Friday, 15 July 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 29 - Casino Royale

#72 - Casino Royale:

The name’s Bond, James Bond.
According to a random book of facts my parents got me for Christmas a few years ago, a quarter of the world’s population has seen at least one James Bond film. I guess I’m in that statistic as of 2006 when this film came out, because believe it or not I had not seen a full James Bond film before that. And I haven’t seen another one since. The only other film I’ve seen bits of is one where Sean Bean turns out to be evil yet again and M remarks “unlike the Americans we prefer not to get our bad news from CNN” (which I can do a pretty good impression of I should add). So let’s get started gentlemen and gentle ladies.

It’s Bond’s first mission as 007 and he takes a trip to the Bahamas where he first has to deal with someone trying to blow up a plane and killing a bunch of people, before discovering that said bomb maniac was an agent of the terrorist banker Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who is throwing an international poker tournament in Casino Royale in Montenegro in hopes of winning a fortune and paying off his debts to his superiors. Naturally Bond is entered as the final participant and is ordered to stop Le Chiffre from winning so he’ll have to hide from his enemies, and so the organisation will take him in, in exchange for information. Bond is joined by a woman from the treasury Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) who has more wit than Bond himself and is rated F for Feminist.

For Bond fans who haven’t seen this film, it acts as a continuity reboot for the series pretty much in the style of Batman Begins. Also in the style of Batman Begins, the tone is shifted from campy gadgets and world domination plots towards a more realistic tone, essentially placing James Bond into a real world setting. The tone is a lot darker as well with the fight scenes being brutal and bloody as well as a pretty graphic torture scene (though I’m sure viewers with a preference for that type of thing will enjoy it nonetheless). The film also features a conversation mocking the silly names of previous Bond girls as well as Le Chiffre saying he prefers simple ways to torture people, as opposed to some of the more elaborate schemes fans of the films will remember. Bond is also shown to take his job as an assassin a lot more literally as well as his reckless and careless actions being criticised by other characters and being shown to have bad consequences since we all prefer heroes with fundamental flaws (are you paying attention, Stephanie Meyer?). But the film also delivers the flashy cars, beautiful women, eye-popping action sequences and the inevitable formal wear scene that Bond fans come to expect from the films.

As I’ve never seen another full James Bond film and the only other Bond I really know of is Pierce Brosnan I guess I don’t have a place to say how I think Daniel Craig is the best Bond but he’s pretty damn good here, as he always is (he and Shawn Ashmore are having it out to decide which of them I’m gonna start giving Buddhist rituals for). He oozes the wit and sarcasm that makes this Bond who he is. Hell I wouldn’t mind being James Bond after watching Daniel Craig in this, and it is nice to get a blond action hero for once. Equally as delightful to watch (and listen to) in this film is Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. Her first scene with Bond is a feminist’s dream and listening to the two of them bounce off each other is more gripping than a Wimbledon tennis match. Vesper is almost like a female Bond except she’s not that much of an action girl but she certainly delivers the male eye candy without being skanky at all. Indeed her entrance to the poker table will stick with both men and women alike. Mads Mikkelson is also quite entertaining as the big bad of the film, looking quite sinister with his scarred eye and evil glare and making the torture scene quite disturbing to watch. And Dame Judi Dench delivers a top notch performance as M, the most entertaining scenes being between her and Bond including one where he breaks into her house and we have this exchange:

M: “How the hell did you find out where I lived?”
Bond: “The same way I found out your name. I just thought M was a randomly assigned letter. I had no idea it stood for—”
M: “Utter one more syllable and I’ll have you killed!”

In addition to the scenes between Bond and M, the conversations between Bond and Vesper are excellently written especially when they both size each other up in their first meeting and choose each other’s clothing for the first night of the tournament. There’s so much wit in the air you can hardly take it. And of course the action scenes are pretty edgy as well, especially the big chase through the Ugandan embassy where Bond chases a bomb maker up a crane of all things. Then there’s the other really cool chase scene at Miami airport where Bond has to stop a terrorist driving a truck rigged with a bomb into a plane. The film’s director also has a cameo in that scene as a truck driver who gets his neck snapped. And even if it is a little disturbing, the torture scene is pretty well done with Bond delivering this little gem, “now everyone’s going to know that you died scratching my balls”

So there you have it, my first and only proper James Bond film. I was tempted to see Quantum of Solace but I really don’t want to since it won’t have Eva Green in it and without her and Craig together, lightning really can’t strike twice for me. I’ve never been much of a spy movie watcher, the only other two spy films I saw were True Lies and The Long Kiss Goodnight but I enjoyed this gritty and entertaining reboot to the James Bond continuity. Until next time then, Bobby-verse. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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