing. Despite how it was presented in the tabloids, they did not speak for the fans at large. The majority of fans were at least openminded about Craig in the role, many were like myself and strongly supported the casting choice.

Craig reported to set in January of 2006, as filming of an Eon produced Casino Royale finally began.


Unlike the twenty previous films, Casino Royale does not begin with the traditional gun barrel shot, instead going from the studio logos straight into the film. To signify the fact that the pre-title sequence is taking us back to the beginning of James Bond's career as a 00, director Martin Campbell chose to present it entirely in black and white.


The sequence cuts back and forth between two locations, each with its own visual style. The first location is Prague, which is shot in film noir style, with smoky streets and deep shadows. A man named Dryden arrives at his office to find that James Bond is already in the room, sitting in the darkness, waiting for him. In a scene heavy on mood and tension, Bond and Dryden exchange words about the situation they find themselves in - like Bond, Dryden works for MI6, and Bond has been sent by their boss M because there's suspicion that Dryden has been making money on the side by selling secrets. Dryden isn't overly concerned about Bond's presence, if he were in serious trouble M would've sent a 00. Two kills are required for an agent to be promoted to 00 status, and being a Section Chief Dryden knows that there have been no recent promotions, Bond has executed zero kills during his time in the secret service. Dryden fully realizes the gravity of the situation when he pulls his gun out from one of his desk drawers and attempts to shoot Bond - the gun clicks empty. Bond has already gotten to it and removed the bullets.

Dryden figures out that Bond already has one kill to his name, and we flashback to that kill and the second location - a public restroom in Pakistan, where Bond had a brutal physical confrontation with Dryden's contact, a man named Fisher. As the men fought to the death, nearly everything in the restroom was destroyed - stalls, urinals, sinks. Bond finally got the upper hand in the tussle and appears to drown Fisher in an overflowing sink. The picture of the Pakistan footage is much grainier, the lighting more harsh.

Sensing that Bond's first kill was a rough one, and accepting his fate, Dryden assures Bond that the second is easier... or, he starts to assure Bond that, before Bond cuts him off by killing him with a silenced shot from his Walther PPK. Dryden's body tips backward in his chair, his hand knocking a picture of him with his wife and child off the desk as he falls to the floor. Bond got the point of what he was trying to tell him, agreeing: "Yes. Considerably."

Then it cuts back to Pakistan, where the gun barrel shot does play out in a different way than ever before, as it's now given context: as Bond picks his gun up off the restroom floor, Fisher revives and grabs his own gun, quickly aiming it at Bond and... through Fisher's gun barrel, we see Bond turn and fire his gun at the man. Blood runs down the screen. Bond has earned his 00 status.


The difficulty level of the literary Bond's two kills was actually the reverse; his first kill was simple sniper job, he shot a man in a skyscraper from a neighboring building. The second was the tough, up close and personal one, he snuck into a double agent's bedroom with a knife.


The blood-drenched gun barrel screen provides the segue into the title sequence, which I think features some of designer's Daniel Kleinman's best work. The sequence is accompanied by the title song, "You Know My Name", performed by Chris Cornell.

Martin Campbell's GoldenEye cinematographer Phil Meheux joined him on his return to Bond, and brought a very nice, classy look to the film. Longtime Bond production designer Peter Lamont and established composer David Arnold both returned in those positions, with Arnold also doing some of his best work in the series. Famed action cutter Stuart Baird (Superman, Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, Die Hard 2, etc.) was brought on to edit after Campbell worked with him on 2005's Legend of Zorro. The second unit director was Alexander Witt, who had previously shot second unit on movies like Speed and The Bourne Identity, among many others, and was a regular collaborator of Ridley Scott's.

The scene following the titles features something that was very rare for the series at this point, but has gone on to be included in all three of the Daniel Craig films: rain.


The scene takes place in Mbale, Uganda, where a man called Mister White, representative of a mysterious organization, has arranged a meeting between a high-ranking resistance fighter and a banker called Le Chiffre, a slimy fellow with respiratory issues and a scarred, milky left eye.

While White, portrayed by Jesper Christensen, will lurk throughout the film, Le Chiffre is the main villain and is played by Mads Mikkelsen, following in the footsteps of Peter Lorre and Orson Welles, who played the character in the '54 and '67 Casino Royales respectively. During pre-production, the resistance fighter character was reported to be named Solari, with singer Seal rumored to be under consideration for the role. The character reached the screen in the form of actor Isaach De Bankole playing a man named Obanno.

Obanno entrusts Le Chiffre with a great deal of money, stacks of cash filling multiple cases, setting the plot in motion. Once Obanno's money is in his possession, Le Chiffre calls his stockbroker and tells him to short another million shares of Skyfleet stock, a stock that is expected to go up. He's betting against the market and using his new client's money to do so.

In Madagascar, Bond and fellow agent Carter are among a crowd of people gathered around an empty swimming pool to watch and bet on a fight between a cobra and a mongoose. The agents are there to locate a bomb maker called Mollaka, who Carter spots and identifies by the burn scars covering his right hand and the right side of his face. Bond and Carter communicate across the distance with the use of ear pieces, and to Bond's annoyance Carter has a habit of pressing his ear piece when he's speaking. It's this thoughtless motion that tips Mollaka off to the fact that Carter isn't just another member of the crowd and the bomb maker runs off. Seconds into his pursuit, the useless Carter tumbles into the swimming pool and out of the picture, leaving Bond to chase down Mollaka by himself.

