welcome to Mirrora monthly movie column in which I rewatch and then rewatch a movie I’ve already seen under the new (and improved?) review lens of 2021. I’m so glad you’re here.
It’s been a decade and a half since Daniel Craig first appeared on screen as James Bond, the role he just left. So, how’s his first turn as 007 going? In a word, very good! In retrospect, Casino Royale is a fun action flick with stellar performances, best enjoyed with a dry martini and a mindless brain attitude.
Let’s go back. I was a teenager when Casino Royale came out, but I knew Bond pretty well as a cultural institution. My boomer dad was very fond of Sean Connery movies, and we sometimes watched them together. I know that I had certainly seen The golden fingerand even though I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to articulate what a character name like “Pussy Galore” meant (the nuances of the retro-feminist camp are sometimes lost on children), I understood that this series was for adults, but that was not incredibly serious.
the Austin PowersThey did a good job of acquainting me with the tropes of the genre – incompetent henchmen, ridiculous gadgets, girls in skimpy outfits, villains with One Weird Trait – and I think I even knew there were novels, even if I didn’t know anyone who had read them. I knew “license to kill” was a thing, and I’ve read enough celebrity news to know. Casino Royale was the rare remake. There was already a Casino Royale Bond movie, but now it was a new one. It would also be the first I’d see in theaters, having been too young for one of the Brosnan installments I’ve seen advertised on bus stops and billboards. And it turned out to be an origin story. How practical!
Recently sat down to review it for the first time in 15 years, I remember thinking it was good, but more than that. I was surprised at how many specific plot elements and details I could remember. It wasn’t a movie I had thought much about, but I knew there was a poker game, that the villain’s “tell” was a bleeding eye, that the tell was fake, that the dastardly plot involved from sabotaging a plane to manipulate the stock market (essentially recreating the airline stock market crash that followed 9/11), and I remembered Eva Green looking gorgeous in her eggplant dress, and Craig licking his fingers under the shower (the one I might have seen GIF on Tumblr – it’s one of the best sexy moments in movie history).
I also vividly remember Bond grabbing a glass and a salt shaker to make himself vomit after ingesting poison, because ever since then I’ve wondered if that would work. I hope I never have to find out. It’s a testament to the screenwriters of how many of these details stuck in my mind. I watched the Impossible mission movies during quarantine and couldn’t tell you half the number of plot points in this series, or the Thick headed movies, which I’ve also binged under lockdown. Why, then, was Casino Royale so fresh in my memory?
Of course, I could spot moments where both male and female gazes were employed. I could write about how he fetishizes guns, but no more than the next action movie, about the value of women until they’re disposable. But frankly my darling, I don’t care.
Two reasons, I think. Just as we still remember the words to our favorite first song or may still recite the phone number of our childhood best friend, early memories imprint themselves deep into our lizard brains. Casino Royale was one of the first adult action movies I saw in theaters. It was basically projected onto a blank slate in my mind, and I soaked it up like a sponge (pardon my mixed metaphors). I was just old enough to understand everything that was going on (it’s not a particularly complicated or subtle movie), but I still had to be careful, I couldn’t let my mind wander. The other reason is that it’s just very skillfully done, with memorable characters, solid settings, and absolutely delightful performances. Each actor makes the most of every minute on screen, and the cinematography, after a brief black-and-white intro, rewards them with meaty close-ups and lingering moments. The fact that it all hinges on the sweet romance between Bond and Vesper Lynd probably doesn’t hurt either. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a girl who much prefers a romance to a gunfight.
Revisiting it now, I felt I got the most out of my viewing experience when I tried to recreate that somewhat childish open-minded feeling, when I turned off the critical part of my brain. Of course, I could spot moments where both male and female gazes were employed. I could write about how he fetishizes guns but no more than the next action movie, about the value of women until they’re disposable, about how winking moments (he invents his famous martini on the fly) work because Craig is so charming, the cultural implications of Bond calling his first love “the female dog” at the end of the film, setting the stage for the womanizer we know He becomes. But frankly my darling, I don’t care.
If a generation of men have had their understanding of masculinity perverted by this franchise, it’s just not my job to fix that. I’m as much of a moviegoer as anyone else, and I took this movie at face value and enjoyed it. The car went very fast, and Bond? Bond wore a suit that was really sharp. There were more comedic elements than I remembered. Vesper and James find themselves in the classic sitcom situation of pretending to be husband and wife before falling in love with each other for real, and even buying each other little outfits. In my version of this movie, they stayed together, doing missions together, always bickering in and out of bed. But it’s an adult boy movie, so she betrays her country to save her life and tragically martyrs herself. Well, we can’t have everything we want.
I was jumping Quantum of Comfort but seen (and very hated) celestial fall. I didn’t bother to Spectrumbut i could stream no time to die for funsies one of these nights. On the other hand, I might just put on my best bitch satin, pour myself a vodka and watch Casino Royale again. I think I got all the details this time, but I admit I don’t know anything about poker. I will look there for my deeper meanings. It seems safer and more fun. Florida