Friday, December 01, 2006

Casino Royale

I've been mulling it over...Third.

Third best Bond flick.

Goldfingerhas to reign for style, Thunderball for a realistic plot and action, but Casino Royale trumps all the others.

Stop here if you haven't seen it. Go see it.


The great weakness in the Ian Fleming novels was the unchanging Voice of the Villain declaiming unto the captive Bond. Dr. No, Mr. Big, Goldfinger, Blofeld, they all sounded fairly alike. Goldfinger used some verbatim exposition as a sign of Auric's obvious insanity, it was that wierd ("Man has climbed Everest..."). But they dropped the torture-room banter for immortal lines like "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"

Ian Fleming also had Le Chiffre speak with the Voice. But in the film writers Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis and Robert Wade do something really extraordinary. They keep the torture of the Seatless Chair, but they almost totally drop the Voice. Instead, Le Chiffre and Bond have an awesome conversation together.

Bond has the password Le Chiffre needs to get his money back and buy his way out from between the CIA and his depositors. The description of the ball-busting torture is straight Fleming. Beyond that is something totally new.

Le Chiffre hurts Bond, not gentle like before, but baaaaad. And Bond laughs at him. And Le Chiffre laughs back. Give me the password, I'll even spare the girl, he offers. And Bond laughs. And Le Chiffre chuckles. Yeah, that was pretty lame, wasn't it? Bond threatens the undying Wrath of the Service, and it's Le Chiffre's turn to mock. He's got the info, and he'll be cosseted so long as he's useful, no matter whose blood is on his hands. And it's Bond's turn to laugh ruefully. They're both on the same wavelength.

Because they're both in the same situation: trapped, kept alive just so long as they retain some useful information, and doomed if they ever give it. And they're both going to destroy themselves rather than cooperate, out of sheer stubborn pride. Bond just gets lucky.

It's that sort of enhancement of the characters beyond their 'assigned' roles in a "Bond film", into real humans, that makes Casino Royale so outstanding. And so often it's nonverbal, just great actors given the space to interact.

With this kind of writing and acting, I'd even forgive an invisible car in the sequel. Just to see Craig handle being given one.

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