The lengthy action sequence that ensues is no simple foot chase, as Mollaka displays some very impressive parkour abilities (he's played by one of the founders of parkour, Sébastien Foucan) that take the runners to places a regular chase wouldn't, like up the girders of a construction site, onto the top of a crane, then a jump from that crane to a lower one and then onto the roof of a building. I don't know how a person can do some of the things Mollaka does. Bond manages to (just barely) keep up with the stunt-pulling baddie through sheer determination, driving a bulldozer through obstructions at one point and running straight through walls if he has to.

 

My favorite moment of the chase occurs atop the first crane, when Mollaka attempts to shoot Bond and finds that he's already expended all of his bullets. Mollaka does what people armed with an empty gun often do in movies and throws the weapon at Bond... and Bond snatches it out of the air and throws it right back at Mollaka's head.

The construction site portion of the chase was filmed at an actual abandoned, unfinished hotel in the Bahamas, a location Michael G. Wilson remembered seeing way back in the mid-1960s when they were in the Bahamas to shoot Thunderball.

The chase ends with Mollaka running through the gates of the heavily guarded embassy for the (fictional) nation of Nambutu. That would bring most chases to an end, anyway. At a different point in his career, that might even end the pursuit as far as Bond is concerned, or at least he'd take a different approach to how he goes after Mollaka inside the embassy, maybe being more stealthy about it. This being a less experienced, more impulsive and less careful Bond, he just jumps over the fence and walks right in, breaking up a conversation between Mollaka and an embassy official by kicking the bomb maker to the ground and knocking the official's head into a decorative bust.


Bond then grabs Mollaka and sets out to forcefully drag him right off of the embassy property while the official hits an alarm. The halls and courtyard of the embassy fill with armed soldiers who don't hesitate to open fire. Some people were shocked by this sequence and would go on about how Bond massacres these embassy guards. At least one guard does get caught in friendly fire, but the fact is that Bond himself does not kill a single one of them. Sure, he knocks the hell out of a couple, does some pistol whipping, and shoots a water pipe to knock a couple over with a spray of water, but he doesn't shoot anybody. The embassy action was the first stuff Daniel Craig filmed as James Bond.

Bond tosses Mollaka out a second story window (a roof helps break his fall) and follows him out into the courtyard. Gun to Mollaka's head, Bond is confronted by the official and machine gun-toting guards and realizes it's a hopeless situation. He drops his gun, pushes Mollaka away... and after a moment, draws another gun, kills Mollaka with a shot to the chest, and fires a second shot to blow up some propane tanks to distract everyone while he gets away. (Note that everyone who works at the embassy gets up after the explosion.)

Bond had earlier told Carter to holster his gun because they needed Mollaka alive, but what can you do? Desperate measures. At least Bond gets away with Mollaka's backpack, in which he finds a bomb and a cell phone. Bond and Carter witnessed Mollaka getting a text message at the cobra/mongroose fight, and now Bond finds that the message reads "Ellipsis".

Thanks to the embassy's security cameras, reports of a British government agent rampaging through the place and killing an unarmed man is spread through the world's news outlets.


Le Chiffre gets word of Mollaka's death while he's playing poker with a General and a woman named Madame Wu, who's played by Tsai Chin, making her second appearance in the Bond series. She was previously in You Only Live Twice as Ling, the Chinese girl Bond is in bed with when we first see him in that film's pre-title sequence. This scene is our first indication that Le Chiffre excels at card playing due to his mathematical abilities, as he tells the General that he only has a 17.4% of making the straight he's going for. We're also shown that Le Chiffre's bad eye will occasionally weep blood because of a derangement of the tear duct.

Le Chiffre has some kind of connection with Mollaka and a knowledge of whatever the Ellipsis message was about. "Ellipsis" expires in thirty-six hours, and Le Chiffre only has that amount of time to get something done.

Bond's antics have also gotten M called in for a meeting in Committee Room 1 at the Houses of Parliament. We catch up with Bond's boss as she's angrily making her way out of the building post-meeting, ranting about "arse-covering prig" bureaucrats and Bond's carelessness. Despite the timeline shift, Judi Dench remains in the role of M because Eon knew they had a good thing with her and weren't ready to let her go. She does play the character slightly differently than she did in the Brosnan films, she's a tougher character, more foul-mouthed, and while Dench's M in GoldenEye had called Bond "a relic of the Cold War", her M in Casino Royale states that she herself misses the Cold War. Other MI6 characters like Q and Miss Moneypenny did not make the cut for this movie, making it the second in the series after Live and Let Die to not feature a Quartermaster or Armourer, although there are anonymous techie types about. It's the first time Moneypenny doesn't make an appearance, M's assistant in this film is a male character named Villiers and played by Tobias Menzies.

There has been no contact with Bond since the embassy incident, and when he returns to London he doesn't report to the MI6 building for a meeting with M, in fact he doesn't go to MI6 at any point in this movie. Instead, the first interaction between Craig as Bond and M happens in M's flat, when she returns home to find that Bond has broken in to make use of her personal computer.


