. submitted by
I’m going to get a lot of flak for this, but it has to be said. This movie has gotten a near perfect score on every movie critic’s platform imaginable. Yes, the action is incredible for the time, but is that really all there should be to a movie? James Bond has about 2 expressions in the entire movie, which oscillate back and forth from a solid straight face of stone and an ever so slight snarky smile. having said this, James Bond, by nature, is supposed to be a borderline sociopathic killer who shows little emotion during his missions. For this reason I suppose I can let this slide. However, I can certainty not undermine my biggest gripe with the movie: which is that the villains have such little substance and context to them whenever they appear on screen. What are their motivations behind doing certain actions? Why are they choosing to live the life their living? Why has Le chieffre decided it would be a good idea to work with a terrorist organisation and risk his life and livelihood? (which we, again, have no idea how he obtained). Basic questions about a character’s backstory and context to their life and actions fleshes out a villain and are essential for creating a believable and sinister antagonist. These are basic things that all action movies should have, and yet we aren’t made aware of them because “oh it’s just a James Bond movie?”. This doesn’t make any sense. submitted by
It’s these unanswered questions that make this movie feel very cliche and almost as though we’re playing a mindless video game. ‘Oh here’s a bad guy, let’s kill him. Why is he bad? Oh he wants to kill people Okay let’s get him’ It’s things like this that make the story very bland and Unoriginal
Over the last week I read Ian Flemings first James Bond novel Casino Royale for the first time and later re watched the movie. Here are some thoughts on both, including a comparison of similarities, differences and the over all enjoyment I get out of both of these pieces. Technical aspects:
Casino Royale (novel, 1953), written by Ian Fleming [27 short chapters, around 250 pages, depending on edition] Casino Royale
(movie, 2006), directed by Martin Campbell [144 minute runtime]
Before diving into further comparisons, there are two
obvious, but also significant differences
between the movie and the novel. The first being the time it is set in
, both are contemporary to their release date. Meaning the novel is set in the Cold War whereas the movie is set in the 21 century. Because of the resulting differences in international relations historically speaking, you could transfer it (but you don't have to) to the second difference. Flemings novel is a political espionage thriller
, whereas Campbells movie re-boot is basically an action movie
The over all plot of the movie is very similar
, nearly identical to its source material.
James Bond, a fresh 00, is set in a high stakes Poker game against Le Chiffre, a desperate (& near bankrupt) banker working for terrorist organizations. Bonds allies are Mathis, Felix Leiter & Vesper Lynd. Bond wins the money, Vesper & him get captured, following the torture, Le Chiffre being interrupted/killed by a member of a mysterious organization. After Bond & Vesper seek a happy life, the latter is confronted with her "real" identity/past & kills herself, leaving Bond emotionally broken & eventually cold.
As said in my first paragraph, Flemings novel isn't an "action" novel. There is an early assassination/botched bomb attempt in the early chapters (similar to the airport sequence) but it's nowhere near as action heavy as the movie, which follows parkour chases
, knife fights & bus/plane explosions, stairway fights & the closing crumbling house set piece.
Narratively Bond meets his allies way earlier,
in the movie Vesper & Mathis are introduced around an hour in, whereas in the novel already in the first few chapters, Felix Leiter is introduced very late in the movie and only after Bond is struggling in the Poker game. The whole Dimitrious, Ellipse stuff isn't in the novel.
---------- Main characters: - James Bond:
Bonds portrayal is very close to the novel. He's described as a very tough man, perfectly shown by Craigs physical appearance, his hard & masculine face & the early corporal fight scenes & chases. His attitude fits the source material. Bond is smart & charming, but he can switch of in any moment to being a ruthless killer. - Vesper Lynd:
A big part of Vespers character in the novel is her beauty. There are long passages describing everything about her body & face. She certainly is beautiful in the movie, played by the gorgeous Eva Green. Yet in the movie she comes across as much more independent & aware. She's smart in the novel, but much more worthy in a psychological duel with Bond in the movie. In both the movie & novel she is a double agent, who got blackmailed & had to take this identity in order to save her boyfriend, but then fell in love with James. - Le Chiffre:
Le Chiffre, in both movie & novel is a scary fucking dude. There still is something a bit charming about Mikkelsen presence though. He's described as considerably ugly in the novel, and basically as the epitome of evil. In the movie he comes across as more "human", desperation etc (make no mistake he's a vicious bastard, but he's not the devil). - M:
The obvious difference is the gender swap in M. In the novel, Bond respects & in some way even fears M. The Bond/M relationship of Flemings books never really translated onto the bigger screen (it's tough to find someone intimidating against the charisma of Connery to be fair) so the change is an interesting touch. While he certainly respects Judi Denchs M, there is more slick and clever dialogue coming out of the conversations.
