SPECTRE

Friday, November 7, 2008

Casino Royale (2006)

#21...or is it #1?Just because you've done something, doesn't mean you've got to keep doing it.

--Vesper Lynd.

And that is Casino Royale (2006) in a nutshell.

Remember back, to the long and unsettling 4 year gap between Die Another Day and CR06. After all of the interminable haggling over pierce Brosnan's future, after all of the insane and incessant casting rumors, after all of the vituperation producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were getting in the wake of the critical and fan disdain for some of the excesses of DAD...we really had no idea what to expect, did we?

Sure, Daniel Craig was a respectable choice (despite some dunderheaded loud early opposition...why can't Bond be blond?). Sure, Oscar winner Paul Haggis came on board to work in some unspecified capacity on the script. And sure, they were finally adapting Casino Royale, Ian Fleming's first--and many say best--Bond novel.

But Casino Royale had already been adapted twice before, with none too impressive results. And the "comedy" CR67 had so much high caliber talent involved that it couldn't fail...yeah, right. And the way the filmmakers had flushed away the potential they themselves had set up in the first half of DAD left us seriously in doubt whether they were capable of pulling off a proper hardcore Fleming story.

Silly us, and our short memories. We've been through this before, haven't we? After You Only Live Twice showed a drop at the box office and was less well received by critics, Eon responded with a back-to-basics, amazingly faithful adaptation of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. After Moonraker made a gazillion bucks but received a panning from many critics and fans, Eon followed up by giving us For Your Eyes Only, a hardcore gadget-free spy film weaved together from a couple of Fleming short stories.

So we shouldn't have been too surprised, given the backlash against DAD's CGI and ridiculously oversized sci-fi trappings, that Eon once again went straight back to a highly faithful Fleming adaptation, back to basics.

But there were 3 real surprises.

First of all, this time the public bought in. Historically, the gadgetless, straight spy Bonds haven't done well at the box office. Despite seeming to give people what they were asking for, OHMMS and FYEO had significantly lower grosses than their picked-upon predecessors. But CR06 actually surpassed DAD's box office. Not by a ton, but CR06 still passed it, which was an impressive first for a "retrenching" film.

Secondly, we got a reboot. If you read comic books, well, you're used to this sort of thing. And it's not as if there was any kind of particularly tight continuity between the Bond films to begin with. But for Eon to essentially say, "We're starting over," well, that was pretty damn shocking. Yes, Casino Royale was the first Bond novel, but we weren't expecting "Bond Year One."

And finally, the biggest surprise was how amazingly freaking good the movie turned out to be.

Let me hasten to emphasize, the film is still new to me...it's still the Bond film I've seen the least. Maybe after 5 more years to digest it, and catching portions of it every other week on cable, and comparing it to the movies that follow so we can properly understand what it spawned, perhaps then the newness and shock will have worn off, and my opinion might have mellowed. So maybe you should take my opinions with a grain of salt here, just as you would an adolescent in the bloom of first infatuation who can see no wrong in his new love.

But you know what? It wasn't just me. It scored a 94% on RottenTomatoes, the highest score of any movie for 2006. And the public agreed, going in droves. Who could have figured--a hardcore "straight" Bond film, with a relative unknown in the lead, in the longest Bond movie ever, became the highest grossing Bond ever. Wha happened??

Part of it, I think, was the "Bourne-ification" of the movie marketplace. Not that Bond was "copying" Bourne, as some opined--Bond was doing serious spy back before Jason Bourne was even a twinkle in Robert Ludlum's eye. But the Bourne movies, as well as the TV show 24, seem to have uncovered (or created) an appetite for the more serious action movie. And CR06 was in the right place at the right time to catch that wave.

Another factor is that, at some level, mainstream movie goers and critics were just as disgruntled at DAD as many of the fans were. Scan some of the reviews for CR06, and you'll see sighs of relief that the "silliness" is gone, that the "outlandish" is played down, that the reliance on gadgets and puns was over. (Of course, that just means we're due for the tire swing backlash, as reviews of QoS from the very same critics will no doubt decry the lack of gadgets and whimsy...but I digress)

And, of course, we can't forget 9/11. In a world where we're all frightened that scruffy terrorists with box cutters can destroy our cities, the escapism of evil billionaires with death satellites was exactly the wrong way to go. Maybe we wanted our heroes to make us feel safer by fighting the very threats we're scared of right now, rather than distracting us with fantasy threats. To that extent, perhaps DAD was caught in a bad place, and guessed incorrectly about which way to go.

