CASINO ROYALE (2006) – A Retrospective
With the release of Spectre right around the corner and rumours that Daniel Craig could be hanging up his Double-0 status some time soon, it’s time to get all sentimental and look back at the impact he has made on the Bond character, relive his greatest hits – and misses – and see if we can’t throw a few wild predictions for Spectre in along the way.
It was going to take a serious knockout punch for people to take Bond seriously again, reboot or not. Though not all of Pierce Brosnan’s entries had been bad (Goldeneye is still one of my favourites, and Tomorrow Never Dies is criminally underrated) his last few left a bad taste in the mouth, with Bond fans needing a palate cleanser after Die Another Day.
With its black and white, no-nonsense intro, Casino Royale gives the feeling that this Bond isn’t the same jokey character we’re used to. But meeting this sharp, edgier Bond in this way excites for what is to come – that opening fist fight in the bathroom is still pretty damn raw. This grit, surely brought on by edgier espionage competition like the Bourne films, lends itself well to how Daniel Craig plays the character; he’s very good at cold and calculated. Follow this up with a visually stunning opening credit sequence – a must in all classic Bonds – which is accompanied by a pretty average, forgettable Chris Cornell song, which sadly seemed to be an ongoing issue with the themes after Goldeneye, until Adele’s Skyfall earworm ended up getting hummed and sung by everyone on the face of the planet.
When we meet our bad guy Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen) he is introduced to an arms dealer by the mysterious Mr White; this character refers to, a few times in the movie, “The Organisation”. At the time this may have seemed a little throw-away, but could this be the start of the SPECTRE framework being laid down?
Then there’s the epic Parkour chase sequence; welcome to the 21st century Bond! It’s sequences like this that you need in the first 20 minutes of an action film, just to get pulses racing – very exciting to see what they hit us with in Spectre. (Continues after pic)
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre is, without a doubt, the best villain Daniel Craig’s Bond has faced off against. Cold and to the point, he’s a stats-man who knows his luck when it comes to cards. He proves you don’t have to be the biggest, most intense guy to be a proper villain – he has asthma after all! But who is pulling his strings? “Le Chiffre doesn’t have 100 million to lose,” says M, so who’s fronting the cash? With the developments in Quantum of Solace, we know that Mr White and Le Chiffre were affiliated with the group Quantum, but could this be another smokescreen from the masters in SPECTRE?
In regards to Casino Royale, it’s an interesting notion that, without all the poker elements, there probably would have been a need to pump more action into it, not that the film was short of that. The separation of the action beats by use of the poker match is a cool idea, though for anyone who has no interest in high-stakes card games, is this really that interesting a movie? (Continues after pic)
Eva Green’s Vesper was the kind of Bond Girl we needed; she has the brains, she has the looks, and she bested James at every opportunity. The pair’s flirtatious acts of one-upmanship play out through the movie, at its best when Bond walks in on her before the poker match begins while she is still applying her makeup, gives her a rather revealing dress and says quite frankly he needs her looking her best. Not to be outdone, Vesper has already had a tailored suit jacket prepared for him, saying she had “sized him up” on their first meeting. How right she was; a classic Bond Girl, beautiful and not to be trusted. It will be very interesting to see what Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci bring to their roles in Spectre.
With the interesting change of pace that the poker scenes bring, interspersed with some cracking action bits (as well as that one really weird scene in the shower when Bond sucks on Vesper’s fingers… hmm… let’s forget it) it’s still a different way to pace a Bond film, so it would be interesting to see what Spectre can bring to the table.
After a Bond win, and a gripping finale – featuring one of the most painful torture scenes you could show a male audience – it’s time to roll credits… wait… it’s not? Oh yeah! This stuff! I’ve often thought the last 20 minutes or so, with James and Vesper in Venice is a tad unnecessary, rushed and half cooked. It surely would have ended this film on more of a punch to carry it over into Quantum of Solace, or remove it completely (simply have the Quantum/SPECTRE guys bust in during the torture scene, kill everyone but Bond, vanish into the shadows again. Job done).
After his return to action, Bond is reminded of the grim reality of his actions by M, “And now we’ll never know who is behind this; the trail’s gone cold.” From Casino to Quantum, it was an interesting prospect having the big picture stuff carried over from one 007 film to another – not something we see very often – and with the suspicious Mr White, and potential smokescreen organisation that Quantum is (more on that in my Quantum of Solace retrospective) still out there, Spectre seems to have a lot of its own history to pull on, as well as a legacy, and whatever delights the filmmakers decide to throw at us next. Bring it on.