M goes off on Bond about his actions and the fact that government workers are calling for his head. He was supposed to question Mollaka in attempt to get a lead on who's financing a network of terrorist groups, by outright killing him because "one less bomb maker in the world would be a good thing" Bond was not looking at the big picture. Now they have no idea who Mollaka was working for. M doubts her decision to promote Bond to the 00s, he replies that 00s have a short life expectancy, so her mistake will be short-lived. She's not sure he can put his ego aside and judge situations dispassionately, believing he's too arrogant to be self-aware. She calls him a "blunt instrument" in this scene, a description the press has latched on to in describing Craig's portrayal of Bond, a repeat of a description used by Miranda Frost in Die Another Day and originally by Ian Fleming. One line M speaks, "I have to know I can trust you and that you know who to trust", is a very important one for this film and the next.

M tells Bond to go bury his head in the sand somewhere, and coincidentally his investigation leads him to a location where he could do that if he wanted to. He had brought Mollaka's phone to M's home, where he connected its chip to her computer and was able to get a precise GPS trace on where the "Ellipsis" message was sent from: The Ocean Club in Nassau, Bahamas.


The first thing Bond does upon his arrival at The Ocean Club is scope out the locations of the exterior security cameras, and while he's in the parking lot he also gets scoped out by a couple attractive tennis players, one of whom was Craig's assistant on several films, Veronika Hladikova, and the other is supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio. A German man with a Range Rover mistakes Bond for a valet, so Bond plays the part and uses this as an opportunity to create a distraction - he smashes the vehicle into a fence in the parking lot, the fence falling over onto a row of cars and setting off their alarms.

While security heads out to see what's happening in the parking lot, Bond sneaks into the monitor room. Since MGM partnered with Sony to distribute this film, The Ocean Club is ahead of the tech curve and their security cameras are already recording onto Blu-ray in 2006, long before there was a clear winner in the Blu vs. HD-DVD competition. I waited that fight out and didn't get a Blu-ray player until 2008. The Blu-ray release that finally got me buy a player and an HD TV? The Collector's Edition of this very movie.
Bond searches the video archives for the exact date - July 6, 2006 - and the exact time - 19:12:22 - when the Ellipsis message was sent from The Ocean Club, and finds that a man was sending a text from his phone at that moment as he was arriving at the club and exiting his 1964 silver-grey Aston Martin, just like the one from Goldfinger. Bond really lucks out on catching this bit of information so quickly and easily.

Bond leaves the security room and goes out to book a room at the resort, having a pleasant interaction with the lovely blonde receptionist while she secures an oceanview villa for him. As the receptionist is Christina Cole, an actress who appeared in screen tests opposite Bond hopefuls. To find out who the man with the Aston Martin is, Bond makes up a story that he was at the club for dinner the night before, parked beside the Aston Martin and accidentally nicked its door. The receptionist replies that the car belongs to a Mister Dimitrios, but if he hasn't noticed the damage yet it's probably best that Bond keep it to himself. Dimitrios is not the type to take bad news well.


Still, Bond is able to find out that Dimitrios has a house just up the beach, and he checks the place out by going swimming in the ocean right out in front of it. The sight of Bond wading in the sea in his blue swim trunks is what pop culture has deemed the most iconic and memorable shot of the film. From the water, Bond sees the house, sees Dimitrios hanging out on his balcony, and most interestingly sees that Dimitrios has a beautiful wife who likes to ride her horse along the beach. She is Solange, played by the stunning Caterina Murino.

M is sleeping in bed with her husband when Villiers calls to alert her to the fact that Bond has logged into the secret service's secure website with her name and password - "How the hell does he know these things?" - to find information on Alex Dimitrios and his known associates. MI6 does have a profile on Dimitrios, and he has links to Le Chiffre.

Bond goes to the club that night, orders a large Mount Gay with soda, sees the German again and acknowledges him with "N'abend", and spies Dimitrios playing a game of poker with a table of people and acting jerky, especially to Solange when she stops by the table. Bond joins the game and quickly racks up the chips while Dimitrios's winnings are whittled down. The design of the cards used in this game sort of remind me of the Live and Let Die Tarot cards that had "007" not-so-subtly on the backs of them, the linked double Os on these are much more subtle.

A hand comes down to Bond and Dimitrios, with Dimitrios going all in and attempting to add a check for twenty thousand dollars on top of it. The dealer rejects that idea, so instead Dimitrios throws in the keys to his car. Dimitrios has three Kings. Bond has three Aces. Bond walks away with a good deal of money and the keys to the Aston Martin.



Solange waits outside the club for the valet to bring the Aston Martin around, and is then surprised to see Bond handing over the valet ticket instead of her husband. Solange is set to find a different ride home, but Bond is able to charm her into agreeing to have a drink at his place, which he says is very close to the club. She gets in the car, he takes it for a spin around the club's circular drive, hands it back over to the valet and takes Solange to his villa. Bond and Solange drink champagne, make out on the floor of his villa and discuss her choices in life, being drawn to bad men instead of going for happiness with nice guys. Some of the dialogue here is a bit too close to the final exchange between Bond and Jinx in Die Another Day for my liking.

M
eanwhile, Solange's bad husband is visiting Le Chiffre on his yacht. Le Chiffre is displeased with Dimitrios because he's the one who hired Mollaka, a man under surveillance by the British secret service, to do the Ellipsis job for them. Dimitrios knows another man who's willing to do it.