But maybe I'm over thinking the wheel... maybe it's just that CR06 was such a freakin' great movie.

#1It starts with a very faithful adaptation of Fleming's novel. And how long has it been since we've been able to say that?!? Oh, they added a lot of things--CR was a fairly spare novel. But everything they added seemed very much in the Fleming spirit. And they modernized things a bit--LeChiffre was no longer a SMERSH paymaster, but a terrorist banker; they're playing Texas Hold 'Em, not baccarat. But the entirety of Fleming's novel is there, right down to Bond being smashed in the gonads by a carpet beater. Ouch.

Where the hell's my gun barrel????!??The film begins with James Bond, before he's even a Double-O. And already they're playing against our expectations: we DON'T open with the gun barrel!! We're puzzled, we're bothered, what's happening?!? Black and white?!? Have they abandoned everything in this reboot?

Nope. It a pleasingly clever bit, we simultaneously get the "origin" of Bond's promotion to Double-O and the "origin" of the gun barrel!!! And not only does it work, it works fantastically...not only do we see the birth of Bond the sneaky assassin in the scene with Dryden, but we get to see Bond the hard-assed sonuvabitch in the bathroom fight with Dryden's contact. It's the most brutal fight in the series since the train car fight in From Russia With Love, and the inter cutting between the sedate conversation with Dryden and the bathroom fight is a cunning way to to introduce us to the "new" Bond.

As we go into the opening credits sequence, let's applaud Daniel Kleinman's originality. Aside from his sequence for Tomorrow Never Dies, which I thought was trite and uninspired, his work for the series has been exciting and original, avoiding repeating himself while making the credit sequence relevant to the film's themes (something Maurice Binder didn't always manage to do, especially towards the end). The playing card motif is based on the cover art to the British first edition of Fleming's novel, and follows the movie's mandate of being original.

As for Chris Cornell's song, "You Know My Name," well, I wanted to not like it. I've never been a big fan of his; I wasn't pleased with interviews wherein he practically boasted about not using the phrase "Casino Royale" in the song, joining Rita Coolidge's "All- Time High" on the chicken list; and his not allowing the song to appear on the soundtrack album is one of the biggest egotistical dick moves in the history of the world (Cornell's explanation: "It was a decision of mine not to have it on the film soundtrack. I wanted it to be mine.")

But damned if it isn't a good song for this movie, that grows on me more each time I hear it. Lyrically, it does a good job of setting up the movie's themes. Musically, it's hard-driving and exciting...and it's used very well throughout David Arnold's score (personally, I think it's his best yet...just listen to how he oh so subtly weaves in bars of Monty Norman's theme as the film goes along, until it's finally 'unveiled" at the end). Yes, it's different...but different is the name of the game for this movie. So, despite my misgivings, I really like the song. But, and let me re-emphasize here: not letting it on the soundtrack album=giant dickweed.

The movie's pretty recent for all of us, so I won't give a detailed synopsis, but there are a few things I want to focus on. The first is the casual globe-trotting. In the past, especially later on, Bond movies made a big deal out of there locations, practically jumping up and down screaming "look where we are!" Refreshingly, CR06 plays it a lot more casually. In the first ten minutes, we're in Prague (and deleted footage from the teaser establishes that Bond's bathroom fight was in Pakistan), Uganda, and Madagascar, and the movie just tosses it off without broad establishing shots or enthusiastic shots of local tourist attractions. It takes the globe-trotting more for granted, which in a way makes it all the more realistic and believable for the audience. It gives Bond's world a more "lived-in" feeling, that it's not a big deal for him to be jetting to several different continents and casinos in the space of a few days. And it emphasizes that it's the action, not the sight-seeing, that's the most important part. It's a preferable approach, I think, to the past couple of Brosnan films, where they practically were doing cartwheels to advertise that they were in places uglier than a 1970's Doctor Who quarry.

The next thing to talk about is what they give us in the teaser and the first huge set piece: real live stunts. After all of the hullabaloo and outcry about the over-reliance on CGI and the lack of human stunts in DAD, the producers did an amazing thing: they listened. Gloriosky, how they listened! Start to finish, top to bottom, CR06 is crammed to the gills with stunt work. Not just everyday, humdrum stuntwork. No, they rose to the challenge and gave us some of the best, most-exciting, wonderfully-filmed stunts in the series history. They turned it up to 11, and it pays off tremendously. Just take a look at a few of these:



No computer para-glacier surfing, just good old fashioned real people doing ridiculously dangerous things on film to amuse and awe us. Thank you, Eon. All is forgiven.

