Casino Royale, Part Two (#SFWApro)

As noted in the last post, Le Chiffre in the movie is in the same awkward situation as his counterpart in the novel, and has almost the same solution. Instead of winning via baccarat, he’s winning through high-stakes poker. A friend of mine thinks that’s because nobody knows how to play baccarat any more, but I doubt that many people knew back when the novel came out. More likely, I think, it’s that poker has gone from a seedy game to something much more glamorous.
With treasury agent Vesper Lind (Eva Green) providing funding, Bond squares off with Le Chiffre, spots his tell, but somehow loses. Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) of the CIA provides funding as in the book. Bond wins, Le Chiffre captures and tortures him, the terrorists kill him. Bond, having fallen hard for Vesper, decides to quit the service. Then he discovers she’s taken all the money he won and passed it back to Le Chiffre’s shadowy network. She dies before he can save her and we end with one of the backers confronting a very pissed-off Bond.
What’s odd about the plot, as I said, is that there’s no overt threat at all. At no point is anyone planning to destroy the world, blow up Ft. Knox or provoke a war, nor has anyone fed Felix to a shark (to cite various previous movies). Nobody’s planning to do anything, it’s just that Le Chiffre’s involved with giving terrorists money, ergo, evil, send in 007.
Which is fairly realistic but I doubt it would be a strong enough spine for a Bond movie normally. In this one, as in the book, though, we watch the thoroughly hard, brutal Bond discover he loves Vesper and ultimately be transformed by her death. And that’s what makes it work. Though I’ll make the minor complaint that the ending is closer to Connery’s Bond avenging his wife in Diamonds Are Forever or Dalton avenging Leiter in License to Kill, rather than any commitment to fighting England’s enemies. And that, I think, is a flaw. I’m not sure he’s showing any of the discrimination M said he needed to learn.
Another flaw is the Mikkelsen is stiff as Le Chiffre. Once again, it’s the female lead who’s the most important character besides Bond. Even by that standard, Le Chiffre is kind of dull, with an uninteresting quirk (he weeps tears of blood).
As M, Judi Dench is much softer on Craig than she was on Brosnan. In the Brosnan films, she seemed constantly ready to cut Bond loose; here she takes the time to keep Bond on track when he’s going off the rails. Given Bond’s statement that M is short for her real name, I’m not surprised some people thought it meant “Mother.”
Overall, despite the flaws, this was a great debut for Craig. And now I have only two films to go to get current on the series. My goodness, that’s really hard to believe.

1 Comment

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One response to “Casino Royale, Part Two (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: The spineless Bond: Quantum of Solace, with spoilers (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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