Bond attempts to get information from Solange on Dimitrios and Ellipsis, but her husband's work is a mystery to her. A call from Dimitrios telling Solange that he's taking a flight to Miami interrupts her tryst with Bond. Hearing about the flight, Bond orders a bottle of chilled Bollinger Grand Annee and beluga caviar from room service while Solange heads to the restroom. For two? "No. For one." Bond ditches Solange at the villa and drives off to the airport.

A flight takes Bond to Miami, where he follows Dimitrios to a Body Worlds exhibit where skinned human corpses preserved through plastination have been displayed and posed in different ways. Dimitrios leaves a duffel bag at the front desk and is given a key ring marked "53" to retrieve it with later. One display in the exhibit is a bunch of skinless fellows playing poker, and Dimitrios places the key ring on top of the pile of chips. Bond would be able to watch the table and see who takes the key ring if Dimitrios didn't come up behind him and threaten him with a knife. By the time Bond has overpowered Dimitrios and stuck the knife in his gut, the key ring is gone and so is the duffel bag.

Bond checks Dimitrios's phone and confirms that he sent the Ellipsis message, and going outside the exhibit he redials the last number called. The cell phone belonging to a man walking away from the exhibit and carrying a duffel bag rings and Bond has identified the person he needs to be following. A man named Carlos.

Bond follows Carlos back to Miami International Airport, where billionaire Virgin owner Richard Branson gets a quick cameo going through a metal detector. At the airport, most of the questions that have come up so far in the film are answered.


The duffel bag contains an airport security uniform, which Carlos puts on before going through a door with a code lock. The door's password: Ellipsis. Bond suspects Carlos is on a mission to set off a bomb, which he is, and with a call to M he is quickly able to figure out what the target is: a prototype for the world's largest plane that is soon to be unveiled by the Skyfleet airline. If this plane is blown up, Skyfleet's stocks will drop, the company will be near bankruptcy, and Le Chiffre will make a lot of money.
 

A lengthy action sequence ensues as Bond chases Carlos out of the airport and across the runway. Carlos clips a key ring-like bomb onto the bottom of a fuel tanker and drives the vehicle toward the location of the prototype plane, and Bond goes through a whole lot of trouble to make sure he doesn't reach his destination. Shots are fired, luggage carts and vehicles destroyed, a police car is tossed through the air by jet engines, Bond and Carlos have a close quarters fight in the cab of the tanker. In one spectacular overhead shot, we see Bond launch himself off the side of the tanker to avoid being smashed by a passing truck and the second truck's tires miss running over him by mere inches.

Bond foils Carlos's plans in a very satisfying manner, and the next day is flown back to Nassau via helicopter to meet with M at Dimitrios's house. There, he finds that Solange paid the price for her husband's failure. His employers tortured her, then killed her and left her body wrapped up in a hammock. "Quite the bodycount you're stacking up," M comments to Bond, another line that will play into the next film as well.

During the briefing that follows, a pleasant mustachioed fellow carrying a hi-tech case arrives to inject a small chip into Bond's left forearm. A tracking chip so MI6 can keep an electronic eye on him at all times.

M reiterates to Bond some things he already knows - that Dimitrios regularly did business with a man known as Le Chiffre - and gives some background on Le Chiffre - he's a private banker for the world's terrorists, he invests their money and gives them access to it anywhere they need it. He's a chess prodigy and a mathematical genius who likes to play poker. She also tells him that when the CIA analyzed the stock market after 9/11, they found that there had been a massive shorting of airline stocks before the attack occurred. When the stocks hit bottom on 9/12, someone made a fortune. Le Chiffre tried to do the same with Skyfleet stocks. Instead, he lost $101,206,000 of his clients' funds betting the wrong way. Now Le Chiffre, desperate to get the money back, has set up a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Ten players, $10 million buy-in, $5 million re-buy. Winner takes all, potentially $150 million.

Bond figures that the move is to go to Casino Royale and assassinate Le Chiffre. He's still not seeing the big picture. Since Bond is the best card player in the service, M assigns him to go to Montenegro and take part in the poker game. If Le Chiffre loses, his clients will be after him and he'll have nowhere to run. MI6 will offer him sanctuary in exchange for everything he knows about the terrorist organizations he's worked for.

With this briefing and assignment, the adaptation of Fleming's novel has truly begun. Everything up to this point has been the "expanded" part of the "expanded adaptation". In the novel, Le Chiffre had used funds entrusted in him by the Soviets to start up brothels in France, and he lost the money when prostitution was soon after made illegal in the country. To add to the story and make it so that Bond was directly responsible for Le Chiffre's financial crisis was a clever move, and the film gives a much more exciting reason for the money troubles.

From here on, the film isn't a by-the-letter adaptation of the novel, but it covers the same ground and presents the same story in a modern context. It's not as close as some of the early Connery films or On Her Majesty's Secret Service were to the novels, but it's definitely more faithful than Diamonds Are Forever and the Roger Moore era movies were to the novels they got their titles from.



Just under an hour into the film, the female lead enters the picture. During the casting process, actresses considered for the role of Vesper Lynd, a woman who has a deep and lasting effect on Bond, included Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Rose Byrne, Cécile de France, Olivia Wilde, and Vera Farmiga. The part ultimately went to Eva Green, and being familiar with her from the 2003 French film The Dreamers I was glad to see her become this very important Bond girl.