Just as important is how they approach "Bond Year 1." It truly was a movie of watching James Bond mature into his role as 007. He's truly a terminator from the beginning...despite all Mollaka's parkour skills, Bond is able to keep up with him, albeit in a less graceful way. He's relentless in his pursuit of the Miami bomber. But he's not living up to his duties yet, is he? His assignment to bring in the Mollaka is botched (not his fault), but he overreacts by killing the man and causing an international incident. Blowing up Carlos with his own device was amusing, but he could have just easily thrown the bomb away and captured the man alive, gaining valuable intel. After he goes bust at the poker game, he's ready to kill LeChiffre until Leiter stops him. It turns out that M was right...he couldn't see the big picture.

Not that Bond was entirely just a blunt instrument. He showed a lot of wit in his ability to keep up with Mollaka. When the Skyfleet bombing is thwarted, LeChiffre declares that someone must have talked, when it fact it was entirely good old-fashioned detective work by Bond that led him there (Bond? Following leads and clues? When was the last time that happened?). He's innovative and quick, able to improvise on the fly--the salt shaker ipecac he improvised after being poisoned, shooting out the air balloons in the Venice building, figuring out what "ELLIPSIS" meant, tracking down M's home and breaking in...

But as smart and resourceful as he was, lethal violence was his usually his first reaction (although note the care he uses to not kill any of the guards in the Nambutu embassy). But by the end, instead of killing Mr. White, he merely captures him. And that's when we get the "Bond...James Bond" and the Monty Norman music. Because, up until that moment, he hadn't truly been 007, but a blunt instrument with a licence to kill.

We also see Bond learning how to be 007 in other ways, as well. As clever and as dangerous as he is, he doesn't know to dress himself for the high society he'll be moving in--Vesper has to teach him that. He doesn't know how he takes his martinis. He's the dangerous man, not from money, who has to mingle with the elite to do his job, but he's not comfortable doing so yet. The attitude that Sean Connery brought to Bond--that the tuxedo was just a costume he wore, but was still the predator underneath it--is where Craig's Bond will be in a few years...but he's not quite there yet.

Really, aren't you sick of Bond actors being treated like pieces of meat?All of which would be meaningless if Daniel Craig weren't up to the task. And he knocks the ball out of the park. Here's how I can best sum up my reaction to his performance: regular readers know I've always felt the OHMSS would be the perfect movie if we could go in and digitally replace George Lazenby with Sean Connery. Well, I now think it would be even better (for that movie, at least) if we used Craig instead of Connery. That's not a knock at Sir Sean...but he was never called upon to give the kind of emotional context to one his Bond performances as Craig was here. And so in my head I can see Craig, the hard-bitten love 'em and leave 'em spy whose heart was turned to stone by Vesper's betrayal, have that heart thawed by Tracy, only to lose her. (of course, had it been Craig, we can assume that the intro to Diamonds Are Forever would have been a lot more intense, and Tracy's murder not completely forgotten afterward...different times)

And although he's not burdened by the quips and puns of his predecessors, Craig also turns in a subtly humorous performance (with the help of the writers and director, obviously), a wry style of understatement and facial expression that conveys lots of quiet whimsy. Just watch the sly smile he gives when Carlos explodes--the smallest of facial expressions, yet it drew a huge laugh from the audience. And yet the broadest of the jokes--"Everyone's going to know you died scratching my balls" while in agonizing pain--is equally well done.

I know I shouldn't get overly enthusiastic--it's only one film, so far--but Craig completely erased everyone's doubts and owned the role from his first scene, digging deeply and not being afraid to give us a Bond who's not perfect yet, but is still struggling to come to grips with his new life. Plus, I'm told the ladies like the way he fills out a pair of swim trunks...

