Thursday, March 12, 2015

Casino Royale [2006]

The second series of James Bond films began in 2006 with the release of tonight's subject, Casino Royale.
  
Wait...did he say "second series"?
  
He certainly did.  The first series of Bond films ended with Die Another Day, the twentieth entry.  The consensus on that film seemed to be that it had -- like Moonraker before it -- gone much too far into the realm of science fiction; a return to the grounded approach to Bond was in order.  It was a fair assessment, and the series had proven to be capable of recalibrating in that fashion with For Your Eyes Only two decades previously.
  
This time, though, the producers decided to not just tap the reset button, but to go to the breaker box and turn everything off.  All the way off.
  
It is easy to overlook how risky a move this was.  Whatever one's personal opinion of Die Another Day may be (and it is reviled by many Bond fans), it is impossible to deny that that movie had been a massive success.  It was easily the biggest hit of the Pierce Brosnan era, which had begun in strong financial fashion with GoldenEye and then progressed steadily in the seven subsequent years.  Under Brosnan, the series had returned to the heights that it had arguably lost from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties; the series, and the character, were on top again.  By all rules of common sense, the right move for Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would have been to make a fifth movie with Brosnan, and then a sixth, and probably a seventh after that.
  
Instead, they sensed that complacency was at hand, and in order to prevent it from taking over and miring the series in hypothetical irrelevance, they decided to start the series over from the ground up.  Brosnan was thanked for his service (one hopes) and shown the door.  The clock was reset to zero, and -- the rights to Ian Fleming's first novel having finally been obtained -- the quasi origin story Casino Royale was undertaken.
  
Allow me to briefly address an idea which has found occasional support among alleged Bond fans: that "James Bond" is a codename, and that the agents played by Connery, Moore, Brosnan, etc. are in fact different men who use the codename in their careers.  In this scenario, Daniel Craig is simply the newest such agent.  (Two films later, Skyfall will make it a literal fact that Bond's birth name is Bond, by the way, but that won't happen for six years from tonight's vantage point.)
  
Bollocks to that.  The credit reads "Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming's James Bond," and Fleming's Bond was just one man.  The only element that makes the scenario tempting is that Casino Royale rehired Judi Dench as M.  This is a different M being played by the same actor; there is no need to read more into it than that, nor is there cause to do so.
  
I mention all that because if you buy into the codename notion, then you might object to the idea that Casino Royale launched a second Bond series.  Eventually, I will write a post that tackles the idea of Bond continuity head-on, but the short version is: if you are one of the codename believers, you are incorrect.  If you object to that assertion on the ground that opinions cannot be incorrect, then allow me to assure you that it is not an opinion you are espousing; it is an incorrect assertion, based on a shallow and imprecise reading of the films specifically and the larger context of Bond generally.  In other words: you are wrong.  We won't have any of your bullshit around here.
  
And on that note of grumpiness, I think we are primed and ready to dive into the Daniel Craig era of Bond films.

  





(1)  Bond ... James Bond

It was taken as a given for a long time -- roughly from 1962-2006 -- that not only was Sean Connery the best James Bond, but that he would remain the best James Bond until at least the sounding of Gideon's trumpet.  Maybe even longer.  From the moment Casino Royale opened in November of 2006, however, it was clear that the matter had unexpectedly been opened for discussion again.
  
I enjoy providing a bit of historical perspective at the beginnings of these posts, but it is not my aim to serve as a recap of such events.  Nevertheless, it's worth remembering that when Daniel Craig was announced as the new Bond, a lot of alleged Bond fans lost their shit.  (You will note that that is the second time this post I have used the phrase "alleged Bond fans."  This is where you'd expect me to say something like "I intend no offense," or "no judgment is implied."  Thing is, I kind of do intend offense, and I am flat-out stating a judgment.)  A lot of people simply couldn't cope with the idea that James Bond might be played by a guy with blond hair.  I shit you not, folks; if you don't remember, the phrase "James Blond" was an actual thing for a while there.  A website called danielcraigisnotbond.com was launched in protest; the fuckin' thing still exists, too, either as a self-parody or as a refuge for really sad bastards.  Take your pick.
  
Anyways.
  
Everyone else was open-minded, and reserved judgment.  Except for a relatively small informed faction of us who had seen Craig in movies like Munich and Layer Cake and knew he was going to be great.  (I will admit that even I thought he was going to have to dye his hair, though.)
  
If you sense a note of self-congratulation in all of that, guess what?  You're right!  I mention this as an example of why you should listen to me: because every once in a while, I know what the hell I'm talking about.  Not always, or even often; but occasionally.  So keep listening, and you're boudn to get an honest-to-goodness, bona fide insight every once in a while.  Why?  Because, unlike the unwashed masses, I knew Daniel Craig was going to be an awesome James Bond.
  
Even I didn't know he was going to be as awesome as he's turned out to be, though.
  
  
  
From his first scene on, Craig's Bond seems like somebody who could genuinely murder somebody when and if the need arose for him to do so.  Connery had that, too; Dalton and Lazenby could sort of feign toward it, Brosnan could mime it, Moore could lampoon it.  Craig has it in abundance, and while there is a debate to be had over whether that is an integral element of the Fleming novels, there is no debate to be had over whether it is an integral element of the first four or so films in the series.  I mean, if you want to debate it, go right ahead; I'm not going to show up for it, though, because I assume I won the moment the premise was stated.  But if you want to have a debate, go right ahead; there's a whole website for you to visit that will pat you on the back in congratulation.
  
Craig's physical ability and presence is a key element in the shift in tone this second series takes in order to steer away from where the first series ended.  If you've been reading these posts as they've appeared, then you know one of my big problems with the middle Brosnan movies is that they have a serious inconsistency of tone; they wanted to be capable of probing character psychology AND cars driven from the backseat via remote control.  It didn't work; Elektra King and Christmas Jones can't be in the same movie without both failing.
  
It comes down to a simple desire: the producers wanted the Bond films to be capable of containing both comedy and tragedy.  It's a desire I can understand.  The question is, how do you actually do that?  The answer is not particularly hard to find: you do it by introducing comedy into a tragedy.  You don't do it by injecting tragedy into a comedy.  Shakespeare knew this; you didn't see him trying to make the audience cry during Much Ado About Nothing.  You did, however, find him trying -- and succeeding -- to make audiences laugh during Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, etc.  All lives are tragedies, after all; and even the saddest life contains the potential for laughter.  You might think the opposite would hold true, but I find that most comedies are best-advised to focus on being funny; rarely can a comedy actually summon pathos without becoming serious enough that it it becomes, in effect, a drama.  Examples might include Annie Hall and Dr. Strangelove, but lord knows The World Is Not Enough ain't no Annie Hall.
  
Hence, in order for the Bond films to be capable of doing everything, they had to get serious again.  The world had gotten serious again; why should the Bond films not follow suit?
  
Hence, Daniel Craig.
  
It may be, however, that one's personal idea of what a Bond movie should be can't allow for Daniel Craig.  If so, fair enough.  I can understand why somebody would enjoy Live and Let Die and Moonraker and Die Another Day but not Casino Royale or Licence to Kill, or even On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  I think it's a take on Bond that is very far from my own, but can I squint mentally and get there for a moment or two?  Sure I can.  In that light, maybe something like Casino Royale is a failure.
  
For my money, though, it's a return to form for the series; it's a throwback to the days when something like From Russia with Love or Thunderball might have been taken at least semi-seriously.  This is that, amplified somewhat; nothing more, nothing less.  It's been refocused to fit 2006, but otherwise, this is the same old Bond we've had since the novel was released in 1953.  He's newly reenergized, but otherwise unchanged; if you only tuned in for the chapters of his story in which Bond dressed as a clown and/or drove an invisible car, then you are in need of understanding that your reading has been scattershot, and that that is hardly the book's fault.
  
  


I seem mostly to be ranting and/or rambling rather than discussing the many merits of Craig's performance.  Let's try to course-correct by talking about a few specific scenes.
  
I've already alluded to the opening scene, in which we see Bond earn his double-0 status by carrying out two sanctioned assassinations.  The scene is composed of two parts: one a tranquil talk between Bond and Dryden, the other a flashback to the first kill, which was a much more violent affair:
  
  



Not since George Lazenby in 1969 have we seen Bond in this intense a fistfight.  It's high-impact, brutal stuff, and Craig does just as well as his stunt double in convincing us that what we're seeing is real.
  
