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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Casino Royale - /* the name is Bond, James Bond */ - Bond is back better than ever

Going back to the beginning, we see the invention or can we say the re-invention of James Bond in the very first novel of the Ian Flemming series Casino Royale.

Casino Royale starts off in black and white in Prague - a Bond in the making, not yet a double 0 - fresh off his first kill for MI6 - confronting a MI6 agent spilling secrets to an unnamed enemy - this film is devoid of using the likes of SMERSH.

The evil villain of Casino Royale is Le Chiffre - while in the book Le Chiffre is a chief financier in SMERSH and connected with prostitution, in this modern day equivalent he is a sponsor of international terrorism going to Uganda to grow its terrorists' funds in the stock market. In the past Le Chiffre has been played in the previous 1967 Woody Allen written incarnation of Casino Royale by none other than Orson Wells. The modern Le Chiffre is the excellent choice of the Dane star Mads Mikkelsen [who was present in person at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festivla to promote Prague which we saw as a wistful type of Lost in Translation set in the Czech Republic ] [ review is in our 2006 Toronto International Film Festival movies we saw [click on
]. Tall and gaunt with eyes that bleed blood and thin pursed lips, he is full of that SMERSH menace.

To mention James Bond, you have to start with Daniel Craig who has inherited the role and starts the story again from the beginning. The little trademark touches of James Bond are still in the making as he finds his eye for his favourite flashy car - the Aston Martin, and discovering a new drink - even reciting a recipe for the Vesper martini to the bartender called to the poker table. Daniel Craig has proven himself an excellent actor in the past, giving mighty roar as Ted Hughes, the husband and mentor to Gwyneth Paltrow's Sylvia Plath in the 2003 Sylvia. He has already played the tough gunman in the British film Layer Cake, the seducer in The Mother , the sleuth for hire in this 2006 TIFF in the French animated wonder Renaissance. His first notable action role may have been as Lara Croft's counterpart in the first Tomb Raider franchise. This is a rugged steely blue-eyed Bond, not the dapper Pierce Brosnan. The Daniel Craig Bond has more determination and rough edges, an ego to match and amazing eastern based fighting skills in hand to hand combat. And can he ever run.
Action abounds, from the furious first fight against Bond's first kill in Prague to the thrilling running and leaping chase scene in Uganda[ in the style shown to great effect in Banlieu 13 ]. Then it is back to London and the meeting with M who views Bond with disdain over his actions which have left the embassy there in ruins. Then it is off to the white sands and blue ocean waters of the Bahamas where he shows his wiles and his buffed body, emerging from the ocean waters of the Bahamas in a ploy usually reserved a la Ursula Andress in Dr No. Feeding off a tip from Solange, the girlfriend of the powerful Dimitrios, it's off to the nightlife of Miami then an amazing truck chase scene at the airport to stop a La Chiffre's assigned bomber before the launching of the airline's newly unveiled largest airplane in the world.

The Bond girl par excellence in Casino Royale is Eva Green as Vesper Lynd from the British treasury: "I'm the money" "every penny of it" who bankrolls the scheme to confront Le Chiffre and win the potential 150 million dollar table stakes at the poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. The game is no limits Texas hold-em. This contemporization is a far cry from the elegant nights of chemin de fer and baccarat which were favoured in the old days and novels of James Bond. And Vesper Lind is a different Bond girl - a girl that even James Bond can fall in love with.

The relations between Bond and Vesper Lind are restrained from the beginning - she does not cherish seeing the 10 million dollars buy-in [ with $5 milion as a re-buy ] being lost and used to fund terrorism - she detests his arrogance and ego - but the two must pose as a romantic couple - she's the girl who stands behind him wearing the dress with the neckline that distracts everyone while he plays - he's the player in the dinner jacket and you can begin to see Bond being groomed into his taste for finer tailoring. "I had you measured from the start," she says.

While the two begin to develop their bond for each other for the assignment at hand, she quickly discovers the ruthless fighting machine that he is that shakes her to her core. She is not the frosty Bond girl. In the shower scene, in a rare touch for James Bond, he shows a compassion for her. This is more than just a disposable woman for Bond to discard. He lets down his guard and a love flourishes in Venice that would do Cary Grant and Grace Kelly proud.

Machination and intrigue abound and by the end of it all Bond has learned his lesson well - that he cannot trust anybody - a result which eminently satisfies M. On the record here, let us categorically state that our favourite James Bond will always be the original Sean Connery, and the favourite Bond film will always be Dr No Goldfinger You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever. But Daniel Craig has earned his right to claim "The name is Bond, James Bond."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've never had a favorite James Bond . . . until I saw CASINO ROYALE last November.