Much of the credit obviously goes to the script. I wasn't particularly complimentary to Purvis and Wade for their work on TWINE and DAD. But I don't want to fall into the trap of giving all of the credit to Paul Haggis, despite his credentials, as he's said publicly that his main contribution was rewriting the climax. Whoever is responsible, the dialogue sparkles and shines, especially between Vesper and James, without relying on terrible puns to push things along. And in contrast to the way that TWINE and DAD half-heartedly attempted to changes things up, but ultimately lacked the courage of their convictions and bailed out, CR06 never wavers in its commitment to give us a serious Bond Year One. The additions to the book are mostly character building moments for Bond and LeChiffre, and some thrilling action pieces, all well handled with none of the absurd tonal shifts of the previous two movies. A wonderfully solid writing job.

And let me go on the record right now: Martin Campbell can direct a Bond movie any goddamned time he wants to. With CR06 and Goldeneye to his credit, Campbell rivals Terrance Young as a Bond director in my book. Maybe he's only really good with an actor's first Bond movie, as he keeps declining offers to come back. But he's taken what on paper are two very different Bond movies and gotten right to the heart of them. But there are similarities: in GE he was given a movie about Bond at middle age, examining what the hell all the martinis and women meant to a man who should be jaded from having his life constantly on the line. In CR06, he gets a baby Bond, learning how to be a Double-O in the first place. In both cases, he has a firm vision of what he wants the movie to be, and guides us along confidently.

And the action scenes--oh, lordy, how wonderful. Despite the rapid action and quick cutting, you're never at a loss for what's going on, never confused as to how we got from point A to point B. Visceral, tough, thrilling--this movie quickens your pulse even when you know what's going to happen.

Which isn't to slight him in non-action scenes. Any scene with Vesper sparkles, and their shower scene is one of the most touching things in the entire series. In a movie with such highly-charged action scenes, there's a real danger that things will flag in between, but Campbell never lets our attention waver, making the poker scenes just as intense as the parkour, the conversations as riveting as the sinking buildings. Please, Martin Campbell--come back to us and give us Bond movies!!

The bitch is deadEva Green makes for a compelling Vesper Lynd. (Although I will say that her accent continues to bug me to this day--at times her English is so stiff, and accent so distractingly stilted, you almost wish that they had just found a way to make her character French...only at times, though). To make the part compelling, you have to believe that Vesper is intelligent, vulnerable beneath her haughty facade, and capable of both betraying Bond and killing herself because she loves him. Green pulls it off ably, creating a deep portrait of the woman Bond will come to love. Note that she doesn't even appear until one hour into the movie--yet the audience knows more about her, and feels a deeper connection to her, than any recent Bond woman. Green takes the strong script and executes her role amazingly well. Her repartee with Bond, the subtle signs of her guilt that only become apparent upon repeat viewings, and the depth of her feeling for James, come through beautifully. It's obvious why she's had such an impact on Bond's life, and why she is a top-tier Bond girl.

Finally...a Felix you can believe inA special Felix Leiter shout out to Jeffrey Wright. Yes, it's once again a small role. But it's a refreshingly realistic Leiter--he's keenly aware of Bond's strength (cards) versus his own (money), and is willing to do the smart thing and stake Bond when the British government won't. For once, Leiter isn't there just as a sidekick or support staff for 007, but an agent with his own agenda that just happens to coincide with Bond's. Well played, "brother from Langley." Stay away from sharks, buddy.

M's famous bedroom sceneJudi Dench's return as M can cause some consternation if you worry too much about whether or not this is a full reboot or just a Year One. After all, in Goldeneye we saw her introduction, and she replaced a previous M, and Bond had never worked for her before, so how could she have been Bond's first boss?? But just as with the "how come Bond and Blofeld don't recognize each other in OHMSS?" problem, I choose to ignore it. No solution makes good sense, so why not just relax and enjoy Dench's mastery of the role? She's on the top of her game here, balancing her anger at Bond with her trying to mold him into the agent she needs, giving him a long leash because she knows he's going to keep digging. Plus, we get our first shots of her home, her sleeping husband, and the first inklings of her real name (which apparently she's not terribly fond of...Mildred? Mulva?). I don't care what meta-fiction might have to be involved, but for heaven's sake keep Dench as M, no matter who is Bond or when the movie is set.