Just as important, however, is the other part of the scene: the calm conversation with Dryden, who briefly thinks he has the drop on Bond, only to find out that he does not.  It's important for us to believe that Bond will always have the upper hand in a fight, but it's just as important for us to believe that he'll always have the upper hand in a conversation.  If there are two men in a room, and one of them is James Bond, James Bond must seem to be the better man by virtue of the way he comports himself in relation to the second man.  Occasional exceptions can be made, if the second man is friendly and has some sort of specialization; but generally speaking, the Bond card must trump all others.
  
And so it does when it's Bond vs. Dryden.  Dryden attempts to maintain the conversational upper hand by handing down wisdom to Bond.  "How did he die?" Dryden asks.  "Your contact?  Not well," replies Bond.  Dryden plays analyst for a moment and hypothesizes about the extent to which Bond's victim made him "feel" the death (i.e., made Bond regret the brutality of it and, perhaps, the need for it).  "You needn't worry," Dryden says; "the second is..."
  
One assumes he is about to say "easier," but Bond doesn't give him the chance; he pulls out a gun and shoots Dryden dead as dead can be.  
  
  
  
"Yes," Craig's Bond agrees with the unstated adjective; "considerably."
  
If you watch the scene, Dryden clearly believes he had a chance of talking Bond out of doing what he'd been sent there to do; if you watch the scene, you believe Dryden never had a chance.  This version of Bond was never going to do anything other than put a bullet in Dryden's brain, and watching Craig during these moments is a bit like watching a snake as it considers the mouse which has just been dropped into its cage.  There is only one scenario.
  
If you like for your James Bond to be a believable assassin, then this scene can only thrill you.
  
I have two additional things to say about this scenes:
  • Are you familiar with the podcast James Bonding?  It's comedians Matt Mira and Matt Gourley talking about James Bond movies with a changing set of guests.  Very fun, albeit recently a victim of podfade.  Anyways, the Casino Royale episode's guests were Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci, whom in my memory are the girlfriends of the hosts.  I could be misremembering that.  However, I know that both ladies love that movie, and that one of them was convinced that in the above-quoted scene, when Dryden asks Bond how his contact died, Bond answers "In a well."  She took "well" to be some sort of charming British vernacular meaning "restroom" (like "boot" means "trunk of car").  Her mind was utterly blown when she found out that Craig actually says "Not well," and much hilarity ensued.  Thing is, once I'd heard her say this, I can 100% understand why she would hear it that way!
  • If you want a fun compare-the-Bond-actors exercise, try to mentally replace Daniel Craig in this scene with the alternative Bond actor of your choice.  Fun!  (For the record, it's Timothy Dalton who makes the best replacement in the cinema in my mind.)

After the opening credits (which we will obviously discuss in greater detail later on), we get a scene in which Bond chases a bomber through Madagascar.  It's a great scene; the bomber, Mollaka, runs nimbly up steel girders and bounds over fences and whatnot like he's friggin' Spider-Man or something.  Bond, meanwhile, can only plod determinedly after him; but even when confronted with a foe whose specific physical skills vastly outstrip his own, he see that Bond retains the upper hand by focusing on doing what he can do well.
  
The two best moments Bond has during this sequence are probably (1) when he runs straight through some drywall to keep the chase going and (2) this:
  
  
Mollaka has scaled an industrial crane, and Bond has followed him.  With (seemingly) nowhere else to go, Mollaka decides to just shoot this a-hole who's been chasing him.


Alas, Mollaka is out of bullets.  So he decides to just throw the gun at Bond, presumably in an attempt to knock him off the crane.

Bond catches the gun...

...and throws it right back.  His aim is better, and he...

...beans Mollaka right in the noggin.


 

As Bondian moments of badassery go, that ranks high on the list.  As does Bond running through the wall, but sadly, that moment doesn't screencap all that well, and therefore will not be visually represented here.
  
All sorts of goodness when Bond arrives in the Bahamas, including the scene in which he purposely wrecks the Germans' car after they mistake him for a valet.  Just before that happens, we have a momentary flirtation between Bond and a couple of babes passing by on their way for some tennis.  In another Bond film, this would have led to intercourse, but this, sadly for Bond, is Casino Royale.
  
  







I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the scene in which Bond emerges from the sea, wearing only his swim trunks.  One gathers that for those whose sexual preferences run to the masculine, this scene was nearly as big a deal as the Ursula Andress or Halle Berry scenes were for the rest of us.
  
  





NOTE: they never actually fuck.


I'd remembered this being more of a full-body shot, the way it was for Andress and Berry; but, no, it's coyer than that.  That seems unfair, and so I give this to those of you who will enjoy it:
  
  

Everyone else, fret not: there will about a bajillion photos of Eva Green later.

Another highlight comes when Bond, introducing himself to Solange in the form of propositioning her, offers to take her to his nearby home for drinks.  They take the car from the valet, drive in a circle around the exit and back to the entrance of the hotel, and are greeted by the unflappable valet.  "Welcome to my home,"Bond says.
  
  


Do you buy this as a moment that would, in essence, charm the panties off a lady?  I suspect it is reasonably realistic.  "This guy is hot, intense, well dressed, good at poker, AND he can joke?"  Rhymes with dreamin'.  Prince knows what I'm sayin'.
  
This is one of the relatively few moments in which Craig is fishin' fishing for a laugh in the movie, but it's not the only one.  He's got a few subtly funny reaction shots (such as a look of semi-desbelief when he successfully brings the gasoline tanker to a stop in front of the airplane), for example.  And his biggest one-liner -- "That last hand nearly killed me," he quips after barely avoiding death via poison -- is quite successful.  He's also good at getting a laugh by being serious in a way that allows the audience to wink at themselves (as in the "Do I look like I give a dman?" response he gives when asks if he prefers his martini shaken or stirred).  The biggest laugh for his Bond over three movies probably comes here when Vesper resuscitates him, and he asks her if she's okay; his reactions to her reaction are pretty great.
   

I could write and write and write about scenes of Craig being great, but let's restrict ourselves to just a few more.  Starting with this:
  
  

  
Craig is very subtle during the scene where he views Solange's corpse.  He initially looks stone-cold, but allows a momentary regret to (barely) register.  Moments like this are a good reason why cinema should be viewed on a large screen (or at least up close); such a moment is lost on a small screen.

During the course of this scene, M asks, "I would ask you if you could remain emotionally detached; but I don't think that's your problem, is it, Bond?"  The way Craig answers "no" is perfect.
  
  

Looking at himself in the mirror after the stairwell fight, Craig is getting to do the sort of scene one suspects Brosnan would have killed to be able do.  I don't think Brosnan would have been AS well-suited for it as Craig is, but I think he would have done fine.  The difference is that Casino Royale is, from top to bottom, the sort of film that permits for (even encourages) a scene like that one; not so much with Tomorrow Never Dies.  One feels even sorrier for Brosnan in retrospect.

And, of course, there's this:






The much-ballyhooed torture scene is another good one to use as a mental exercise for comparing Bond actors.  I honestly can't imagine any of the others pulling this scene off.
  
Finally, we come to this:
  
  

  
I would love to eventually do a post wherein I rank all the times Bond says "Bond...JAMES Bond."  That'd be a fun project.  Without a doubt, Connery's in Dr. No will rank #1 in that post, but I suspect this one from Casino Royale would be a strong #2.

Points awarded: 007/007.  Is this THE best performance an actor has given as Bond?  If not, it's damn close.  Daniel Craig is not Bond?  Bull SHIT.
 

(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain:

As has occasionally been the case with these posts before, it would be possible to debate who should be considered to be the main villain.  However, that's more of a flaw with my ranking system than it is an actual problem of any other sort; as I've used it in the past, a case could be made for Mr. White being considered, but the hell with that, we're definitely going to put Le Chiffre in that spot for our purposes here.

Le Chiffre was the original Ian Fleming villain, and his appearance here marks the first time a Fleming baddie had appeared in one of the films since 1983's Never Say Never Again.  Quite a gap, that.

I don't have a huge amount to say about Le Chiffre, or about Mads Mikkelsen's performance.  Both are among the best examples of their type in the Bond series, period.







Mikkelsen is perhaps best in the torture scene, where you see him slowly come to grips with the idea that Bond is not going to break.  He's great throughout, but he's especially good in this scene.  Odds are good that you've never noticed it, because you've focused on how good Craig is; next time you watch the movie, pay attention to Mikkelsen.