Vesper first meets Bond on a train through Montenegro on the way to the city that houses Casino Royale. She works for the Treasury, and is accompanying Bond to the casino to oversee his use of the government's funds in the poker game. The 10 million buy-in has already been wired to an account for him, but the 5 million re-buy is under Vesper's control and will only be given to him if she deems it a prudent investment. She clearly does not like this up-to-chance gambling idea at all, making sure to mention that if Bond loses the government will have directly financed terrorism.

Vesper clearly wants to keep Bond at a distance, while he has fun with their verbal sparring match as they both make a show of reading the other. He accuses her of over-compensating for her beauty in an attempt to be taken seriously in her business, and surmises that she may be an orphan. She gives a rather devastating, especially since it's mostly accurate, read of him: an orphan who went to high-class schools at the grace of someone else's charity, military/Special Forces career, recruited to MI6 due to their predilection for "maladjusted" types.

Bond was indeed orphaned at the age of 11 when his parents, Andrew and Monique Delacroix Bond, were killed in a rock climbing accident. After that, he was raised by his aunt Charmain Bond, who paid for his education. That is straight from Fleming, as can be read in Bond's premature obituary published in the You Only Live Twice novel. The same basic background was kept for the bio of this modern iteration of Bond, and his dossier can be read on the official website for this film.

Vesper rightly assumes that Bond sees women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. He earlier admitted to Solange that he likes to go for married women because "it keeps things simple", and tells Vesper that she's not his type because she's single. Vesper assures him that she'll be keeping her eyes on the money and off his "perfectly formed arse". By the end of their first conversation, Bond can sympathize with the skewered lamb he had for dinner.

Upon their arrival at their destination city, Bond and Vesper receive an envelope with information on their covers - they are to check in at the casino's neighboring hotel, Hotel Splendide, as a couple who have been dating for quite a while. They will be sharing a suite. Bond's cover name is Arlington Beech, and he jokingly suggests that Vesper's is Stephanie Broadchest. Bond dispenses with his cover immediately, since he figures that Le Chiffre is well connected enough to already know that an MI6 agent is being sent to play against him, probably even already knows Bond's name, and is desperate enough to play him anyway. He tells the Hotel Splendide receptionist that his name is James Bond, but the reservation is under Beech, then has Vesper sign the paperwork, since "you represent the Treasury". This does not amuse Vesper, and she tells him that he's now tipped Le Chiffre off to another thing - that he's reckless.

Waiting for Bond in the hotel parking lot is a grey Aston Martin DBS, with some gadgety equipment and a Walther PPK in the double glove compartments. He and Vesper take the car to meet their local contact at an outdoor cafe.


Awesome Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini plays their contact, a very likeable man named Rene Mathis. A fun presence in the film, Giannini quickly makes Mathis one of my favorite Bond allies in the series. He is the only backup Bond and Vesper have here, there is no cavalry to save them if things go wrong. He's been keeping an eye on Le Chiffre since he arrived in town the day before.


Since Le Chiffre has "bought" the Chief of Police, Mathis has arranged to take the Chief out of the equation, and has arranged this meeting with Bond and Vesper at this cafe to show them that the Chief won't be a problem. The Chief of Police, who is producer Michael G. Wilson making his traditional cameo, is dining at a nearby table when several police cars pull up. The Chief gets hauled off by his own men, arrested under suspicion of taking bribes thanks to evidence Mathis created with Photoshop.


While Bond and Vesper get ready to go to the casino that night, they each find that the other has bought clothes for them. For Vesper, Bond has gotten a low-cut purple dress to distract the other players with when she comes to the table to give him a kiss for luck. For Bond, Vesper has gotten a tailored dinner jacket that improves his style, another step in his development. To my taste, Eva Green looks her most beautiful in this scene, where Vesper is just starting to put her makeup on.

A good portion of the second half of the film is dedicated to the high stakes, high risk game of no limit Texas Hold 'Em poker that commences at Casino Royale, Bond and Le Chiffre playing against eight others, including Le Chiffre's yacht friend Madame Wu. I know absolutely nothing about poker, yet still find the game entertaining to watch. It was especially interesting to see how these scenes played during theatrical viewings, where I could gauge the quality of characters' hands by the audible reactions from audience members who were familiar with the game. If you don't care for poker, the scenes never go on for too long at one time and there's plenty of breaks taken during the game for other things to happen.


During the first hours of the game, Vesper's arrival in the poker room, wearing the purple dress Bond got for her, proves to be as distracting to him as he wanted it to be for the other players. He notices that Le Chiffre has a tell - a facial twitch when he bluffs, which he attempts to cover with his hand. And we also see the creation of his famous vodka martini, which he orders with the full list of ingredients, quoted almost directly from the novel: "Dry martini. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, shake it over ice, then add a thin slice of lemon peel." Hearing this, others at the table order one for themselves.

Briefly joining Vesper and Mathis at the bar, Bond gives Vesper a kiss on the lips under the guise of staying in character. After tasting her, he tastes the martini he has just created and comments that he's going to have to think up a name for it.

As the first break in the game begins, Bond manages to slip a small tracking/listening device into Le Chiffre's inhaler. Something about Le Chiffre's henchman Kratt whispering in the villain's ear before he leaves the room raises Bond's suspicions, so he arms himself with his silenced Walther and, aided by a trepidatious but unquestioning Vesper, follows Le Chiffre to his room with the aid of a display on his cell phone that shows him the man's location. Vesper really should be asking him what he's doing, since it appears that he's about to drop this poker business and just shoot Le Chiffre.