The movie is not 100% perfect...but many of those imperfections stem from following the structure of the book. Some have complained of the early death of LeChiffre and the "meandering" of the movie's last half hour. But that is exactly how the book does it! In the novel, Bond and Vesper cavort around Europe, but their relationship gradually breaks down over her guilt at having been the traitor (and her fear that SMERSH will catch up to her and kill James, too), and she kills herself with sleeping pills and leaves a tearful suicide note. Perhaps, in trying to mirror the novel so closely, they might have made a cinematic mistake. For those who weren't familiar with the novel, that 20 minutes of bumming around Europe being in love can feel anti-climactic and wandering, up until the phone call from M asking where the money is gives us a jolt of adrenaline. It's a segment that gives us a lot of appreciated character moments, yet feels very unlike a James Bond movie the way it unfolds, without the narrative drive the audience has come to expect, both from prior Bond movies and CR itself up to that point. I don't have any kind of answer here--I don't mind it, but I can understand why some people regard the longueur as a time to take a bathroom break. Could they have done it differently? Should they have? Were they too focused on being faithful to the novel?

Disclaimer--eye bleeding not at all relevant to anythingThis same fidelity to the novel also hurts Mads Mikkelson's presence as the villain. I'm not criticizing his performance at all--he's more than menacing enough, thinking his arrogant intelligence is enough to solve all his problems as things go to hell around him. Yet like in the book, LeChiffre doesn't actually have a lot to do. He doesn't really have any henchmen, and so other than his silent girlfriend, unless he's with Bond, he doesn't have anybody to bounce off of. The physical traits they give him--the asthma, the "weeping blood"--are just gimmicks glued onto the character to make him seem more Fleminesque, in lieu of spending time giving him more personality or background. We end up knowing far less about LeChiffre than we do Vesper. Take away the poker games and the torture scene, and there's really not much there. Throw in the fact that he dies 3/4 of the way through the film (and not even at Bonds' hands!), and we seem to have another situation where perhaps fidelity to the novel doesn't work as well as it might cinematically. Perhaps the writers should have deviated from the book a bit more in order to make LeChiffre a better character...

Those are minor quibbles, though. Eon completely stunned the world by, seemingly out of nowhere, producing one of the best James Bond movies ever. After a post-DAD break filled with controversy and unrest, after a nearly complete re-imagining of the series, Casino Royale (2006) has by sheer audaciousness and pluck muscled its way to near the top of the Bond pantheon. Did any of us expect that to happen?

Just because you've done something, doesn't mean you've got to keep doing it. Just because the first 20 Bond films followed a pattern, doesn't mean Eon had to keep following that pattern. That would have been the safe thing...but to the credit of everyone involved, they not only went back to Bond's roots, but they replowed and replanted the whole damned field. It's too early to know what the result will be--is this a one time aberration, or a new trend? A triumphant debut, or what we'll come to regard in 10 years as a false step? But for now (and at least for another week), I can confidently declare that Casino Royale (2006) is one hell of a movie. I guess the third time really was a charm.

I'm at the end of my journey through the Bonds. But we're not done yet. There will be posts aplenty over the next week, as I try to pass the time until midnight Thursday with lists, discussions of odd topics I hadn't gotten to yet, and more Cletus! And of course, QoS will undoubtedly give me a lot to write about, too. And then we can begin the countdown to The Hildebrandt Rarity (hey, don't laugh...who ever thought Eon would actually use Quantum of Solace as a title?!?).

SNELL'S RANDOM NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

**We'll have a long talk this weekend about the poker in CR06. There are several questionable things there...

**Interestingly enough, Eon finally got the rights to Casino Royale thanks to a studio trade--MGM gave Sony the rights to do Spider-Man movies, and Sony in return gave MGM the CR rights. Of course, by the time they got around to making CR, Sony had purchased MGM, so it was something of a moot point...

**One aspect of early Bond's spy abilities is that he is COMPLETELY TERRIBLE at surreptitiously following someone. In the deleted scene from the trailer, Dryden's contact sees Bond following him, which results in the bathroom fight. Bond gets made in Madagascar, but that's his partners fault...we'll give him a pass. But Dimitrios catches Bond tailing him in Miami; Carlos the bomber sees Bond trailing him at the airport; the Ugandans nail him at the hotel; and Gettler catches Bond spying on Vesper in Venice. All of these serve to make Bond's life much harder. Really, you'd think that before promoting him to Double-O, M would make sure that he had passed Surveillance 101 (or that the writers wouldn't keep using the same plot device over and over to advance the action...)

**Listen to Dryden talk all about Double-O's, and advice Bond that the second kill is easier. Does he know from experience? Was Dryden a former Double-O, now a corrupt station chief?