I'd feel bad if I didn't mention Mikkelsen's subsequent success at reinventing the Hannibal Lecter character on the tv series Hannibal.  It's an awesome, gruesome, bizarre series, and for my money Mikkelsen has somehow managed to become the definitive Lecter.  Knowing his work from that series helped me appreciate how good he is in Casino Royale.

Points awarded (Main Villain):  007/007.  Possibly my second-favorite Bond villain behind Auric Goldfinger.  He's great because he's dangerous, and he's dangerous because his goals are so well-defined and achievable.  This isn't a guy who wants to destroy Silicon Valley; this is a guy who wants only to get back some money he's invested poorly.  And he's willing to do anything to make that happen.
 
Henchmen:

When one thinks about James Bond henchmen, one tends to think of colorful characters like Oddjob, Jaws, Xenia, or (yes) Zao.  Bigger than life, somewhat silly, a little more entertaining than murderers should maybe be.  It's okay; it's a cartoon world, in a sense, so cartoonish baddies are acceptable.

Casino Royale is obviously a different sort of James Bond film; a purer sort, one might argue (although I'd argue that it's less a case of this one being pure than of the others being diluted; semantics).  Therefore, you couldn't just drop Grace Jones into this movie as May Day and have that be a thing that would work.  Works fine in A View to a Kill; can't happen in Casino Royale.

So instead, what Casino Royale has is a long list of secondary baddies, some of whom are henchmen, some of whom are of a different breed altogether.  Let's look at them one at a time:


Dryden, the subject of Bond's second assassination.  He's obviously a guy who is used to getting away with breaking the law and betraying his country.

Mr. White, the representative of the unnamed group backing Le Chiffre.  He's a very ordinary-looking guy, and that's part of what makes him seem dangerous; the intent of his group is seemingly that they are perfectly blended into the shadows, and with a guy like this, you can totally believe it.

This is Obanno, the Ugandan warlord whose money Le Chiffre is supposed to be protecting.  I like Obanno a lot; it's not every guy who can pull off an orange dress shirt.  I wish he'd had a larger role, somehow.  Obanno is played by Isaach De Bankole, who was in several episodes of season seven of 24.

In what is arguably a nod toward cartoonishness, Mollaka -- the bombmaker Bond pursues in Madagascar -- has burn scars on his face and hands.  He's also got that superhuman ability to parkour his way out of a jam.  Mollaka is played by Sebastien Foucan, who is one of the co-founders of parkour; so if you're wondering why all the parkour, that's why.  (Also, if you're wondering that: what is wrong with you?)
 
Is Valenka a henchman or Bond girl?  Depends on your viewpoint, I guess, but since Bond never even talks to her, I think she's got to count as a henchman.  She's hot AND she's cool, but she has very little to do in this movie.  She's played by Ivana Milicevic, whom was known (to me) at the time best as Riley's wife on that one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  She's been plugging away at her career for years, and currently is one of the leads on the series Banshee, which is supposedly pretty good.
 
This is Dimitrios, who is a real sourpuss, despite being married to Caterina Murino.  He's not my favorite baddie in the movie; he might be my least favorite.  He's my least favorite.

Excepting Valenka, the closest thing Le Chiffre has to a henchman is probably this guy, whom IMDb informs me is named "Kratt."  (The character, that is.)  He does almost literally nothing the entire movie except be there in the background.  Le Chiffre does, however, put him in charge of cutting the seat out of the chair that he plops naked Bond into; and Kratt does that like a boss.
 

Carlos, the substitute bomber.  He's alright.  He is obviously very competent; you believe that he would be a match for Bond both mentally and physically, even if it does blow up in his face ultimately.  He also has that ability to blend in, which is important for the realism this new series is striving for.

This is Gettler, who obviously works for the same company Mr. White works for.  (We'll learn more about them next post.)  The one-eye thing is another nod toward cartoon-type iconography, but it's restrained in such a way as to keep it grounded.  Nice.  By the way, if this screencap looks a bit lower in quality than the others, it's because I forgot to screencap Gettler myself and then was too lazy to go back and do it, so I found one online instead.  I doubt you care, but just in case, there's your explanation!

Points awarded (Henchmen):  005/007.  Very functional.  None of them pop for me, except for Obanna.  But the movie works as well as it works partially because they each work as well as they work, and that ain't nothin'.
 
Total points awarded (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.):  006/007  

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:

Longtime readers may recall that I pronounced Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service to be the Best Bond Girl Ever.  After rewatching Casino Royale I have decided that that is still true, but only by the slenderest of margins; Vesper in Casino Royale is breathing down her neck.

Part of me wonders if that means that I only value Bond girls if they end up dead.  I don't think that's the case; I'm also a big fan of Tatiana and Domino, and neither of them get killed.  Instead, I think that what appeals to me most about a Bond girl is a sense of intelligence and self-determination.  Domino doesn't quite fit that bill as ably as the others I've mentioned do, but she gets close enough.  Combine that with being devastatingly attractive, and you've got good odds of being in the hunt for the upper echelons of Bond-girldom.  The rest of y'all can keep the Christmas Joneses and the Mary Goodnights; I'll be over here with Tracy and Vesper.

By which I mean, I'll be over here ogling photos of Diana Rigg and Eva Green.

Such is my lot in life, I suppose.  Ah, well.

Anyways, here come some prime ogling opportunities for you, all courtesy of the book Bond On Set: Filming Casino Royale:






It's not merely a case of Eva Green being hot almost beyond belief.  She's also giving a legimitely great performance.  She is fantastic, especially considering that she is playing several things at once in virtually all of her scenes: she is the uptight Treasury official, yes, but she is also the duplicitous double agent who is trying to prevent Bond from beating Le Chiffre.  Then, at some point, she becomes the woman who is both of those things, but is also falling for Bond; then she has fallen for Bond, but is still working for Mr. White in order to prevent both Bond's death and the death of her unnamed lover.  Vesper is never merely what she seems to be; Green must play all aspects of the character at once, and she comes up with one of the best performances in the entire series.

Numerous scenes stand out, of course, including the introductory scene on the train to Montenegro.  Let's just look at some screencaps, and maybe I'll have something to say if I can manage to stop drooling.






As great as she looks with the red lipstick and the eyeliner and whatnot, Green looks -- to my eyes, at least -- even better during this more restrained moment.



I like how that that lady behind her is checking her ass out.  I don't blame you, lady.



This, of course, is one of the movie's best scenes, which means that it is in the running for being in the upper echelon of all Bond-movie scenes.  Both Green and Craig are just phenomenal here.

Consider -- with the full knowledge of the plot at your disposal -- the various things that are going through Vesper's mind right now.










Points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  007/007.  I should have more to say, but what would the point be?  If it gets better than this, it can't be by much.

And now, more photos of Eva Green looking hot:


I don't think Greg Williams took any of these, but I don't know for sure.  I found them floating around the Internet uncredited.  I am too lazy to try to find out where they hail from.


If you think Eva Green is hot, you need to see a movie called The Dreamers.  I don't normally make a point of mentioning places you can see Bond girls naked, but I'll make an exception this time.  Green has shown no qualms whatsoever about getting naked for the camera, gor' bless 'er.  And if I looked as good naked as Eva Green does (note: I DO NOT), I'd be naked in every movie I could be in; I'd consider it my duty to make the world better one frame at a time.  All levity aside, Green genuinely is -- at least in my opinion -- beautiful on a level that surpasses mere prurience; she is more akin to a living, breathing work of art.  So, yeah, The Dreamers; check it out.


Secondary Bond Girls:

There are a ton of supporting villains, but few secondary Bond girls.  In fact, the only one is Solange, played by Italian beauty Caterina Murino.

Solange isn't exactly the most compelling character in the movie.  She is strictly a device, albeit a strikingly lovely one.  Bond straight-up uses her, and she's so utterly a pawn in his game that he doesn't even follow through: he seduces her, but doesn't actually sleep with her.  Can you imagine Roger Moore's Bond turning down a piece of tail like Solange?  Neither can I.  Brosnan's, either; or Connery's, for that matter.  They'd have found the time, somehow, some way.

It's to the film's credit that it doesn't go that route.  As such, I think Solange makes for a decent Bond girl; not one of the best, by any means, but worthwhile.