Bond doesn't put the ear bud through which he can hear what's going on in the vicinity of Le Chiffre's inhaler until he's well on his way to the room, and the audio does confirm that there's something dangerous going on.



Le Chiffre didn't share Bond's suspicions, he was merely told that his girlfriend/henchwoman Valenka (Ivana Milicevic) wanted to see him. It's not until he's in the room that he realizes she's not the only person there - Obanno and his Lieutenant have come for a visit, and Obanno is very angry. Having discovered that Le Chiffre lost his money, Obanno roughs him up and seems quite prepared to kill him, but Le Chiffre manages to convince him to wait until the poker game plays out, promising that he'll have the money back in full the next day. Armed with a machete, Obanno threatens to cut off Valenka's arm in lieu of cutting off one of Le Chiffre's hands, since he'll need them to play cards, but it's a bluff.

As Obanno and his Lieutenant exit Le Chiffre's room, Bond and Vesper duck into the stairway entrance and start making out to look less suspicious. Here the listening device gets put to its only real use in the film, and it doesn't work out in Bond's favor - Obanno's Lieutenant notices the ear bud in Bond's ear, hearing the noises being made in Le Chiffre's room emanating from it.

A rough fists vs. machete fight ensues in the stairwell, Bond and Obanno beating the hell out of each other as they tumble down the four flights of steps. Vesper has to get involved at one point to knock a gun out of Obanno's hand. Bond makes it out a bloody mess and Vesper is clearly unnerved. By the time Bond has hidden the bodies, returned to his room, cleaned himself off, taken a drink and steadied himself, it's time to get back to the poker table.



Bond plays for a few more hours before the game breaks for the night, and when he returns to his suite he finds that Vesper was very traumatized by the events in the stairwell - she's been sitting in the shower for hours, still dressed. She feels that she can't get the blood off her hands, even though there isn't any visible. In a very caring, non-sexual way, Bond joins Vesper in the shower, remaining clothed, and holds her, sucking her fingers to convince her that they're clean.

The second day at Casino Royale begins with Mathis framing one of Le Chiffre's cohorts for murder by planting Obanno and his Lieutenant's corpses in the trunk of the man's car. Then it's game time again, and when Bond spots Le Chiffre trying to hide his bluff tell, he goes all in... Turns out that Le Chiffre was faking the tell and has the cards to win the hand. Bond loses all.


Vesper refuses to give Bond the 5 million he needs to get back into the game. He was impatient and arrogant, he lost, it's over. He's not worth the investment. So, after ordering a martini and not giving a damn if it's shaken or stirred, Bond grabs a steak knife off a table in the casino restaurant and starts following Le Chiffre through the building. This time he does intend to take the man out of the game by killing him. He's closing in on Le Chiffre when a fellow poker player catches him by the arm and introduces himself as a family member - "Felix Leiter. A brother from Langley." The character returns to the series after sitting out the Brosnan era, with Jeffrey Wright in the role. Leiter is in the novel, but wasn't in the script until very close to the start of filming. In a December 2005 draft, the CIA character was named Gray Wolpert.


Though Leither doesn't have a lot to do, Wright is quite good in the role. He has some fun lines at the poker table, particularly when he orders a martini like Bond's but doesn't want the lemon peel - "Keep the fruit."

Leiter trusts that Bond can beat Le Chiffre if he keeps his head, and offers to cover the $5 million re-buy. In exchange, the CIA will be the ones to bring Le Chiffre in. Bond agrees, but what about the winnings? Leiter replies, "Does it look like we need the money?" A line that got a chuckle in 2006, but probably wouldn't have been included if this movie was made a few years later.

Bond's unexpected return to the game table hits a bump when Valenka spikes his latest martini with some kind of poison. He begins to feel the effects almost immediately, excusing himself from the table and stumbling off to the restroom, where he attempts to cause himself to vomit by drinking salt water. It doesn't work, and as the poison makes its way through Bond's system wobbly camera moves and bright light help us get into his altered perception. He makes his way out to the Aston Martin, where he sticks a needle-ended wire into his forearm, connecting the tracking chip to his cell phone. This alerts MI6 employees working in a "hot room" back at headquarters, enabling them to read his vital signs while communicating with him.

The gadgetry in the car's glove compartment is a medikit, containing several combipens and a defibrillator. Bond is suffering from ventricular tachycardia due to a dose of Digitalis. He needs to inject one of the combipens into his neck, which he is able to accomplish, then defibrillate himself to keep from going into cardiac arrest. He's unable to do this because one of the wires on the defibrillator isn't properly attached... and before he can fix it, he blacks out. This could be the death of James Bond right here. If Vesper hadn't followed him out to the car. She saves his life.

I wasn't too bothered that the character of Q hadn't been included in this film, because the late Desmond Llewelyn had so fully owned the role. I was concerned that any other actor would just be a Llewelyn stand-in, going through the same old Bond-Q interactions while not matching up to the guy who did it seventeen times. That's how it was with the John Cleese replacement character in Die Another Day, even though he amped up the comedic aspect. I was fine to retire Q with Llewelyn and have people like the hot room technicians and the chip implanter fill the techno gap. (And I was open to the idea of the cute brunette in the hot room, played by Rebecca Gethings, turning out to be Miss Moneypenny.)