**Should LeChiffre really be making his investment call in the open?? Where not only the Ugandans, but Mr. White might overhear? Geez, he's not even trying to conceal the phone call...

Why not just wear a big sign that says 'I'm stealing your money!'?**Aah, fictional countries again. Nambutu...the question is, why did Mollaka flee to that embassy? Was he a Nambutuan? Or was he working with their government in some of his terrorist activities?

**How, exactly, does the press leap to the assumption that Bond was a British agent? He never says a word the entire time to anybody in the embassy, or does anything that might betray his identity...why not assume he's American, or Russian? Did the Madagascar authorities somehow manage to track this info down? Did somebody in MI-6 leak it?

Maybe the back of his head looks particularly British?**Speaking of which, whatever happened to Bond's oafish partner on this mission, Carter? He's never mentioned again after blowing things. Was he captured, and then dropped the dime on Bond?

**Well, at least we now know why Bond never fathered any bastards during all those liaisons over the years--crushed gonads!!

Think of the money he'll save on condoms**I asked this same question in TWINE...why is Vesper making a physical withdrawal from the bank, as opposed to a wire transfer, such as the one that put the money into her account to begin with? Just to give us a briefcase MacGuffin, I guess...

**If that's someone from the Treasury asking M to call Bond about why the money hasn't been transferred yet, why aren't they also calling Vesper, since she actually worked for the Treasury?? Then again, maybe they did and she just never returned the calls...

**So Skyfleet is going to do the big public unveiling of their new jetliner in the middle of the night??

**Vesper may be at the treasury, but she seems a little iffy on certain mathematical concepts: "So you're telling me it's a matter of probability and odds...I was worried there was some chance involved." Uh, Vesper dear...that's sort of the definition of chance...

**Why all the muckity muck about planting the tracker/bug in LeChiffre's inhaler, when all it ever did was to show Bond what floor LeChiffre was staying on? Really, you need a gadget for that??

**I can't finish without mentioning Solange...mmmm, pretty lady.

I'm speechless**Did M know about Bond's deal to give LeChiffre to the Americans? Obviously, it never came about, but would she have approved of such freelancing? Would she have applauded it as a necessary improvisation under the circumstances?? Or would she have ripped into Bond for giving away an asset to the Americans??

**So, just for the record...we know MI-6 and the CIA had infiltrated the game. Who else was the? Japanese intelligence? The Mossad?

**Bond Score: 2. Solange and Vesper. Cumulative Bond Score...hmm, does this count anymore? If it's really a reboot, maybe not...but since so far they're not remaking any of the older movies, I say they still count for Bond Score purposes...so Cumulative Bond Score: 57.

And, as always

The most reassuring words EVERTune in next week for "5 minutes later..." Damn it, the anticipation is killing me!!

21 comments:

  1. Sorry to break your illusions, but all those action stills are composited shots. Casino Royale is, with 580 shots, the most extensive CGI'd Bond movie ever: http://vfxworld.com/?atype=articles&id=3114&page=1

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  2. Of course there was some composition work, just as there has always been green screen and rear projection and minatures work in the Bond series. But this time actual humans were doing stunts, as opposed to Mii's.

    Take the first picture I posted, the crane jump. According to your own article:

    "During this shot, the characters make a huge jump from one crane arm to another. The stunt was performed for real, but both stunt doubles wore a safety harness that was connected to a third crane that was sitting in the middle of the frame. Our 2D artists had to remove the crane and painstakingly reconstruct the background, and the water, as there was no clean plate available. We also had to do some 3D work to create a proper perspective change on background rooftops that had been obstructed by the third crane. It was a huge endeavor. Our artists did a brilliant job and the shot looks amazing."

    They actually did the stunts, they just "erased the wires," as it were.

    As I said back in my DAD review, I'm not against CGI per se, I'm just against removing human stunt work. The number of fx shots isn't the issue, but what shot and how they're used.

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  3. Wasn't trying to dismiss the work of the stuntmen, (truly amazing) but to dwell on the work of the CGI artists. And the fact that nowadays, not matter how spectacular the stunt is, it will always be way less dangerous than running over the top of the train in Octopussy (one of those "simple" stunts that easily could have gone horribly wrong).

    But of course, the list of accidents in Quantum shooting can prove this theory to be wrong.

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  4. Wasn't it Vesper's phone (the white one) that Bond answers when M calls about the money for the Treasury?

    I thought so.