Solange doesn't have all that many opportunities to screencap particularly well, strangely enough.  So, in lieu of that, random photos of Murino looking hot:


Jumpin' Jehoshaphat...



Jiminy Cricket...



I believe this photo may have been designed as a psy-op to induce me to sit here and stare at the computer until I pass out.  It may yet work.



Well, y'all, I apologize for all the cheesecake.  What can I say?

The movie has little else to offer in the way of secondary Bond girls.  We've already mentioned Valenka (who doesn't really count apart from being hot) and the two salacious tennis babes.  There's also a hot hotel receptionist in the Bahamas, played by Christina Cole.  But that is about it.
 
Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  004/007

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  005.50/007
 
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/Stunts:

There are numerous Bond films battling it out for the title of "best action scenes ever," but Casino Royale is right in there that fight with 'em all.  If you pressed me, I think I'd say that my favorite action scenes and stunts come in Live and Let Die; the boat chase is just awesome, and the run across the crocs (gators?) is maybe my favorite stunt of all time.  From there, you've got the underwater action of Thunderball, the ski scenes in Majesty's, the ski jump in The Spy Who Loved Me, the aerial jumps in Moonraker . . . I can't honestly say that the action scenes and stuntwork of Casino Royale is superior to those movies, but at the same time I find it impossible to say it's inferior.

So, a partial list of this movie's action-scene goodies: the opening-scene bathroom fight; the entirety of Mollaka's free-running; the leap from one crane to another to a rooftop; Bond running up a scaffold truck at the airport and then jumping onto a moving tanker truck; the Raiders-style fight inside said tanker truck; the stairwell brawl between Bond and Obanna (which, alas, does not screencap well at all); the Aston Martin swerving to avoid hitting Vesper and then turning numerous flips; the fight(s) in the sinking house in Venice.

Did I forget anything?  Almost certainly.

Let's look at a few screencaps, then I've got some summary thoughts:


Check out the cloud of debris that the bulldozer's impact throws up; look how close said cloud is to Mollaka/Foucan.

Spider-Man

Were the guys in this scene wearing safety wires?  Yes.  Were said wires removed via CGI?  Yes.  So what?  This sequence is still phenomenal.






My only complaint is that the shot edits away right before Mollaka hits the rooftop.  Not much of a complaint, that.  But...
 
The sheer energy of the bits where Bond has captured Mollaka and is trying to get him out of the embassy is great.

I can only assume that that is CGI glass.  If not, then Daniel Craig may be even more of a badass than I thought.

The film's single best stunt might be the one which occurs moments after this shot.


stuntwoman in road



That's a real stuntwoman, and a real road, and a real car.  It's not a composite shot; this all happened.

Presumably, there was either a ramp or an air cannon that made it impossible for the car NOT to miss her.



In case you want a bit of extra proof, here's a screencap from one of the DVD documentaries; it shows the unedited take, which is how I knew the moment had been filmed practically.  Up until then, I assumed it was a composite effects shot.  Nope!

The flip itself is not particularly screencappable, but it's worth mentioning that the car flipped all the way around seven times, which set a world's record.  I don't know if it still stands.  Jeez, who'd want to break it?

Closing thoughts: contemporary critics were quick to point out that the action -- particularly the fights -- seemed to be influenced by (if not directly cribbed from) Matt Damon's Bourne movies.  Maybe the influence was there; beats me.  But I'd argue that since the Bond series literally invented quick-cut action editing and may as well have invented the action scene itself, Casino Royale represents Bond reclaiming his action-movie crown.

Points awarded (Action/Stunts): 007/007.  Don't call it a comeback.

Editing:

The movie was edited by Stuart "director of Star Trek: Nemesis" Baird, and the editing is mostly terrific.  For example, the cut from the opening sequence's Dryden-kill into the flashback-kill and then into the gunbarrel and THEN into "You Know My Name" is terrific.  There are numerous examples of the editing working like gangbusters, but, as usual, I failed to note any of them.

The action editing is 95%, but there are a few places where Baird cuts away when all you want him to do is hold the shot; for example, when Mollaka does his cheetah-leap across a table (a moment you can see as an all-in-one in the behind-the-scenes footage).  Also, when he does a two-part leap to go several stories down and across the building:








Baird actually cuts twice during this stunt.  And the thing is, he's not cutting to hide any trickery; you can see in the behind-the-scenes footage that Focan did ALL of this stuff.  So why cut?

I'd also add that I am not a big fan of how abruptly Vesper arrives; she just plops down and says "I'm the money."  Seems like a scene or two was missing.  I don't know for sure whether that was an editing issue or a screenplay issue, though.

Points awarded (Editing): 006/007.  As I said, 95% great, 5% WTF.

Costumes/Makeup:


Vesper's various outfits are smashing, obviously, but everyone looks great in this movie.

Points awarded (Costumes/Makeup): 007/007.  I think I think this might be the best set of costumes in the history of the series.  Probably should have taken more screencaps to illustrate that, but such is life.

Locations:

I didn't do a particularly good job of screencapping this movie's sumptuous locations, either, sadly.  But they are strong, and include: the Bahamas doubling for Madagascar; the Bahamas as the Bahamas; Prague and Karlovy Vary for Montenegro; Lake Como in Italy; and Venice.



This and the following shot are of Lake Como in Italy.  Try as I might not to, I think of Lake Como as the setting of certain scenes in Attack of the Clones.  Regardless, it looks great, and would certainly rank high on my list of Bond locations I'd love to visit someday.


Ah, Venice...

Points awarded (Locations):  007/007

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  006.75/007
 
(5)  Q Branch


Bond's Allies:

And now, Random Thoughts, with Bryant Burnette:

  • Carter, the agent who can't keep his hand off his ear, ain't much of a spy; he's never going to make double-0.
  • This version of M is much more interesting than the previous one, despite being played by the same actor.  Judi Dench is visibly elevated by playing against Daniel Craig, which is a statement that probably bums Pierce Brosnan out.  But that's not a knock on Brosnan; his scenes with Dench were invariably among the highlights of his Bond movies.  No, it's just a recognition of the fact that this screenplay actually had something for M to do, as opposed to making crap up for M to do simply because they couldn't stand to waste Judi Dench.  For my money, this is (up to 2006) far and away the best use of M in any Bond movie.


  • What to say about Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter?  That he's the best Leiter in series history?  Absolutely he is.  That I'd hella watch a series of Wright-as-Leiter spinoff movies?  You damn right I would.  He's great, period.
   

  • M's assistant, Villiers, seems to be a sort of proto-Moneypenny.  He's played by Tobias Mezies, who you might know from good roles in Rome and Outlander.  I primarily think of him as one of the few survivors of the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones, though.  I like Menzies, and it's a shame Villiers is only in the one Bond film. 


  • Is that one dude -- the one who injects the tracking device into Bond's arm -- a member of Q Branch?  Surely he's not Boothroyd  himself; there's certainly no indication of such.
  • Giancarlo Gianni as Mathis is an old-school ally in the mold of Kerim Bey.  I don't like him as much, though, partially because the screenplay resorts to having him be the character who explains some of the poker moments for the audience; those moments feel very forced.  But Giannini is just fine.


  • I really dig the brief scene with MI6 Medical, or whatever-the-fuck.  I like the idea of there being a team of medical boffins who are always awake and who can render assistance as needed via satellite and remote access.



Points awarded (Bond's Allies):  006/007, mostly on the strength of M's role and the new Leiter.

Direction:

Martin Campbell, with Casino Royale, became arguably the second (or, at the least, third) most important and influential director in Bond series history.  He'd already done a fantastic job at a key moment in the series' history with GoldenEye, but his work here is even more impressive.  Give a huge amount of the credit to producers Broccoli and Wilson; give a huge amount of the credit to Daniel Craig and Eva Green and Mads Mikkelsen; give a huge amount to screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis.  But if Campbell had not done as strong a job as he did behind the camera, the efforts of everyone else might have been for naught.  And vice versa, of course; film is a collaborative medium, and rarely does the auteur theory actually hold true.  It certainly wouldn't be appropriate here.

Nevertheless, Campbell's consistency of tone, his vision, and his skill with actors took what could have been iffy and helped it become a bit of a masterpiece.