With his normal heartbeat restored, Bond makes another unexpected return to the poker table. Before much longer, he and Le Chiffre both go all in on a hand. And this time his instincts are correct. Le Chiffre loses everything and is knocked out of the game. Mission accomplished, with 40 minutes of movie left to go.


At their post-win dinner, Bond and Vesper have clearly earned each other's respect and lowered their guards. They have a real conversation, connecting on a personal level. Bond has decided to name his martini The Vesper, because once you've tasted it it's all you want to drink. He also comments that the necklace Vesper wears is an Algerian love knot, something she was given by "a very lucky man." While Vesper is no longer trying to push Bond away, she's still keeping some things hidden and doesn't give any details on the story behind the necklace, "it's just something pretty." Shaken by the things she's witnessed, she suggests that Bond shouldn't stay in the service for much longer.

Their conversation is cut short when Vesper gets a text message on her phone. Mathis wants to meet her somewhere. As she exits the restaurant, there's a finality in the moment. She and Bond likely won't be interacting much more after this. Their job together is finished. But soon after Vesper leaves, a thought occurs to Bond. Something's off about Mathis wanting to meet Vesper alone, and in this moment Bond puts two and two together and figures that Mathis must've been the one who tipped Le Chiffre off to the fact that Bond had noticed his bluff tell, resulting in the fake that briefly knocked Bond out of the game.

Bond rushes out of the restaurant to witness Vesper being abducted in a car that speeds away. He gets in the Aston Martin and gives chase. Out in the countryside, Bond rounds a curve to see a bound Vesper lying in the middle of the road. Bond swerves sharply to avoid her and the Aston Martin flips and rolls. Several times. With seven full rolls, this car crash earned a place in the record books.

A barely conscious Bond is dragged out of the wreckage of the Aston Martin by Le Chiffre and his henchmen, the villain telling him that "your friend Mathis is really my friend Mathis" while Kratt cuts the tracking chip out of Bond's arm. Bond blacks out, and when he regains consciousness he's in the cargo hold of a ship, getting stripped naked and tied to a wicker chair that has had the seat cut out of it.


Le Chiffre wants Bond to give him the password to authorize the transfer of the game winnings, and has devised the perfect way to torture information out of a man. His literary counterpart had the same method, though their weapons differ: Fleming wrote that Le Chiffre used a carpet beater, in this film he uses a thick, knotted rope. In both, the weapon is used to mercilessly batter Bond's genitals.

Bond gives a good show of defiance and resiliency, but amid the pain he finally fully grasps the concept of "the big picture". No matter what Le Chiffre does to him, he will still be able to seek refuge from MI6 because the information he has is so important. Bond is in a hopeless situation. There's no reason for Le Chiffre not to torture him to death, and as said Mathis said, there is no cavalry to come to his rescue. There might be a chance that Leiter and the CIA could figure out where Le Chiffre went and show up to perform their extraction, but that doesn't seem likely to happen in time to do Bond any good.

The lives of Bond and Vesper are saved by a third party, though. Mister White appears on the ship to deal out a harsh punishment for Le Chiffre's betrayal. Knowing who to trust is the most valuable commodity to White's organization.



Bond is taken to a hospital in a picturesque location to convalesce, Mathis is taken into custody by MI6 to be questioned, and then the film continues on from where most movies in the series would end and becomes a romance for a while. Vesper sticks by Bond while he recovers, and for the only time in the series aside from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, we watch Bond fall in love.

When Bond has fully recovered, he and Vesper set off on an aimless sailing trip. He has come around to agreeing with her suggestion that he should quit his job, he needs to get away from it and salvage what's left of his soul. He writes a letter of resignation and e-mails it to M, with the intention of settling into a semi-normal life with Vesper. For her part, Vesper stops wearing the Algerian love knot necklace. "Sometimes you can forget the past."

Having read the novel multiple times before the film was made, I knew about all of this and knew where it was going. For viewers not familiar with the book, these developments must have been quite surprising. In one of my theatrical viewings, I was sat behind a man who clearly had no idea about the literary Bond/Vesper story and was expecting the movie to end any time now. The villain was dead, Bond got the girl, bring on the end credits. This guy took to raising his hands toward the screen during quieter moments as if he could magically get the final fade out and credits scroll to begin. A shot of Bond and Vesper sailing along in their boat? Must be the end. He'd raise his hands. Amusingly, I ended up sitting behind a man who'd occasionally raise his hands at the screen, although for different reasons, at one of my theatrical viewings of this year's Skyfall, which has led me to wondering if I may have sat behind the same person at two different Bond movies six years apart.

An early stop on Bond and Vesper's trip is Venice, where they go on separate errands - Bond is to get supplies while Vesper goes to the bank to take out enough money for them to be able to sail for a month. Bond returns to their hotel room first, where he gets a call from M while waiting for Vesper. Seems the poker game winnings have not yet been deposited into the Treasury account. With a call to the banker who handled the winnings, Bond discovers that the funds have just been withdrawn in Venice. On Vesper's cell phone, he finds a text message from someone named Gettler setting up a meeting in an undisclosed location.