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  5. I'm not sure where I read it -- maybe on an AICN review -- but someone pointed out that what's really cool about the parkour sequence is that the two men, Bond and the pursued guy, have different approaches to running through that environment, with the pursued guy relying on pure athleticism while Bond relies on his instincts, his constant awareness of his surroundings, and his ability to see things and turn them to his advantage very quickly.

    I was astonished at how good CR was, frankly. I always wonder if Brosnan saw it and, as the credits rolled, sat there thinking, "THIS guy gets THAT script, and I had to make jokes about Christmas in Turkey and outrun a collapsing glacier?!"

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  6. Anon--nope...Bond has two phones in his hand that scene. Vesper's beeps with a text message, he picks it up, but before he can read it his own ring. He answers his, it's M. She drops da bomb news on him. He runs down the stairs at the hotel, talking to the Swiss banker on his phone while looking at the text message on Vesper's white phone...

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  7. Bond doesn't actually sleep with Solange, poor guy. They're just warming into it when Bond has to leave in pursuit of Dimitrios.

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  8. I'm not sure Solange should be counted in the cumultive Bond score, as 007 doesn't actually complete the deal, as it were, because he absconds the moment he finds out her husband is heading to Miami.
    His loss, though, as she is absolutely gorgeous.

    Also, in QoS (which, because I'm British, I've seen!I loved it.) you get to find out about the repercussions of Bond's deal with Leiter about the handling of Le Chiffre.

    I thought Carter fell into the pit with the snake and was bitten. Might be wrong about that, though.

    I think Casino Royale was the kick up the arse the franchise needed and it made the Bond movies cool again in the eyes of the general public, and I think Craig is an excellent Bond, and he continues the good work in the sequel.

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    1. according to the actress he did

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  9. Mick & Anon...You may well be right about Solange. But then again, Bond doesn't bolt right away--he takes the time to order champagne and caviar, which you wouldn't expect the women to appreciate if you just disappear while she's in the bathroom. The Bond fan in me likes to think he made time for a quickie...but i can't say you're wrong.

    Mick, Carter falls into the pit (and his gun goes off, panicking the crowd), but that's all we see. No indication either way of whether he's particularly close to the cobra, or gets bitten. I think the authorities almost had to have captured Carter, because how else do they ferret out that 007 is a Brit? The videos they had of him weren't of sufficient quality or helpfulness to prevent him from leaving Madagascar...I can't figure out why they would pin it on MI-6, as opposed to France, or the US, or Russia, unless Carter was captured.

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    1. they fucked before. Evidently the director intended it to be post coital.

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  10. > he takes the time to order champagne and caviar

    "For one". :-)

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  11. > I can't figure out why they would pin it on MI-6

    In the script - shot but not, sadly, included on the DVD - Bond gives his name (sans catchphrase) before firing. (Also cut was M chastising him for it.) Both were smart cuts tone-wise, but did leave this question in the air.

    > why is Vesper making a physical withdrawal from the bank

    Vesper's withdrawal - from a British government front account, not her personal one - makes sense if she intends to hand the funds over to the bad guys. The organisation won't want to leave a trail of electronic breadcrumbs behind - and that one would have been pretty direct!

    > big public unveiling of their new jetliner in the middle of the night??

    Well there's no press at the airport, so we can maybe assume the unveiling will be in the morning. (Villiers says it's happening 'today', but the UK is five hours ahead of Miami - it'll be past midnight his time.)

    > why did Mollaka flee to that embassy?

    Again, in the original script the military attaché gets the line "You don't work for us any more!". For all I know, that line may be the one spoken in the character's native tongue during the scene...

    That's all I've got for now!

    Thanks for running this blog, BTW. I've disagreed a lot - particularly with the song choices and the dislike of, apparently, more than half the teaser sequence - but it's always, always been interesting and reasonably argued.

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  12. Anon--I won't defend myself two strenuously here, since I ain't at all certain I'm right. But if Bond just bailed on Solange, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have hung around for a snack. So to me, the "for one" implies a quickie and leaving her some munchies for when he takes off. But that could just be me.

    Andrew--Thank you for the kind words. I've
    tried really hard to give actual arguments for my positions, and not just EW-style blurbs. Which doesn't mean I'm "right," of course...as for disagreements, vive le difference...that's what makes these discussions so much fun (and of course, thanks also go to my readers for maintaining an atmosphere of rational discussion).