And now, more random notes:


  • The intent of the opening sequence being in black and white seems to have been for it to remind us of a bygone era, specifically of the era in which Bond himself came into being.  I'm not 100% convinced that comes across for the average viewer; I doubt I would have made the connection if not for commentary tracks.  But either way, I think it works; if nothing else, it signals the longtime Bond viewer that something has changed.
  • Speaking of changes, the gunbarrel sequence not appearing at the beginning of the film proved to be a somewhat controversial decision.  However, the way Campbell uses it here is perfect.  So no complaints from me!
  • I love many individual shots (hence the plethora of screencaps in this post), but one of my favorites is the overhead shot of Mollaka running away on the ground while Bond pursues him on rooftop as their chase scene begins.  Doesn't work on a small screen; see it as big as you can.


  • The movie strikes occasional false notes, some of them delivery-of-dialogue based.  We already mentioned the "Not well" vs/. "In a well" divide.  Another such moment comes when the embassy guy confronts Bond as he's holding Mollaka hostage.  According to the Blu-ray subtitles, the guy says to Bond, "Laissez tomber," which is French for (essentially) "Let him go."  But up until I used the subtitles this viewing, I thought the guy said "Listen to me."  Which made no sense.  But why would I think he was speaking in French?  Why not hardcode the subtitle onto the screen so that everyone understands what he's saying?  Another such weird moment comes when Bond orders a drink in front of the slack-jawed German tourists whose car he earlier wrecked.  He mutters something to them, and I'll be damned if I could understand it.  Good reason for that: according to the subtitles, he says "N haben," a shortening of the German phrase "guten haben."  Guys: work with me here.  Take things like this into consideration for us folk who are Anglo-centric.


  • "I'm the money," says Vesper as she plops down across from Bond on the train; he and we are meeting her in this moment.  "Every penny of it," responds Bond.  It's an odd beginning to an otherwise fantastic sequence.  It's odd for two reasons: whereas once we know the story, we understand that Bond has been assigned a liaison from the Treasury Department, we do not know it at this moment.  So we have no idea that a "money man" is on the way, which means that Vesper's comment initially has no context.  As the scene progresses, a "Moneypenny" pun is quickly stacked on top of the confusion, and I'd be willing to bet you a stack of poker chips that there are thousands of people in the world who, thanks to this pun, mistook Vesper for the new Moneypenny.  Some of them may have been confused as to why Moneypenny then got killed later on.  Remember, folks, not everyone lives and breathes these movies specifically or movies in general; the vast majority of people take them as mere entertainments.  So while it might seem silly to you or I to mistake Vesper for Moneypenny, to the average (and, especially, the below average) viewer of Bond movies, it is less silly.  Does this moment wreck the movie?  Fuck no!  It doesn't even wreck the scene!  But it's an unfortunate, ill-considered moment nonetheless.
  • The poker scenes are about as good as they could possibly be; I don't understand poker, nor do I care about it in any way.  But, thanks to Martin Campbell, I needn't; he's doing the work for me.
  • "You can have me anywhere," pants Vesper as Bond is recovering.  This quasi-seduction scene is a bit on the awkward side, but intentionally so: after all, Vesper is coming on to Bond primarily -- perhaps -- out of a need to get him to confide in her.  So if it seems as if she is coming on a bit too awkwardly, it's because she is not actually being fully genuine; but she's being genuine enough to give the scene a bit of heat.  Campbell played this one quite well.

Points awarded (Direction): 006/007.  There are a few too many small moments which fail (including, but not limited to, the ones mentioned above) for me to award Campbell a perfect score here; but I'm tempted, oh yes I am.

Cinematography:

You've seen plenty of examples of Phil Meheux's exemplary cinematography throughout this post; no real need for me to say much here, is there?

Points awarded (Cinematography):  007/007.  I think Thunderball is slightly better thanks to the stunning underwater sequences; but otherwise, this is about as good as Bond movies can look.  At least as of 2006...

Art Direction:

The production design here is courtesy of Peter Lamont, who seemingly retired afterward.  It's strong work to go out on; not quite up to the level of his previous film, Die Another Day, perhaps, but only because the realism of the screenplay offered fewer opportunities.

A few notes, though, via screencap:



The scenes in Uganda were filmed near Pinewood.

The Madagascar scenes were filmed in the Bahamas.

This?  On a soundstage in Pinewood.  Oh, the money I would have lost on that bet...

Nothing flashy, but I love M's apartment.

The Body Worlds exhibition is both creepy and wonderful, and something about it is note-perfect for a Bond film.

Again, nothing flashy here; but damn, is that casino set nice.



It's also worth mentioning that the scene toward the end in which Bond tries to revive Vesper but fails is also on a soundstage in Pinewood.  I suppose that's also an example of Phil Meheux's great lighting.

Points awarded (Art Direction): 006/007.  Not quite a hollowed-out volcano, but very impressive all the same.

Special Effects:


As covered in the Die Another Day post, I'm not a fan of digital stunts.  However, CGI can be used to help create a great digital stunt, such as the moment when Bond leaps off the tanker and rolls in front of another truck, barely avoiding its wheels:










Everything in the shot is practical; but it's a composite shot of different practical elements, and it is seamless.  And because it's something that could happen (if not for it being too dangerous to film with a guarantee of safety), the eye accepts it more readily than it will accept, say, Legolas hopping from one barrel to another to another to another as they ride down a river in The Desolation of Smaug.  Stunts like that are for people who have no interest in cinema.  But when used judiciously, CGI can obviously be an aid for a movie like this one.

Elsewhere, the sinking house in Venice is an absolute marvel.  Check this out:




I assumed this was filmed when some sort of scheduled house-destruction was taking place in Venice, and that the producers merely capitalized upon it by filming it.  Nope.  It's not CGI, either; it's a "miniature" (a 30-foot one, granted) filmed on the Pinewood backlot and then composited into the scene over the existing structure.  Seamless.

I'm arguably more impressed by this:




According to Martin Campbell on the commentary track, this is a model shot: a false plane, presumably in a false hangar, with real people digitally added in to provide some verisimilitude.  Why do it this way?  Simple; no plane this large existed.

Even knowing that it's a fake, my eye can't tell the difference.

Finally, we can't fail to mention the sinking-house set at the end of the movie.  This set was designed by special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, and it evidently was on a complicated set of hydraulics that permitted it to be moved in any number of directions.  Normally, I'd have included this in our discussion of the production design, but the DVD extras give Corbould the credit, so I'm including it as a special effect.  And quite a one it is, too.

Points awarded (Special Effects): 007/007.  The Oscar was won by Dead Man's Chest that year; Royale didn't even get a nomination.  Ah, well.

Gadgets:

This being a realistic Bond film, there isn't a lot of room for gadgets.  Except that's not really true, is it?  Bond is using a laptop or a cell phone every few seconds in this movie, it seems, and while they don't seem to be doing much of anything that real 2006 tech could do, does that somehow mean those aren't gadgets?  Don't be silly; of course they are.  And the movie uses them quite well, too.


How quaint this 2006 phone already looks.

It's a Sony Vaio laptop, and it's got an add for a Sony Bravia tv on the webpage.  Product placement within a product placement!  (I don't mind this, personally.  A lot of people do, though, apparently.  But Fleming mentions a lot of specific brands in his books, so why should the movies not be able to make money off doing so?)




In terms of more-traditionally-Bondian gadgets, there's the tracker device implanted in Bond's forearm, which later leads to that great scene with the in-dash defib unit in Bond's car.  (Note that I do know it isn't actually in the dash; it's in the "glove compartment."  Still, the idea of a car having an in-dash defib unit is too fun for me to avoid typing it that way.)

Plus, there's a good, old-fashioned bug, which Bond plants -- somewhat implausibly -- inside Le Chiffre's ashtma inhaler.


Points awarded (Gadgets):  005/007.  Not quite an invisible car, I guess, but still pretty cool.

Opening-Title Sequence:

Well, there is a complete absence of nude ladies, which is arguably a downside.  Otherwise, this Daniel Kleinman beaut gets my vote as the single best opening-title sequence in the series history.

A great many screencaps follow:


This is obviously not a part of the opening titles per se, but I can't resist including the gunbarrel sequence here.

Unfortunately, I knew in advance that the gunbarrel sequence was going to happen in this fashion; I wish I'd had the opportunity to be surprised by it popping it mid-stream, but it was not to be.











There will be lots of imagery based around the various symbols which appear on playing cards.  It's an obvious idea, I guess, but the execution is what makes it work as well as it works.



