Saturday, September 19, 2015

Casino Royale (2006) | Villains



Everything else about Casino Royale is more complex than previous Bond films, so that goes for the villains, too. The two, earlier adaptations of the story uncomplicate Le Chiffre by de-emphasizing the reason he's playing cards, but not this one. The Climax! episode and the '60s spoof both acknowledge that Le Chiffre needs to win some money, but that's just backstory and Le Chiffre is the clear and ultimate villain. The Eon version not only highlights the threat to Le Chiffre's life; it also builds the threatening organization into something big and scary that Bond's going to have to deal with later.

That means that on paper, Le Chiffre is really only a henchman in the Eon movie. But he functions in the story like the main villain. He has people whom he answers to, but he's the one driving the plot and making Bond react. That's true in both the 2006 movie and the novel.

Le Chiffre was previously played by Peter Lorre and Orson Welles, so Mads Mikkelsen had an impressive legacy to live up to, but he nails it. He's not as grotesque as the literary version; he's just super creepy and menacing. It's easy to believe that he gives Bond a hard time.



Because Le Chiffre is part of a larger organization, there are a lot of bad guys in Casino Royale. Most of them are henchmen who either work for Le Chiffre (or work for people who work for Le Chiffre) or work for the people whom Le Chiffre works for. There are so many that I didn't want to write about each of them separately, but significant ones are Alex Dimitrios (who's running Le Chiffre's operation to blow up a plane prototype), Obanno (a terrorist whose money Le Chiffre invests in the plane project), Mollaka (the parkour dude who's supposed to blow up the plane until Bond kills him), Carlos (the person assigned to replace Mollaka), Gettler (the one-eyed assassin who finds Vesper in Venice), and Kratt (Le Chiffre's bodyguard).

And then there's Mr. White, who seems to be running the whole show on behalf of his organization. I'd call him the true villain of the movie, except for two things. First, he's clearly got other people whom he answers to. If we were to compare Casino Royale to Thunderball, White would be Largo and Le Chiffre would be Count Lippe. One of the cool things about Casino Royale is that we never get to meet its Blofeld. We don't even so much as hear a name. Or hear the name of the organization, for that matter. White is a high-level henchman, but he's still technically a henchman.

The other thing that keeps him from being the real villain of Casino Royale is that he's never directly opposed to anything Bond is doing. For most of the movie, Bond isn't even aware that White exists, much less know enough about his plans to try to stop them. That changes at the end, of course, but that's epilogue to the main story and really just sets up the next film where his role in relation to Bond becomes more clear.

I'm going to leave White off my Top Ten for now, but I won't be surprised if he pops up on one of lists after Quantum of Solace.

Top Ten Villains

1. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
2. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Never Say Never Again)
3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia With Love and Thunderball)
4. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
5. Maximilian Largo (Never Say Never Again)
6. Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
7. Dr. Kananga (Live and Let Die)
8. Le Chiffre (Casino Royale)
9. Doctor No (Dr. No)
10. General Gogol (For Your Eyes Only)

Top Ten Henchmen

1. Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die)
2. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
3. Grant (From Russia with Love)
4. Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
5. Zao (Die Another Day)
6. Gobinda (Octopussy)
7. May Day (A View to a Kill)
8. Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker)
9. Naomi (The Spy Who Loved Me)
10. Oddjob (Goldfinger)

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