    Vesper's withdrawal - from a British government front account, not her personal one.

    Wait...if it was in a govt account, why would the treasury be calling Bond, wondering why the money hadn't been deposited yet? My impression was that Vesper punched in the "wrong" account # when the Swiss banker transferred the winnings, as she had already made the deal to turn over the money in exchange for Bond's life...

    Re: the unveiling...you'd think they wouldn't be wheeling the jet out into public view--with pilots in the cockpit, no less--until the actual unveiling. You know, announce in grand tones "here she is," Vanna white gesture to the hanger, the doors open and the plane gets pulled out to oohs and ahhs?? Well, that's how I would have done it, anyway.

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  13. (Sorry, I was anon there also!)

    > the "for one" implies a quickie and leaving her some munchies for when he takes off. But that could just be me.

    Well, hey, whatever. I just can't see sticking around when a vital suspect is running for the last flight out to Miami. Plus room service would likely have arrived 'during'! (I'm also a sucker for the point being made that, actually, Craig's Bond is 'duty first'.) :-)

    > if it was in a govt account, why would the treasury be calling Bond, wondering why the money hadn't been deposited yet?

    I thought a 'front account' would lie somewhere between the two; her control, but not personal. Mind you, it makes no difference - once the betrayal was over, her bank records would have been checked. MI6 would have found the organisation's account info from there. No doubt they insisted on hard transfer to avoid such detection. The same reason you meet in a car park rather than talk over email...

    As to the plane...I think we can allow the dramatic licence of seeing it looking big and impressive, rather than an unlit, unmoving vehicle...

    Bah, where will I get with this 'only a movie' thinking?! :-)

    Ooh, I know - it was a late-night rehearsal! :-D

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  14. I think Vesper makes the withdrawal knowing Bond's going to find out, (as Craig's Bond is actually quite a good detective)she also leaves him her mobile phone with other clues on it, (as if she knows she's not coming back alive) in the hope that James will come after her.

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  15. I like this film and you mentioned all the reasons why. But I don't find it the masterpiece people make it out to be. Le Chiffre is a very stiff and uninteresting villain with the writers giving him lame artificial deformities and an useless girlfriend. Even Peter Lorre and Orson Welles were better than Madds was IMO and their movies were downright worse.

    I also find the final act problematic... the novel made more sense by making the torture/Le Chiffre death the climax and Vesper's death the aftermath. The film doesn't know where the climax is.

    There are way too many poorly written scenes attempting to show how tough and cold Bond is. "You don't care, do you?" *Bond looks away*

    Target teen audience: "Damn, he's so baddaaaaaaaaass!!!"

    I certainly wouldn't replace George Lazenby with anyone either.

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  16. "the 'for one' implies a quickie and leaving her some munchies for when he takes off. But that could just be me"

    If you take a look at Solange's face and body language while Bond is making the call, you can tell that she realizes she's being abandoned -- that Bond had just been using her to get to Dimitrios.

    I think it's part of the new rules for Bond that he *doesn't* make time for a little nookie before duty.

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  17. Having watched the film again I have come to the conclusion that the roles of Mathis should have been flipped. I believe that Ginacarlo Gianninni would have made a much better Le Chiffre because he has the dramatic gravitas to play the role as it was written in the book. One of the biggest disappointment I had with Casino Royale is that the whole patronizing attitude of Le Chiffre towards Bond was not in the script and it would not have worked if done with Mads Mikkelson. He did not have the maturity the dialogue would have required to work. After watching Mads Mikkelson I would probably have laughed had he addressed Bond as "My dear boy". But Giannini? That would be a different story. If he had given the Red Indians speech to Bond it would have made a very dramatic counter to Bond's naivety and would have made a much more chilling torture scene. I also miss the carpet beater, the dawn peeking through the venetian blinds and the coffee pouring ritual from the book but at the very least it would been more dramatic to have had an older le Chiffre and Giannini would have excelled in the role. He would not have needed the aid of the bleeding eye device to add menace to the character. Mads would have been a capable Mathis as well. He would have been believable in the role.

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  18. Something I didn't see in your "random notes and observations": at Miami Airport, you can see a cameo by Richard Branson, when Carlos is about to walk through the scanner.

    I missed this the first time through, focussing on Carlos, but when you already know what's going to happen, you have more capacity for checking the surroundings and details. I actually recognized him with his back to the screen; he's that recognizable.

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