Sunday, 8 November 2015

Casino Royale –Review

Ian Fleming had James Bond open the batting for him in Casino Royale in 1953.

In the same way, with its pretensions to being a psychological prequel Casino Royale (2006), aimed to afford us a glimpse of how ‘James Bond Begins’. In spite of Daniel Craig being 38 at the time, we were asked to believe that we were witnessing, in the events of the newly licensed 007’s service, the circumstances that formed the young spy and explain the hermetic nature of his heart as revealed in virtually all of the films that “follow” the prequel.

In its favour the film was a high-grossing box office hit and it introduced a tousled and hard-bitten Bond, in Daniel Craig, whose casting was a great success. The all-important Casino scenes in Montenegro were well-evoked and suitably glamorous.

However, in many ways the film was uneven and, at times, jarring to the extent that it sometimes seemed a clunky and poorly-edited montage in terms of plotting and emotional veracity. Early on the parcours chase across the construction site in Madagascar is relentless in its brutality and so much in your face that you are left gasping. From then on the internal logic, rather than unrolling seamlessly, staggers and stumbles. For example, the two interludes to the taking down of Le Chiffre at the gaming table, namely the disposal of the murderous Ugandan interlopers and the poisoning of Bond and the ensuing defibrillator scene seem jaggedly stitched into the action and almost gratuitous, as if someone on the Action Committee demanded that more action tropes be inserted to keep the adrenaline count up. At one point Bond returns to the table having gained Felix Leiter’s agreement to sub Le Chiffre’s nemesis, only to depart almost immediately again to cuddle up in the shower, fully dressed, to Vesper Lynd who has suddenly and unaccountably gone into meltdown (perhaps because she is only a Treasury Official in which case why is she so exposed to the action?). He then saunters back, after his second change of shirt, presumably, to finish Le Chiffre off. Almost immediately Mathis’s defection is revealed and Vesper is kidnapped. There follows the strangely sadistic and graphic pounding of Bond’s testicles – one wonder who thought that up (and, more to the point, why) - and the equally gratuitous arrival of Mr White to save the day and slot James into rehab overlooking Lake Como.

In an earlier scene on the train Vesper had truly exposed James' heart with her ruthless revelation of his vulnerable orphan psyche. Now, with the villains apparently dispensed with, James goes full throttle on settling down with her and, presumably, kids and a mortgage to the extent that he sends M his resignation. A “happy” ending seems in sight when, suddenly, the Committee bolts on another plot twist that it feels as though they could equally well have left unbolted. Vesper has been blackmailed, pinches Le Chiffre’s money from the Bank and then goes down with the Palazzo. There ensues the harrowing CPR scene on the roof of the Palazzo but with an almost immediate switch to Bond’s calm and collected conversation over the phone with M followed by his triumphant gloating over Mr White who is left crawling across the parterre having been summarily defeated. And, hey presto, there you have it, one smiling iceman ready for his future outings and tons of laconic interactions with future Bond girls. There’s certainly no hint of the emotional damage he must be presumed to have suffered on the way even though the publicity suggests that that is exactly what we will be privy to. Casino Royale felt like a hastily assembled quilt on which you could see all the stitching as though the quilt in question had been presented the wrong way round to the viewer.

One knows that any Bond film is an artificial construct in a fantasy world but one has a right to expect some kind of internal consistency within that world. Above all it mustn't feel contrived and those writing the screenplay shouldn't appear to be bored.

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