Yay!  Daniel Craig gets to star in his first movie's title sequence!




The heart that Bond fires from his pistol hits its target...

...and his victim shatters into a series of small hearts.  Genius!


When Bond lands a non-lethal blow, his target briefly comes apart, but then reforms.  Genius!



Ouch.  Diamonds aren't forever, I guess.




As he falls, this guy collides with one of the target symbols...

...which turns into a roulette wheel (symbolizing Le Chiffre and Bond both using gambling as a sort of weapon).








Points awarded (Opening-Title Sequence):  007/007.  Close to perfect.

Overall points awarded (Q Branch):  006.29/007
 
(6)  Mission Briefing

The screenplay was written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and was then polished by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis.  All three were obviously aided by the resumption of direct connection to Fleming, and they teamed up to create what can only be thought of as one of the very best Bond screenplays; only From Russia With Love is assured of a place above it in my mind, and even that might be changeable.
  
A few random notes:

  • Does the opening sequence successfully communicate the idea that Bond has to notch two kills in order to gain his Double-0 licence?  I'm not sure it does.  And if it does, might it not have made more sense for an origin story to actually show Bond being handed the assignment?  I know, I get it; it's supposed to more immediate than that, and hence more exciting.  But I would have preferred to see M actually give Bond the order.
  • "Shame; we barely got to know each other," Dryden quips when he thinks he still has the upper hand over Bond.  He produces a gun, which is empty.  "I know where you keep your gun," Bond retorts coldly; "suppose that's something."
  • The screenplay is by no means averse to taking the occasional shortcut.  For example, consider the unlikely chain of events which leads to Bond getting into the security office in the Bahamaian hotel.  First, he has to be dressed in a manner so as to plausibly have him look like a staff member; then he has to be in precisely the right place at the right time to have a couple of guys mistake him for a valet; then he has to create a distraction sufficient to clear out the security office but insufficient to get himself caught.  I have an easier time believing in Hugo Drax's space station.  There is simply no way Bond could plan something like this; and if he didn't plan it, then it sure is convenient.  It's lazy, sloppy writing.  However, it's all filmed and acted so well that you probably don't care, if you even notice.
  • "You can stop pretending.  You knew I wouldn't let this drop, didn't you?" asks Bond after M has assigned him to take down Le Chiffre.  "Well," answers M, "I knew you were you."  Later, Bond will ask M a similar question about Vesper having left him a message, and M will respond that Vesper "knew you were you."  This is an interesting echo, and it deepens an arc that will continue to play out over the course of the next two films, as well: Bond's simultaneous love and respect for M/MI6 and his desire to escape her/it.  Both M and Vesper see Bond for what he is, and ultimately Bond must choose to do so as well.  (Both Quantum and Skyfall will end on notes of Bond opting to continue his service.)
  • "How was your lamb?" asks Vesper of Bond after she verbally dissects him.  "Skewered," answers Bond in one of Craig's finer moments; "one sympathizes."
  • Bond and Vesper's codenames in Montenegro according to Bond: Arlington Beach and Stephanie Broadchest.  Wonderful.
  • Question: if Obanna is dead, why does Le Chiffre need to win the game?  Or is the idea that he's playing with other clients' money, too?  (Granted, it's probably enough merely to want to win $100+ million.)
  • I've pledged not to talk about the novels in these posts, but I will briefly mention that the bit with the poisoned drink is an acceptable substitute for one of my favorite scenes of the book: the guy with the cane-gun threatening to shoot Bond in the back.  I get why they wouldn't want to try that on film, and as replacements go, this one is just fine by me.

Points awarded: 007/007.  Not a whole lot of negatives here, are there?

(07)  The Music

Title Song:

I've got an odd relationship with music.  Sometimes, when I'm initially hearing music that I anticipate big-time, I can't quite process it.  So, for example, if U2 (arguably my favorite band) puts out a new album, the odds are decent that I'm going to not like it very much for the first two or three listens.  But then, as I listen to it more, I'll sort of mentally absorb it.  (Note that this was note my reaction to the recent U2 album Songs of Innocence: I loved it on the first listen, and have continued to ever since.)

Similar experiences have happened to me with John Williams scores, Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan albums, and -- in the case of "You Know My Name" -- James Bond title songs.

I generally try to avoid hearing new Bond songs until I'm seeing the movie, but I think the last time I was successful in that aim was, like, Licence to Kill.  We;ll try it again with Spectre and see how it goes!  But in any case, I heard "You Know My Name" before Casino Royale came out, and I hated it.  I mean, flat-out hated it.  Went on and on about how much I hated it to anyone who would listen to me, too.

Then, a funny thing happened: I saw the movie, and in the context of the film and those Daniel Kleinman opening titles, I changed my mind real quick.  Went from hating the song to loving it in the span of a few minutes.

What can I say?  I got that one wrong.  It's a terrific song, and while it may not have screamed BOND at me when I first heard it, it damn sure screams it at me now.  I love so many of the Bond songs SO much that I'm not even certain this one would make my top ten; but regardless, it's great stuff.  One thing worth mentioning: Chris Cornell is a rock singer, but he's a rock singer, and that's a big part of what helps this fit into the Bond mold; or to reshape the Bond mold to fit it, if you prefer.




One question: who is singing the lyrics?  I don't mean Cornell; I mean if you assign a point of view to the lyrics, who is singing them?  I think most people would answer "James Bond," but I'm not so sure.  So, in a You Only Blog Twice first, let's examine the words and see what we come up with.

Lyrics (edited mildly to remove repeated lines):

"If you take a life, do you know what you'll give?
Odds are you won't like what it is.
When the storm arrives, would you be seen with me
by the merciless eyes of deceit?
I've seen angels fall from blinding heights,
but you yourself are nothing so divine; just next in line.
Arm yourself because no one else here will save you;
the odds will betray you,
and I will replace you.
You can't deny the prize.  It may never fulfill you;
it longs to kill you.
Are you willing to die?
The coldest blood runs through my veins; you know my name.
If you come inside, things will not be the same
when you return to the night.
If you think you've won, you never saw me change
the game that we have been playing.
I've seen this diamond cut through harder men
than you yourself, but if you must pretend,
you may meet your end.
Try to hide your hand; forget how to feel.
Life is gone with just a spin of the wheel."
   
Who is singing this song?  I'm of the opinion that it's M, singing them to Bond (who, you may remember, stops short of speaking her name aloud at her threat to have him killed if he speaks it).  I'm not sure every single line works in that context, but most of them do; and many of them make no sense at all if you assume it's Bond singing the words.

Points awarded (Title Song):  006/007

The Score:




I would say that this is David Arnold's best Bond score, and part of that comes down to the fact that he had a hand in writing the title song and was therefore able to use its melody throughout.  In fact, the melody of "You Know My Name" proves to be nearly as capable a second James Bond theme as John Barry's own "007" did decades ago.  You'd like to think it'll make a return appearance one of these days, but so far that has not happened.

Arnold also comes up with a fine love theme for Vesper, good chase music, and pretty much whatever else you might want out of a modern film score.  Is it John Barry?  Well, no.  But in my opinion, it's better than several of Barry's; and that makes it rather an achievement.

Points awarded (The Score): 006/007.  A brief note of complaint regarding the soundtrack album: it began an annoying modern trend of the Bond soundtracks not including the main song.  That's right, if you wanted a copy of the score AND a copy of the Chris Cornell song, you'd have to assemble them separately.  Very annoying, that.

Total points awarded (The Music):  006/007



Double-0 Rating for Casino Royale [2005]: 006.40/007

The tally so far:

006.47 -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service
006.40 -- Casino Royale
006.37 -- Thunderball
006.23 -- From Russia With Love

006.03 -- Goldfinger
005.58 -- The Living Daylights
004.84 -- Moonraker
004.76 -- Dr. No
004.42 -- For Your Eyes Only
004.39 -- Live and Let Die
001.43 -- Never Say Never Again
001.02 -- James Bond Jr
    
I have to confess, I'm a wee bit surprised that Casino Royale didn't climb into the top spot.  But not entirely disappointed; the objective side of my brain thinks Casino Royale is probably the best Bond movie ever made, but the biased side still prefers Majesty's (and probably Thunderball as well).  So all in all, this result works for me just fine.

You Only Blog Twice will return in . . . Quantum of Solace.

