Thursday, October 25, 2012

50th Anniversary Bond Rewatch "Casino Royale" (2006)

As a fan of the popcorn, guilty pleasure, mindless entertainment aspect of the Bond series of films, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the films with the company of my brain. Maybe there is more to be found than escapism. Maybe some of the culture and thinking of the past 50 years has left its imprint…

It may be due to the fact that this film is being seen and reviewed right in the middle of the time when its style is still all the rage, but this is a newer, better, Bond. In the oughts, films like “Batman Begins” and “The Bourne Identity” completely changed the way action films are made. (Unfortunately, “The Bourne Supremacy” did too, but that is a topic for the next Bond film.) The Bond series took that into consideration, along with the fact that their character had pretty much become the punch line of a joke, and started their series over from scratch.

This Bond here is just starting out as a double O. Over the course of all the Craig films so far (and “Skyfall” appears to carry this theme forward) is learning how to be the sort of spy he needs to be. “Casino Royale” also benefits from the fact that it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel by Fleming. Both of those facts make this film quite different from anything the series has brought us so far. The kills feel more serious; the dangers more dangerous. Bond is charming, but the women around him don’t seem to be under a spell. The thing that most characterized Bond in the books is also here: gaming. Bond in the books is always playing and beating people at one game or another. The dramatic potential of that is something that the films had seldom tapped into.

True to its context, this film is less about eliminating evil and more about crippling it. We have come to the conclusion that there will always be those who stand against freedom and good (not synonymous qualities) will always be there. It is easier to defund them than fight them. Bond’s whole mission here is to keep money out of bad guys’ hands. The other impression this film retains from its period in history is the loss of innocence. Bond is not yet the completely cynical emotionless robot at the start of the story. Here we get to see how that journey started. Bond reflects his era; trust and optimism seem to be things of a more innocent day.

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