Casino Royale marks the first time we’ll be watching a James Bond film together that Mel has already seen. Back in 2006 Mel was studying Law at Durham and I took her to see it at the cinema. It might be more accurate to say that she reluctantly agreed to come with me. I was really excited, and we arrived at 10pm to find that they had misprinted the showtimes, and it should have read 10am the next morning. It was a crushing disappointment, but we did get free tickets for the following day.
Against all hope Mel really enjoyed the film, and surprised me even more a week later when she asked to go and see it again. We’ve watched it twice more since then, in 2008 before Quantum of Solace and in 2012 before Skyfall.
I did ask Mel if she would like to read the Fleming novel before we watched this time.
“No,” she replied. “Too far.”
The film opens with the black and white scenes at Bond confronts Station Chief Dryden.
“This is so stylishly filmed,” says Mel.
Dryden asks Bond how his contact died.
“Not well,” replies 007.
“Daniel Craig is actually cool,”Mel says. “Not some showy bastard like some of the other James Bonds. He says, ‘not well,’ not some stupid cheesy line. If Roger Moore had killed someone in a toilet he would have said, ‘You look a bit flushed’ or something.”
As the credits start Mel warms to her theme, “Even the song is different in tone. There’s a bass line, not shitty play on words. It’s all really gritty; it wants to be taken seriously.”
Part of the credits show Bond being granted his double-O status. I point out that this is a different Bond to the ones that we have been watching, a rebooted story of the same character. I ask Mel what she thinks happened to the original James Bond after Die Another Day?
“Died of syphilis,” she answers.
We discuss the vogue for rebooting heroes like Batman and the regular resetting of Spider-Man.
“But I want to see what happens afterwards. Getting married and having babies.”
Bond is on a mission with fellow MI6 agent, Carter. They are observing a bomb-maker, but Carter gives the game away by touching his ear. I share with Mel my theory that Carter is not a double-O.
“I think he’s a bloody trainee,” she replies.
Bond gives chase, his quarry using parkour expertise to escape. Bond is less agile and precise, but he makes up for it with brute strength.
“I like the way he’s better at something than James Bond. You never got that in the old ones.”
Bond ends up shooting up a foreign embassy to kill the bomb-maker, and M is not impressed.
point out that this shows that Judi Dench is not playing the same character she did in the Pierce Brosnan films; this time M is the relic of the Cold War, not Bond.
Mel is not that interested. She just says, “I love her. What a woman.”
M gets home to find Bond has broken in. The newspapers have reported his embassy shoot-out.
“It’s so much more gritty, and there’s a sense of realism. The press would be all over that. There’s no sense of that in the old ones.”
Bond drives a Mondeo to the Ocean Club to find Dimitri.
“You drove a Mondeo at the time. Do you remember?”
I do, I reply. Actually the news that Bond would be driving one in Casino Royale helped me to decide which car to buy.
“Is this a real hotel that you can stay at?” asks Mel, as Bond strolls into reception.
I think so, I reply.
“Why didn’t you suggest this for our honeymoon?”
I didn’t think of it.
Mel is on TripAdviser. “It’s only a three star!” she says with distaste. “And it’s only ranked third out of fifteen hotels on Paradise Island.”
On the beach Bond emerges from the water in another homage to the Ursula Andress scene from Dr. No. His weirdly hairless body attracts the attention of Dimitri’s wife, Solange, who is horse-riding along the shore.
“She is so beautiful,” Mel says.
Bond joins a table playing Texas Hold em against Dimitri when Solange, walks in.
“I love her dress.”
“Why would she marry him? He’s such a dick.”
She likes a bad boy, I explain. She tells Bond this soon.
“I know, Mark. I’ve seen this three times. But why do women want a man that treats them like shit?”
Bond beats Dimitri at poker, winning the man’s Aston Martin DB5 into the bargain. He asks for the valet ticket.
Mel says, “Never mind the valet ticket, where’s the V5 certificate? He could get a penalty for that.”
Bond picks up Solange and gives her a lift in his new DB5, driving her round a roundabout only to arrive back at the same hotel entrance.
“I like this bit. He’s flirting without being cheesy. Women don’t like chat-up lines. Roger Moore would have said, ‘Hello, Darling, I’ll take you for a ride.'”
Bond is seducing Solange when she gets a phone call from Dimitri to say he is flying to Miami. Bond orders her some champagne, then leaves.
“Roger would never have walked away from that! She is the hottest woman they’ve ever had on here. Even I’m like… hmmmmm.”
At the airport, Bond kills Dimitri and then follows the send bomber through a doorway.
Mel says, “He’s missed duty free. That’s the best bit.”
Bond saves a new plane from being blown up, then goes to meet M back at Dimitri’s house. M explains that someone stands to make a lot of money if the airline goes bankrupt.
“It wouldn’t. No it wouldn’t, M! Bankruptcy is for a person, a company would go into administration or liquidation. They are very different things. It’s like when people call businesses companies all the time. They’re not.”
