Saturday, June 5, 2010

Notes and Observations: “CASINO ROYALE” (2006)

The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my multiple viewings of the 21st James Bond movie, “Casino Royale”. I hope that you enjoy them:

Notes and Observations: “CASINO ROYALE” (2006)

*Watching CASINO ROYALE had reminded me of something about Bond’s character that I had read about, a long time ago. But I had forgotten over the years. Until now. In GOLDENEYE, M (Judi Dench) had accused Bond of being a misogynist dinosaur from the Cold War, expressing contempt for his attitude toward women. Personally, I had no problem with this description. But CASINO ROYALE reminded me what Steven Jay Rubin had once written about Bond . . . that the British agent was basically a romantic with a “St. George who slays the dragon for the damsel” complex. He also stated that Bond tends to hide this romantic nature in order to maintain a professional distance and avoid emotional pain. I can only wonder if we’ll see any more cracks in the Bond veneer in future Daniel Craig movies.

*Moral ambiguity practically seeped in this movie. Prime examples seemed to be Bond’s actions at the Nambutu Embassy in Madagascar, his seduction of Solange Dimitrios, Steven Obanno’s character, Vesper Lynd’s actions against MI6 and Bond’s reaction to Vesper’s death.

*Bond’s killing of Mollaka at the Nambutu Embassy seemed to have resulted in mixed results. On the positive, it led to the deaths of Mollaka, Steven Obanno, Le Chiffre and the capture of Mr. White. On the other hand, it got Bond into trouble with M, it resulted in Rene Mathis’ capture by MI6, it led to the deaths of Solange and Vesper, and resulted in Bond suffering from a broken heart.

*For a ruthless and brutal man, Steven Obanno seemed capable of being very paternal and warm toward the young boy who had delivered a message to him. Rather interesting.

*It is interesting that Bond’s initial mission to capture Mollaka in Madagascar for information on a terrorist organization, would not come into fruition until he captured Mr. White at the end of the movie.

*I could comment on how exciting it was to watch two virile and good-looking men – namely Daniel Craig and Sebastien Foucan – engage in an action sequence. But that might be construed as sexist by some.

*Later in the movie, Vesper had commented upon Bond’s disdain toward the privilege, due to his experiences at Oxford. I cannot help but wondered if that same disdain had came out when he crashed the Range Rover of a guest who had mistaken him for a parking lot valet.

*When I first saw CASINO ROYALE, I had been confused as to why Bond had ordered champagne and caviar for one, before the scene immediately shifted to Miami. Upon second viewing, I now realized that he had ordered champagne and caviar for Solange, with the intent to abandon her at his hotel villa and follow her husband to Miami.

*I don’t agree with those who had complained that Bond’s romance with Vesper was rushed. For me, it began when the two first met on the train; and it ended during M’s conversation with Bond about Vesper’s past.

*If I did not know better, I would swear that Bond’s irritation with Vesper and her anger at Bond in the hotel lobby had a lot to do with their growing attraction to one another. Both had good reasons to be wary of such emotions – Vesper’s relationship with her French-Algerian boyfriend, and Bond’s reluctance to become emotionally involved due to his profession.

*Co-producer Michael G. Wilson also served as the movie’s poker consultant (he is a poker fiend) and he did a cameo appearance as a corrupt Montenegrin police chief, who is framed by Mathis.

*The scene in which Bond and Vesper made “suggestions” about each other’s wardrobe is hilarious. It should become a classic.

*Apparently, Bond was not the only one who had noticed Vesper’s entrance into the gaming room. I believe that Le Chiffre also noticed. I wondered if he had noticed Vesper’s necklace, as well. It is possible that this may have initiated the scheme to blackmail her.

*Some moviegoers had been bored by the poker game. I wasn’t. What made the poker sequences so interesting were the following:

-Le Chiffre’s growing anxiety that Bond might win.
-Bond’s shock when he had lost his money to Le Chiffre.
-The quarrel between Bond and Vesper, when she had refused to back him with another 5 million pounds.
-Le Chiffre’s smug expression when he won.
-Bond’s first order for a vodka martini, which led to Leiter and some of the other players ordering the same. Very funny moment.
-Leiter’s growing anger and sense of self-disgust at losing money, while Bond was gone from the gaming table, dealing with being poisoned.
-The expressions of the other players during that last round of poker.
-Bond’s hesitation to play his last hand. What made this moment so curious is that Craig didn’t assume the usual “super cool” mask. Instead, the actor expressed Bond’s curiosity . . . and uneasiness on whether he would win.

*The entire sequence that started with Obanno’s appearance in Le Chiffre’s suite and ended with Bond comforting Vesper in the shower was brilliant. Just brilliant. One of the best sequences I have ever seen in a Bond film, period.