Bond hurries through the walkways of Venice, through St. Mark's Square, catching a glimpse of Vesper's red dress as she walks away from the bank, carrying a case of money. He follows the slash of red through the city, to her destination, where she meets the one-eyed villain called Gettler (Richard Sammel) and hands over the case while several armed henchmen watch over them.

Bond disrupts the meeting and the climactic action sequence kicks in. Some feel that this bit of action is too much, that Vesper's betrayal should've been revealed in the same quiet, low-key way that it is in the novel, but I quite like the sequence, I think it's a nicely cinematic way for things to go down.

The battle between Bond, Gettler, and the henchmen occurs in a large palazzo, its interior modeled after Venice's Hotel Danieli, which has been sinking into the canal and, in an attempt to save it, had been buoyed by air bags. To get an edge on the henchmen with some chaos, Bond shoots the air bags and causes the palazzo to crumble down around them, collapsing into the water as the men fight within it. The effect was accomplished through a very impressive mixture of miniatures and a huge set built on gimbals in Pinewood's 007 Stage.

Bond makes quick work of Gettler's henchmen, then takes the man himself out with a nail gun, and I am so glad that this method of dispatching a baddie does not spur Bond on to making some kind of quip in this moment. He just pulls a nail that Gettler had shot into his shoulder out of his flesh and goes on his way.

As the building meets its watery demise, Vesper makes a choice that ends her relationship with Bond on a tragic note. At first, Bond has a cold, hard reaction to her decisions, speaking a line during a phone call with M that the novel ended with, but M brings him around to thinking differently. Vesper betrayed them because her boyfriend, a French-Algerian man, the person who gave her the love knot necklace, was kidnapped by the mysterious organization. They threatened to kill him if she didn't cooperate with them. In the end, she made a deal with the organization: the money for Bond's life. She's the reason White didn't kill him alongside Le Chiffre. And knowing she might not return from the cash exchange, she left her cell phone behind for Bond.


On Vesper's phone, Bond finds the number for Mister White. He goes back to work. And when Mister White comes home to his Italian villa one day, he finds that Bond is waiting for him with a very large gun. Bond introduces himself to the man - "Bond. James Bond."


The idea is that the events of the film have shaped the reckless rookie into the agent we've always known and loved. His style, drink, and outlook on people, his job, and the world have been established, and now he's made his introduction. The "James Bond Theme" fills the soundtrack, fade out and the end credits start to roll.

One of my favorite passages in the novel is when Bond is thinking about gambling and how things have always gone his way in games and relationships, but "One day, and he accepted the fact, he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened he knew he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility." Bond is brought down by both luck and love over the course of this story, and he comes out of it a more rounded person.

Bond is Bond, but he still has some unfinished business with Mister White and his organization...


I was nervous when I went to see Casino Royale on opening day in November of 2006, my heart was beating fast as I reached the theatre, largely because - again, as an overly invested fan - I hoped that the risks taken on it would pay off and that it would be successful, that the movie-going public wouldn't be put off by the antics of the closeminded online or the nonsense published in the tabloids, that they would accept Daniel Craig as James Bond. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The film was a big success, the audience for Bond was still there. In straightforward numbers, it was named the most successful Bond film ever. (Adjusted for inflation, of course, Thunderball is still tops.) Its quality and Craig's performance won over a lot of the naysayers, got the media to change its negative tone, did the supporters proud, and vindicated Eon's choices.

I was blown away by it. Casino Royale is one of my favorite movies in the series, and the opinion I have today is the same one I had after watching it for the first time - that it was easily the best Bond film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969. Everyone stepped up their games on this one. The writing, particularly the dialogue, was much better than it had been in the series for a long time, telling the story had been valued over the formula checklist. It looks great, and the actors all did exceptionally well in their roles. Daniel Craig was everything I hoped he would be as Bond, Eva Green held her own as Vesper, Mads Mikkelsen was the perfect sleaze as Le Chiffre, Jesper Christensen's Mister White was a terrific mysterious presence, and I loved Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini as Leiter and Mathis.

Not only is it the best Bond movie since OHMSS, it also has a lot of ties to that one. They're the stories of Bond's two great, tragic loves. He marries Tracy in OHMSS, he considers marrying Vesper in the pages of CR. Down-to-earth and dramatic, they both focus more on who Bond is as a character than the mission he's on. But they don't skimp on the action either. Both mark an actor's debut as Bond. Thankfully things went better with Craig than they did with Lazenby. And they share similar running times. Until Casino Royale, On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the longest film in the series, running over 141 minutes. CR passed it with a running time of just over 144 minutes. Filmmaking has changed since 1969, though, so if you want to get extremely nitpicky, there is still more movie between OHMSS's credits than there is to CR. The OHMSS end credits are only 1 minute long, while CR's are 5 minutes, so right there OHMSS makes up the time difference without even taking into account that CR's title sequence is also more than a minute longer than OHMSS's. But who's counting? Maybe George Lazenby, since the joke when word of CR's running time got out was, "Craig has already been Bond longer than Lazenby."

I went into CR nervous, but when I left the theatre the saying that "Men leave Bond movies walking tall" held true for me. For a brief moment, I felt as cool and confident as my favorite hero. I was a pleased fan, and a proud one. Forty-four years in the Bond series, Eon had finally been able to make an adaptation of the first novel, and they pulled it off in a fantastic way.


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