Bond takes the train to Monte Carlo, and meets his contact from HM Treasury in the dining cart. Vesper introduces herself, “I’m the money.”
Bond replies appraisingly, “Every penny.”
I ask Mel if she finds this a ‘cheesy’ line.
“It is, but it’s quite cute.”
Bond and Vesper get to know each other over dinner, deducing each other’s backgrounds.
“Any of the other James Bonds would have had her knickers off by now,” Mel says. “I think this might be the longest conversation he’s ever had with a woman without sleeping with her.”
As with all the Bond films, I notice something new every time I watch one. I notice that when Bond meets Rene Mathis, the Frenchman introduces himself in the “Bond, James Bond format.” I often think when Bond introduces himself, it only really makes sense if someone prompts him by asking, “Mr…..?”
Bond tries on the dinner jacket that Vesper has provided. He poses a little in front of the mirror.
Mel tells me, “You do that face in the mirror whenever you try new clothes on.”
In a break from playing Texas Hold em Bond is spying on Le Chiffre when he gets into a scrap with the Africans whose money Le Chiffre has lost. Vesper is shook up by seeing two men killed violently, and is having a bit of a Lady Macbeth moment in the shower trying to wash off the blood.
“She’s not used to the guns and stuff. It’s much more realistic.”
It always reminds me of the scene in The Bourne Identity when Marie goes into shock after witnessing the shootout in the apartment.
Le Chiffre has his girlfriend poison Bond to stop him winning the game.
“He looks like Lee Evans,” notes Mel as 007 stumbles into the car park, a sheen of sweat on his face and his eyes bulging.
Bond phones MI6 and their doctors talk him through a digitalis injection and advise him to use the DB9’s ECG.
“I hate this bit. Even though I know he lives, it’s just so tense.”
With Le Chiffre defeated at poker, Bond and Vesper have a celebratory meal.
“He’s finally going to eat a meal,” says Mel.
I suggest that we don’t see Bond eat very much in the films because he talks with his mouth full, which is disgusting.
“He’s only had half a cracker.”
Vesper leaves after she gets a text message from Mathis. Bond figures out that it must have been Mathis who told Le Chiffre that his tell had been discovered, and follows just in time to see his colleague kidnapped. He gives chase in the DB9.
“What a night he’s had; Nearly been killed, had a few drinks, won a game, ate half a cracker and now this.”
After crashing to avoid Vesper, Bond is stripped naked and Le Chiffre starts beating his undercarriage with a knotted rope. I say this must be worse than childbirth.
“How do you know?” demands Mel. “How do you —-ing know?!”
It must be, I protest. Bond wouldn’t want this done again, but women often want more babies. Mel shakes her head, annoyed.
Mel asks, “Why doesn’t James Bond kick him?”
His legs are tied to the chair I think.
“Surely he could break that chair. It’s a shit chair.”
Later, Bond is recovering. He and Vesper fall in love as she helps nurse his thunderballs back to health.
“You know James,” Vesper tells Bond, “I just want you to know that if all that was left of you was your smile and your little finger, you’d still be more of a man than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Bond replies, “That’s because you know what I can do with my little finger.”
“I don’t mind the smut from Daniel Craig,” says Mel. “He genuinely likes her.”
I ask if she thinks Craig is the best-looking 007.
“No. But he’s fanciable for other reasons. He’s the nicest man. In this he’s perfect, he’s going to give it all up for her. She’s changed his world and he just wants to be with her.”
I ask who the best-looking Bond is?
“Purely on looks?” she asks, and ranks them:
1. Pierce Brosnan
2. Daniel Craig
3. Sean Connery
4. George Lazenby
5. Timothy Dalton
6. Roger Moore
And in terms how much Mel likes watching them as James Bond:
1. Daniel Craig
2. Timothy Dalton
3. Pierce Brosnan
4. Sean Connery
5. George Lazenby
6. Roger Moore.
Bond and Vesper are yachting in Venice, and Bond is resigning from MI6. On his laptop inbox there are a few other messages, so we pause to have a look at them.
“Stationary request? What does he need to order?”
Later the couple are frolicking in bed, and Vesper gets out and wraps a dress around her to go to the bank. She fastens it up and she’s good to go.
“I hope she put some knickers on. Dirty cow,” says Mel.
Bond realises something is amiss and chases after her through the crowds. I say I bet he wishes he had the gondola hovercraft from Moonraker to get around quicker. The films reaches its tragic conclusion as Vesper locks herself in the lift and drowns. A desperate Bond drags her body onto the roof and performs CPR.
Mel winces and hugs herself protectively. “That must be really sore on her boobies,” she says. “He’s really squishing them.”
“The best Bond film ever. So much better than all the other shit. The best compliment I can give is that its not like a Bond film at all.”
Mel will return… watching Quantum of Solace.