Last updated on March 17th, 2017 at 04:30 pm
I am absolutely thrilled for the upcoming 007 sequel, Spectre. This will be Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as the suave spy from MI6. Being huge 007 fans, we at Dim The Lights thought it fitting to revisit our generation’s Bond prior to Spectre’s release.
A (Renewed) License To Kill
The first portrayal of writer Ian Fleming’s James Bond was Sean Connery in the early 1960s. Since then, James Bond has been played by several prominent actors and has been a pop culture icon for several generations. Before Casino Royale, Pierce Brosnan starred in a number of 007 films that captured the post-Cold War intrigue. Brosnan’s Bond was great for its time, although it, like its predecessors, leaned heavily on outrageous set pieces and high-tech gadgetry. The role of James Bond was recast in 2006’s Casino Royale with Daniel Craig ushering in a new age of Bond in a post 9/11 world. Just as Brosnan’s Bond fit the times, Craig’s Bond was poised to refresh the franchise with a more grounded hero. Casino Royale is also the title of Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel signaling the intentional reboot of the franchise. With a renewed license to kill, James Bond took the world by storm.
The First Mission: Casino Royale
The opening sequence of Casino Royale drops us at the very beginning of James Bond’s 007 career. We find James Bond awaiting a corrupt MI6 Section Chief in Prague, Czech Republic. The scene is shot in black and white reminiscent of the murky film noir of the early 1940s. The Section Chief seems unimpressed by James Bond’s sudden appearance and mocks MI6 for not sending in a double-0, meaning an agent with a license to kill. Being Section Chief, the man claims that he would know anyone promoted to double-0 status, which takes two kills. The cool demeanor of the conversation is offset by the fast-paced flashback illustrating Bond’s first kill. Before the Section Chief gets in a few more words, he is quickly silenced by James Bond’s pistol. Second kill.
Bond For The Modern Age
James Bond’s introduction is as cold and calculated as his first kill. He still bears the collected demeanor of past Bonds, but it’s obvious Daniel Craig’s Bond is different. His piercing stare and general lack of compassion tell of a man not to be trifled with. After capturing a bomb-maker and being cornered in an embassy, Bond kills his prisoner and shoots a gas container leveling the entire building, which by the way is a big no no. He isn’t exactly the most saintly, even though Bond has never been pegged as such. Bond’s personality runs more parallel to our modern day anti-heroes like Christopher Nolan’s Batman or the Bourne Trilogy. He isn’t the ideal hero, but he gets the job done.
Craig’s Bond is much younger and more versatile than previous iterations. He leaps from buildings, crashes into windows, and finds himself battered and bruised throughout the film. Craig’s Bond is undisciplined and raw, one of the most enticing aspects of his portrayal. This rebellious nature plays out in Bond’s relationship with M, played by Judi Dench. M is constantly chasing him down trying to keep a track of his whereabouts. After the incident at the embassy, she questions his trustworthiness and even implants a tracking chip in his wrist. Bond very coldly continues about his business despite M’s attempts to reach out to him. Being young and rebellious also make Bond a cocky jerk putting himself and his allies in unnecessary danger.
Terrorism Over World Domination
I love that the film treats its villains with actual substance. Gone are the days of “World Domination” with lasers and machines of science fiction. The main antagonist in the film is a private banker known as Le Chiffre who funds terrorist groups. He uses his power and client’s money in order to bet on stocks and increase his revenue. When Bond foils a plot to crash a plane company’s stocks, Le Chiffre is forced to set up a high-stakes poker game in order to win back his clients money. This is a very real, very grounded situation an yet, Le Chiffre is possibly one of my favorite villains. Played excellently by Mads Mikkelsen, Le Chiffre steals the show and proves to be a worthy adversary for Bond.
Bond may be young and ready to fight, but Le Chiffre combats him purely through wit. Learning of Le Chiffre’s plan, Bond enters the poker game to prevent Le Chiffre from winning back his money. Throughout the game, Le Chiffre attempts to take Bond out by toying with his mind. Le Chiffre also puts Bond through one of the most visually gruesome torture scenes I’ve seen in a film. Mads Mikkelsen will definitely go down as one of the best Bond villains ever.
Character over Action
Casino Royale has all the amazing action sequences we’ve come to expect from the 007 Franchise, however, it doesn’t rely on them like past films. What makes Casino Royale a gripping film is its attention to character development. Bond may be a brash and rebellious killer, but he has real substance. The film uses the beautiful Bond girls to show Bond’s more vulnerable side instead of showing how much of a player he is. Bond’s relationship with Vesper Lynd, a member of the British treasury, goes further than the typical one night stand. Vesper, played by Eva Green, is a bold woman who doesn’t immediately fall for Bond’s dreamy eyes or humor. In their initial meeting, the two leads attempt to guess each other’s past histories which results in some witty banter and sheds light into Bond’s past. Vesper questions Bond’s ability to win the poker game and constantly challenges him. She is the perfect counterbalance for Bond’s ego. The writers don’t push the whole independent female bit too far though. Vesper is balanced out with real vulnerability that adds layers to her character. Sure, she is strong and witty, but when she is faced with seeing a man killed before her eyes for the first time she crumbles. The dynamic characters in Casino Royale are what truly breathes fresh air into a stale franchise.
Lying All The Cards Down
Casino Royale was a powerfully fresh start to Daniel Craig’s career as Bond. It has everything a Bond film needs: Beautiful locations, seductive women, and plenty of action. However, what makes Casino Royale a truly great film is its quieter moments which rely on dynamic characters, witty writing, and a great plot twist. Even after almost a decade, Casino Royale is still a joy to watch over and over again.
Check back later this week for our review of the Casino Royale follow-up Quantum of Solace.