*Bond comforting Vesper in the shower scene should be remembered for a long time to come. Especially for female fans of the franchise. It seemed like a classic moment for me. When I saw CR for the second time, the middle-aged couple sitting next to me began snuggling up to each other during this scene.

*I had wondered if the film would feature the infamous torture scene from the novel . . . and they did. Bond’s nude state and his attempt to endure the torture using humor made this sequence memorable for me. But I cannot help but wonder if Vesper had been forced to set up the whole thing.

*” I have no armour left. You've stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me - whatever is left of me - whatever I am - I'm yours.” – Aside from Bond’s marriage proposal in OHMSS, this has to be the most romantic Bond moment I have ever seen.

*The nursing home where Bond had recovered from his torture had also served as Padme Amidala’s lakeside villa in the STAR WARS movie, “AOTC”. The scenes from both movies were filmed at Lake Como, Italy.

*Vesper must have been in contact with Mr. Gettler, one of Mr. White’s associates, during Bond’s recovery. Which would explain how she had recognized him within the crowd upon hers and Bond’s arrival in Venice.

*I agree with those who believe that Rene Mathis was innocent of betraying MI6. In fact, I’m convinced that Vesper had set him up. She kept mentioning his name during Bond’s late night supper after the poker game. If Bond had not made arrangements for Mathis’ arrest, I believe that the latter would have guessed the truth about Vesper’s role in Le Chiffre’s murder. Now, I can only wonder what will happen to Mathis in the next film.

*Despite Bond’s initial anger over Vesper’s betrayal, his attempt to save her from the elevator cage trapped underwater and his grief over her death was heartbreaking to watch. Even more interesting was how his facial reaction had changed from cold anger (“The bitch is dead.”) to wavering emotion, when M speculated that Vesper had probably made a deal with Mr. White to spare his life. Superb acting by Daniel Craig.

*CASINO ROYALE marks the third time that a Eon Bond film was set in Venice (along with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and MOONRAKER) and the second time that one was set in the Bahamas (also THUNDERBALL).

*Apparently, Bond did not complete his first kill until he shot the man via the gun barrel moment.

*I wonder when Vesper had the opportunity to view Bond’s “perfectly formed arse” before their conversation in the train’s dining car.

*Upon my third viewing, I had noticed for the first time that after Steven Obanno had given Le Chiffre his money, the latter contacted his broker and announced his intention to set in motion his plan to profit against an airline stock.

*It is interesting that when M first assigned Bond to deal with Le Chiffre, the agent immediately assumed that his task was to kill the terrorist/banker.

*I also noticed that when Vesper walked away from Bond, following their meal on the train, he seemed to regard her with an expression of deep fascination.

*At first I could not understand why Bond did not bother to use his alias of Mr. Beach, when he and Vesper first checked in at the hotel in Montenegro. Then he finally explained to Vesper near the hotel’s elevator that Le Chiffre probably knew his identity – thanks to what happened to Solange in the Bahamas – and had decided to take up the challenge of playing against Bond.

*How did Steven Obanno learn of Le Chiffre’s whereabouts? Did he find out via announcements about the poker tournament? Or did Mr. White inform him? And how did he learn that Le Chiffre had lost his money?

*Did anyone notice that Bond and Obanno’s bodies seemed to be practically sailing down the stairwell on at least two occasions during their fight?

*Someone had once pointed out there was no reason for Bond and Vesper to head for Le Chiffre’s suite during the poker tournament’s first break. I had agreed with this assessment . . . until my third viewing of the film. I finally noticed that during the tournament’s break, Bond saw one of Le Chiffre’s men hand the latter a note (unbeknownst to Bond, the note was probably Obanno’s way of luring the banker to his suite). When he saw Le Chiffre receive the note, Bond decided to find out what was going on, which included planting a bug in Le Chiffre’s inhaler.

*Vesper must have pointed out to Mr. White that Bond had to remain alive in order to use the code that would enable Vesper to transfer the poker winnings to that bank in Venice.

*I never realized until recently that Bond must have lost his temper when he spotted Le Chiffre – and his entourage – walking through the casino’s main floor wearing a smug expression (he had just wiped out Bond at the poker table). This obviously spurred Bond into anger and an attempt to kill Le Chiffre with a steak knife.

*Vesper’s comment that Bond was more of a man than any she had ever known seemed to have caught the agent offguard. There was a brief display of barely suppressed emotion on his face before he hid it with his “my little finger” joke. Eventually, this all led to his declaration of love.

*Amongst Vesper’s belongings, Bond found a seashell – possible a token from their time spent together before their arrival in Venice. The seashell must have told Bond that Vesper had fallen in love with him. The question remained whether he was willing to view the shell as a sign of her love.

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