But first, more screencaps and assorted images:



Mr. White is seen watching Le Chiffre leave.  Keep that in mind for later.





That lady on the left is...

...Diane Hartford, who was in Thunderball briefly.







Probably Michael G. Wilson's most amusing cameo.

In terms of this series, I think we're saying that it is Vesper Lynd to introduces Bond to the tailored tuxedo.  He obviously takes to it.  Which begs the question: is it Bond canon that a version of Casino Royale took place (unseen by us) prior to Dr. No?  If so, does that imply that each time Bond wears a tuxedo after the first time, he does so partially in remembrance of Vesper?  An interesting idea.

This is Veruschka, who evidently was a big-deal model in the sixties.  Whatever.

Is this guy asleep?  No wonder he got eliminated.




This is Ade.  Why Ade thinks he has earned the right to be billed with a single name is a mystery to me.



I love it.




"Don't worry, my dear; I won't do you any arm," says nobody in this movie.


Flippin' eck...!  I neglected to mention Leiter in my discussion of Bond's allies...!  Time enough to go edit it before I publish, though, so this caption will be our only proof that it ever almost didn't happen.

That lady on the left is...

...Tsai Chin, from You Only Live Twice.  "Darling...I give you very best duck."

Martin Campbell shines during the poisoned-drink sequence.  So do Craig, Mikkelsen, and David Arnold.




I always thought it was a bit odd that the restaurant was empty in this scene, but somebody on one of the commentary tracks says they figure that Bond bought the whole place for the duration of his meal.  Yeah, sure; why not?


Boy...ain't shit good about to happen here.










I'm still not quite sure how this was filmed.  The DVD supplements lead me to believe it might practical via breath control.  Either way, it's a very upsetting scene.

Remember Mr. White looking at the departing Le Chiffre in a fashion similar to this one?  Feels like the echo in this moment has to be purposeful; but I'm not entirely sure what it says, other than "Mr. White is watching...always watching."

This is what is known as "LOLfail."


A great shot from Greg Williams' book of photos; Craig and his stunt double Ben Cooke.  The next several come via Williams, as well.

Jeffrey Wright, unimpressed by Ade and Veruschka.





This is NOT from Williams' book, but it's a nice one nonetheless.

I have several different versions of this movie, including the initial DVD release, the Blu-ray that is part of the Bond 50 set, and a three-disc "Collector's Edition" DVD that seems now to be out of print.  It's got a lovely and informative booklet, and because I love you all, here come scans of the whole thing.

Alas, they are scans from my shitty scanner.  Sorry; you'll have to make do.



That's a great photo of Judi Dench.








Most of the theatrical-release posters seem to have been variations on a theme.



I like this one.

We are now in the era of fan art, which means that it's pretty easy to find images of "amateur"-created posters online which are as good as or better than the professional ones.  This is a good one, and here come a few more I found that I like.  I should probably credit them, but I forgot to save the credits when I saved the images.  Sorry!


This one and the next are by Mike Mahle; I did manage to get that much info.


Love it.

UPDATE 3/13/15:  Found a few additional behind-the-scenes images which seem worth sharing:


I don't think this is Greg Williams; the next three definitely are, though.




   
And that's that, folks.

12 comments:

  1. “If you want a fun compare-the-Bond-actors exercise, try to mentally replace Daniel Craig in this scene with the alternative Bond actor of your choice. Fun! (For the record, it's Timothy Dalton who makes the best replacement in the cinema in my mind.)”

    I agree 100%.

    I remember the James Blonde fracas well. It was silly. Still is. Daniel Craig’s mastery of the role is self-evident by now, I should hope. I like the way they’ve steadily built the franchise in the second series of Bond films. And “Casino Royale” is a hell of a start.

    What I remember even more than James Blonde was the vociferous objection to Eva Green that my buddy’s wife had. “She’s hot, but she’s not a BOND GIRL!” Uhh…. What? How so? I never understood that one. What the hell is a “BOND GIRL” if the definition excludes Eva Green? I mention this not to dis my buddy’s wife – who was as wrong as wrong could be, and to her credit admitted it in those words after seeing the movie – but because there was an air of “I don’t know about this rebooting Bond stuff…” at the time. Hard to imagine now.

    I also remember some of those Jason Bourne comparisons. And I recall hearing before the film that “they’re just going to turn Bond into Jack Bauer with a British accent.” All of these things go out the window – thankfully – when you sit down and watch the movie. “Casino Royale” was just such a home run.

    As for The Dreamers… portions of that movie belong in the Smithsonian, to be sure! And while I’m ogling, I’d go 6.5 out of 7 for Secondary Bond Girls on Caterina Murino, Alessandra Ambrosio and the other “Tennis Girl,” and the hot hotel clerk, alone. But that’s just me, ol’ “Octopussy’s Henchwomen make this movie an A+ all by themselves” McMillan.

    Good lord, that’s PINEWOOD? Amazing.

    Love those credits so much. James Bond as Donald Draper! And speaking of 60s callbacks, I had no idea Veruschka and these other Bond-girl-cameo-callbacks existed; that’s pretty cool.

    That book you’ve got looks amazing, as do these fan-made posters.

    Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter is definitely the way to go. I’d watch a spin-off series, even – hell, they SHOULD do stuff like that. Have a TV-movie or Agent-Carter-style mini-series that ties into whatever new Bond film comes out. Wright could pull it off.

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    1. Damn right he could. I was bummed he wasn't in "Skyfall," and I'm super-bummed he's not in "Spectre." Maybe the next one will be a James-n-Felix buddy movie!

      I had no idea the one tennis girl was Alessandra Ambrosio. What a fail on my part! Alls I knew was she was pretty. I wasn't wrong, just underinformed. (As for the thing about the stuff with Tsai Chin, Diane Hartford, etc., I take no personal credit; those are things I learned from DVD supplements and from the James Bond Radio podcast.)

      "But that’s just me, ol’ “Octopussy’s Henchwomen make this movie an A+ all by themselves” McMillan." -- You know, God dang it, that's hard to argue with. Octopussy IS an A+.

      I've got no idea if I knew who Eva Green was before "Casino Royale" came out. I think I might have watched "The Dreamers" first, but only because I knew she was going to be in a Bond movie. I find it hard to imagine not thinking she is prime Bond-girl material, but then again, I think there probably is a certain mindset that thinks they're all more along the lines of what Caterina Murino brings to the movie: i.e., a pretty face, a GREAT body, and not necessarily much else. (Not that that is Murino's fault; the screenplay gives her no opportunities.) Thing is, if you run down the list of the major Bond girls, I'd say relatively few of them fit that mold. It's less true of Moore's era, I'll grant you; but even he has Maude Adams, Carole Bouquet, and (arguably) Lois Chiles, none of whom are primarily just faces/bodies. So all in all, I think it's a bit of a myth.

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  2. "Maybe the next one will be a James-n-Felix buddy movie!"

    Yes, please.

    The criteria for what makes a Bond Girl a Bond Girl is definitely not cut and dried. And thankfully! For what it's worth, my friend's wife's other remark that I remember from that evening she objected to Eva Green as Vesper Lynd was that a Bond Girl had to be as stunning as the girls from Thunderball or what's the point. I think it's in the eye of the beholder, but I did like that she picked Thunderball as the gold standard.

    Literally everytime Moonraker is mentioned I feel an urge to watch it. Reading "(arguably) Lois Chiles" just now is no exception.

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    1. Good point -- if you've got to pick a gold standard of Bond girls, "Thunderball" is a dang fine choice.

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  3. We're largely in agreement with our assessments of this movie. Craig rocks. When it became clear Brosnan wasn't coming back I just assumed the new Bond would be Clive Owen. I was disappointed he didn't land the role--I'm not even sure he was considered--but I kept an open mind about Daniel Craig. I was one of those fans who hated the idea of Michael Keaton as Batman and I learned my lesson about prejudging actors in 1989. Craig is wonderful. Zero complaints about the new Bond.

    Pity Caterina Murino. I'm willing to bet she's always the hottest actress in whichever movie she's shooting. Then she signs on for a Bond movie and runs straight into the godlike beauty of Eva Green. Holy mother of god she's gorgeous! In the top 3 hottest Bond girls of all time. She's fantastic in this movie, and I wish I was more objective and appreciative of her skills as an actress. But honestly, she could have played the role mute and been nothing more than arm candy for Bond and I would have been okay with that. She's just THAT hot.