---------- The Poker Game:
The Poker game in the novel, as basically all of it, is set in France
, whereas the movie jumps around Madagascar, the Bahamas, Venice & Montenegro
, the latter being the setting of the poker game.
Also, in the novel they play Baccarat, which was very popular at that time, in the movie they play Texas Hold 'Em, which (surprise) was popular in that time. The game itself is similar structured, back and forth until Le Chiffre wins a big one and Bond is in huge desperation but comes back in the last round winning all of it (with the help of Felix Leiters money).
In both movie & novel, Le Chiffre tries to prevent/"attack" Bond during the last hand. In the movie he gets poisoned, which nearly causes him to pass out. In the novel, he is directly physically threatened by a bodyguard of the Le Chiffre with a gun under the table/chair.
-------- Remarkable similarities:
- Practically the entire torture scene is directly taken out of the source material. Bond gets stripped naked and tied up to a chair, then punched to the balls multiple times until the near pass out. Only difference is that in the movie Le Chiffre uses a rope, in the novel it is a carpet beater.
- Some dialogue & lines are extracted out of Flemings novel. Such as the VespeMartini order.
>Three measures of Gordons, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?
Or the iconic line.
>The bitch is dead.
--------- Other differences:
- The whole Mathis alleged double cross plot point only appears in the movie.
- Vespers double cross, signaled by her seeing the man with the eye patch is left to a good bye letter in the novel that Bond reads after she'd poisoned herself. In the movie, she gives the man with the eye patch the money briefcase and after the shoot out in Venice, she traps herself in the elevator and drowns in the crumbling house.
- In the books, the mysterious organization is SMERSH, a russian anti spy organization. In CR it is still unnamed, though in the later Craig films revealed to be SPECTRE.
- The book ends very depressing as her betrayal letter is the last thing. The movie ends on a higher note with Bond capturing Mr White & ending the movie in his iconic introduction lines.
I have certainly missed a ton of differences of both, but I feel like I have done enough to highlight most of them. Here are some of my personal thoughts: The novel:
I had a ton of fun reading it for the first time. It's certainly colder & much more serious than a lot of James Bond movies but I liked that it felt more grounded and had espionage instead of thrills. There is a lot of political subtext added by Ian Fleming that reflects on the cold war and on spy agents themselves. It also features some great insight on the Poker game as Bonds mind is on full display with mathematical & stochastically relevant information throughout every hand. I think it ends on a very depressing and sad note, setting the tone for the character to come. The movie:
I have always considered Casino Royale to be one of my favorite movies of all time.
I think it's head and shoulders above every other James Bond film and every time I watch it I discover new things I love about it. The way the movie starts, with the cold blooded double-O earning in a noir fashion, then goes over to the gorgeous credit sequence with so much ingenuity sprinkled across it, is amazing. I'm also amazed by the action
the movie has. The Parkour chase has some terrific stunt work & innovation. Or the airplane sequence is packed with enormous tension and suspense. Or the closing Venice shoot out is packed with bad ass moments by Bond. A lot of my love for the movie also comes from the cast.
It does contain my a.) favorite Felix Leiter (played by Jeffrey Wright), b.) favorite Bond girl (Vesper Lynd by Eva Green), c.) the best M (played by Judi Dench) and one of my favorite Bond villains (played by Mads Mikkelsen, who is as terrific as ever). Martin Campbell
has rock solid directing, focussing on the great stuff of the source material and just like in GoldenEye
knowing how to introduce a new Bond & a new way of Bond into the franchise. Daniel Craig
is relentlessly amazing. He has the charms, he definitely has the looks, he is believable in the kills, he has a soul, he has a heart, he has emotion. Only Connery is better. The movie also looks gorgeous. Not only its vast settings of exotic locations, beautiful women, high class restaurants, cafes or hotels, pieces of clothing and so on, but also its sharp image and cinematography, by Phil Meheux is astounding. Despite being literally written by three people it also contains some ingenious dialogue. Especially the Bond/Vesper interactions flow so crisply and soft. It's a joy to watch every second of it and I could be talking about it for hours.
All in all, Casino Royale is a great novel and in my opinion, an even greater movie which is a faithful adaptation but also adds many layers and new things to it, knowing that it already is part of a 20+ movie series and therefore adding nostalgia, references or treating its timeless main characters legacy with honor and self reflection.
What do you think about Casino Royale, both the novel & the movie?
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