Friday, September 18, 2015

Casino Royale (2006) | Bond

Actors and Allies

For the first time in ever, Bond has a character arc in a movie. He begins with a huge chip on his shoulder for undisclosed reasons, though Vesper later observes that it's a personality type that often pops up in Double-O recruits. Bond's all rough edges at first. He's not just a misogynist, but a misanthrope, too. M has some major work to do with him if she's going to whip him into shape.

She calls him a "blunt instrument" (borrowing the term Miranda Frost used in Die Another Day), but that's not what bothers her. On the contrary, also like in Die Another Day, M relies on his being that way. After he refuses to follow her orders and lie low, he confronts her. "You knew I wouldn't let this drop," he says. Her response is, "I knew you were you."

Her real problem with Bond is something that she tells him early in the movie: "Take your ego out of the equation." Bond's ego defines his character in Casino Royale. Her telling him to lie low after his mistake in Madagascar is another interesting connection to Die Another Day. She doesn't outright rescind his license to kill this time, but his ego has again put her in a spot where she needs him out of the way. The irony is that in Die Another Day, she took him out because she thought his ego had been torn down to the point that he may have betrayed secrets. It's just the opposite in Casino Royale. His ego is very strong and it's making him sloppy.

Vesper has a similar crisis of faith in him, because she believes that his ego is blinding him to the possibility of losing to Le Chiffre. He's not playing as smart as he needs to. In order to win, Bond has to confront his own fallibility and let the experience make him stronger.

A huge symptom of his inflated ego is his lack of trust in people. In the same conversation where M scolds Bond about his ego, she also tells him, "I need to know that I can trust you and that you know who to trust." Her trust in him is all about his ability to control his ego, but the comment about his knowing whom to trust is also important. It's not that she wants him to become super trusting. Later in the movie, she asks him, "You don't trust anyone, do you?" And when he says that he doesn't, she says, "Then you've learned your lesson."

But at the same time, Bond's egotistical reliance only on himself makes him a weaker agent. M criticizes him for his emotional detachment, and it's his instinctive distrust that makes him so ready to believe in Mathis' betrayal. Along the way though, Bond does learn to open up, like when he meets Felix Leiter, his "brother from Langley." It's a big change from the book that Bond hasn't yet met Felix before the card game. In the movie, Felix doesn't introduce himself until Bond is at his lowest: beaten by Le Chiffre and getting no additional support from MI6. Bond has decided that his only choice is to murder Le Chiffre - calling back to his tactics at the beginning of the movie. But Felix offers Bond a way to complete the mission as planned and Bond grabs onto that life preserver with both hands. Felix is kind of perfect that way. He doesn't require a lot of trust from Bond; all Bond has to do is accept Felix's chips. But it's a baby step towards Bond's learning that he's stronger when he's part of a team.

The tragedy of course is that when Bond finally does open himself up to trusting Vesper, she betrays him, too. It's a deep wound and he finishes the movie no more trusting than he did at the beginning, but his experimenting with trust has deflated his ego significantly. He's still not all the way there, but he's on his way toward becoming the agent M wants him to be.

Best Quip

"I'm Mr. Arlington Beech, professional gambler, and you're Miss Stephanie Broadchest..."

Runner Up: "How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathizes."

Worst Quip

"I'm sorry. That last hand nearly killed me."


Casino Royale almost eliminates gadgets altogether. There were actually more gadgets in the novel, like the gun-cane used by one of Le Chiffre's henchmen. The movie replaces the gun-cane with poison, though, and doesn't offer much in the way of new gadgets to replace it. Bond's car has a fancy glove compartment with shelves holding medical equipment and a gun, but the only other sort of gadget is the tracker that M has implanted under Bond's skin.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Iceberg boat (A View to a Kill)
5. The Q Boat (The World Is Not Enough)
6. Aston Martin V8 Vantage (The Living Daylights)
7. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
8. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
9. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
10. X-Ray Specs (The World Is Not Enough)

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