    Funny. I thought the guy said "Listen to me" too. Made Bond's reaction of emptying his weapon and letting his prisoner go seem odd to me. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Ah, the awesomeness that is Jeffrey Wright. The best Felix Leiter ever. Even better than Jack Lord and that's saying something. I could watch him in his own movie, too. Almost good enough to make me forget about the lousy Leiters we've had to endure in almost every other movie.

    I can see Dalton playing this role at least as well as Craig does had Dalton gotten scripts this good. It really makes me wish we could have seen that. Alas.

    That dude was the co-creator of parkour? That's awesome! I didn't know that. YOBT is educational. Who knew?

    All involved with this movie swung for the fences and succeeded wildly. After the nonsense of the previous movie, this was a welcome return to badassery. Looking forward to the next one.

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    1. "When it became clear Brosnan wasn't coming back I just assumed the new Bond would be Clive Owen." -- I'd forgotten it until just now, but I was a Clive Owen proponent, too. I still think he would have been great, but clearly they made the right choice. Another guy who was close to the role at that time was Henry Cavill, and I can't see that at all. Or at least, I couldn't until I saw the recently-released trailer for his version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," which looks like a lot of fun.

      "I was one of those fans who hated the idea of Michael Keaton as Batman and I learned my lesson about prejudging actors in 1989." -- I used to cite that as a valid reason why Nicolas Cage playing Superman was an idea worth exploring. I'd still kind of like to see how that would have turned out.

      "The best Felix Leiter ever. Even better than Jack Lord and that's saying something." -- Agreed and agreed. Wright is SO good in every role, I can't help but wonder why he isn't a huge star. How can you be that talented and never quite have it happen for you?

      "I can see Dalton playing this role at least as well as Craig does had Dalton gotten scripts this good. It really makes me wish we could have seen that. Alas." -- One of the first things I thought after seeing Casino Royale is that the producers had finally cracked how to make a Dalton-as-Bond movie. They just didn't have Dalton on hand for it anymore. Not that the two are carbon copies; they've definitely got their own identities. But viewed through the lens of the Craig era, it's clear as can be that the Dalton era was simply ahead of its time a bit.

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  4. Another great write-up, BB! I was looking forward to this one, and I too remember the furore when DC was cast as Bond. "New Bond Wears Life-Jacket to Press Conference", "New Bond Can't Drive Stick-Shift!", "New Bond Punched in Face During Filming", screamed the Fleet Street Press at the time. And then the film was released and they all shut their mouths after that.
    Much was said about this film owing a huge debt to the Bourne franchise, but I would argue that the films couldn't keep going along the lines of the last two Brosnans, and the Bond formula would have gone the way of CR sooner or later anyway, regardless of how successful the Bourne films were. Bond was going to get gritty again no matter what.
    Craig beefed up for the role because, as he put it to his personal trainer Simon Waterson, Bond had to look like "he could kill someone with his bare hands." I've always felt it was a slight overkill having Bond look as big as he did in this film and he did look less muscular in "Quantum", but I suppose it made for some nice eye-candy. I've always pictured Bond as having more of a swimmer's physique.
    Anyway, as much as I've always thought Connery was THE best Bond, Mr. Craig is probably right up there sharing the podium now. Connery was great for his time and Craig is great for today. He'll certainly leave behind some big shoes to fill. I recall Henry Cavill's name being bandied about at the time, when it was thought that EON were going to go back to Bond's roots and have him played by an actor in his twenties, and it seemed like every Anglo actor in the world was being touted as the next 007. I think even Hugh Jackman put out a rumour that he had been approached for the role. Eric Bana would have been an interesting choice.
    Still, Daniel Craig was awesome!

    Eva Green...ahh, Eva Green. Superb and complex performance. I had read that Rose Byrne was considered for the role as well, and that would have been great, but Miss Green really delivered. No complaints on that score.

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    1. Wow, didn't know there was a word limit to these replies. Here's the rest of what I originally wrote;

      Mads Mikkelsen was a worthy adversary and, as you say, the torture scene really shows him come to grips with the fact that his knotted rope strategy is not gonna work on 007. Every time I watch that scene, I subconsciously cross my legs and my knee jerks reflexively upon the first blow of the rope. Every time. I was actually wondering how they were going to film/convey that scene and I must say, they surprised me.

      Side story: I sold wristwatches at a boutique for eleven years and in 2011, one of my co-workers served a young couple one day. After they left, he came up to me and said; "Did you see that girl? She was in a James Bond movie."
      "What!!!???", I replied.
      "Yeah, her name was Ivana Something", he went on.
      "Ivana Milecevic?", I asked.
      "Yeah, that was it!", he said.
      "And you didn't call me over? What's wrong witchyoo!!", I said.
      Just as well, I suppose. I would have talked her ears off. My six-degres-of-separation with Mr Bond.

      The titles were amazing! My eyes welled up by the time we saw the animated vector of Bond dodging the knife blade (around the time that Cornell sings "Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you"). It was a fitting image of Bond as the hero in the suit and I think that "Mad Men" owes its own titles to "Casino Royale", not the other way around. Although, if you watch the first episode of "Mad Men", you could be forgiven for thinking that Don Draper looks a lot like Bond from Fleming's books when you first see him, sitting at a bar, wearing a sharp suit, with a cigarette burning away and a drink within reach. But I digress.

      It was interesting to learn that they got past Bond Girls for the casino scene. It did strike me as an in-joke that the Japanese gent with the ponytail was named Mr. Fukutu (as in 'fuck you too').

      All in all, it was a perfect recalibration of Bond. Aside from the source material for the story, there were little nods here and there to literary Bond. The line he delivers to Mathis, "Get the girl out!" sounds more like it belongs in a Fleming book, rather than a modern film. I liked that it sounded like something Book Bond would say.

      And Jeffrey Wright is the best Felix Leiter. I hope he gets another run or two in future.

      Great job, BB. Looking forward to your thoughts on Quantum.

      P.S.- here's a post I wrote some time ago about being a Bond fan. I figured I should give *you* something in return.

      http://teeritz.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/bond-fanjames-bond-fan.html

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    2. I'd have been perfectly okay with the idea of Hugh Jackman playing Bond. I think he would have been fantastic; although, again, I'm certainly happy they went with Craig and would in no way want to change that. Not even if you gave me a time machine to do it with!

      Rose Byrne as Vesper? Hmm. She'd've been okay, but Green killed it. The accent is a slight problem, I guess, but only if you need her to sound entirely Anglo, which I don't.

      I suspect -- and I could be dead wrong about this -- that the designers of the "Mad Men" titles had no thoughts of "Casino Royale" in mind at all, and that their similarity is a coincidence. But I don't think Don's slight James Bondiness is a coincidence at all; I think that given his slightly mysterious veneer and his drinking and his womanizing, there is no way on Earth they didn't have 007 on the brain at least a bit.

      Mr. Fukutu -- egads! I'd seen his name in the credits, but the pun never caught my attention! Very funny.

      I will definitely check your post out. Thanks for sharing it!

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  5. Oh, I remembered one more thing. About the scene in the empty restaurant. I worked in hospitality for 22 years and here's my take; Bond has just won the card game. It's late at night, if not the wee small hours. Since Bond is now an honoured guest, they opened up the restaurant and let him have a table. From memory, he's snacking on crackers and caviar, which would be a simple case of a staff member opening up a can and a packet of biscuits. There's no actual cooking involved, so a chef (who probably finished his shift hours ago) is not required to prepare anything.
    I base this assumption on numerous instances where I had to bring guests some kind of snack after the hotel kitchens had closed. The steam arm on a cappuccino machine can scramble three eggs in about fifteen seconds. One of my colleagues told me you could cook a steak with a clothes iron, if necessary. He was speaking from experience. Hotels have those small irons in every room and I'm sure they would have spares too.
    So personally, I don't think Bond bought the place out, as stated on the commentary. I think the casino/hotel went to some minor lengths to get him some food. Which leads me to think that the screenwriters did their homework or wrote that scene based on some research into the inner workings of hotels and hungry guests at 3:ooam.

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  6. Bond girls- wise, Casino Royale is so far the first and only Bond film in which none of them survive the movie. Tracy dies in OHMSS but it has Ruby and Nancy making it through the film.

    But it does featured women in lesser parts which would have been portrayed only by men in earlier Bond films.

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