Casino Royale: The (re)Birth of Bond

Having seen Quantum of Solace a few times on the telly and Skyfall in theatres this past November, I thought it was high time I watched Casino Royale, the film that served to “reboot” Bond and also saw Daniel Craig’s first foray into the franchise.

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And what a foray. I really loved the scene with Bond in the section chief’s office, because Bond is half in shadow and the camera flips between their intense tête-à-tête and Bond in the washroom, making his first kill. The use of black and white in both scenes gave the action a quality of, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but mystery, and at the same time, starkness. Bond is a trained killer. His face betrays no emotion as he kills the man with whom he’d been conversing.

The credits were great, loved the cards motif and the colours (though I preferred the nightmare-esque quality of Skyfall‘s credits). The song also didn’t seem very Bond-y to me– I suppose I’m just habituated to the sultry ones of Adele and Alicia Keys.

I can now say that Martin Campbell is one of my favourite Bond directors—after all, he was the one who decided it was high time a woman played M in GoldenEye—and I think it can be argued that that was the best of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films.

Moving on to the parkour chase– its intensity was not exaggerated one bit. I heard Daniel Craig sustained a plethora of injuries during the making of the film, and I can certainly see why. The action is incredible and of course he does most of it himself, so really, bravo. I love how the chased kept swinging through gaps and over and under obstacles but Bond just crashed and smashed his way through everything. Destructive and ruthless machine, after all.

I will be perfectly honest, I didn’t find the whole iconic emerging from the ocean thing that breathtaking. I do love the nod to Ursula Andress and Bond Girls being highly objectified and sexualized and turning that on its head, but it was rather awkward because he basically just struck a pose and stood there gazing at a woman who was very far away. I actually thought that his second emergence from the ocean (later, with Vesper) was the better one, as he looked more natural, and thus, sexy.

Vesper. I love that she didn’t instantly fall for Bond’s charm, although you could see she also wasn’t completely averse to it. Eva Green did a fantastic job, and I can totally see Vesper being Skyfall Q’s brother. She’s in my favourite scene of the film, in which Vesper and Bond are sitting in the shower, Bond comforting Vesper and kissing the blood off her fingers. It was so beautifully intimate, and so different from usual Bond film scenes (both fully clothed! sorcery??), and I am just so in love with the scene and all its aspects.

The music was beautiful as well— favourite track is “Vesper”. David Arnold is really quite brilliant— I wish he had come back for Skyfall, as I didn’t really take to Thomas Newman’s score.  Apparently, David Arnold also did the music for BBC’s Sherlock. Fun fact there.

And no review would be complete without mentioning the (in)famous torture scene. It was more painful than I’d imagined, but I must admit, aside from the whipping of balls and the literal crying of blood, Le Chiffre did not come off as particularly sinister. He didn’t even last until the end of the film–which, I believe, is the first time in the history of Bond films that that has occurred. I suppose that makes Quantum the “real” villain, although they don’t really feature until Quantum of Solace. In that case, would that make Vesper the villain for betraying and damaging Bond? I like the villainous ambiguity– it creates the possibility that Bond himself is his own worst enemy.

I had seen Vesper’s death (and only Vesper’s death) a few years ago, just walking into the living room as Casino Royale was playing on TV, and only catching the ending, so it didn’t hit me particularly hard. That being said, since this time I actually watched Bond fall in love with Vesper— how he would leave his adrenaline-filled life for a different kind of adrenaline with her– I felt Bond’s heartbreak rather than my own potential one.

Clever move having him do the famous “Bond. James Bond.” to formally introduce himself at the end of the film rather than near the beginning. It marks the end of the new-007, falling in love chapter of his life, and the start of the experienced, hardened, closed-off agent.

And having seen Casino Royale, I completely understand why people thought Quantum of Solace was a letdown. This was so much more thrilling and analytical and just altogether strong.

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