Casino Royale

Casino Royale ★★★★

Any James Bond film that attempts an authentic moral interrogation of its hero must be a tragedy. I have seen and liked Casino Royale two or three times before, but it never "clicked" for me until this clicked for me, and then it kind of blew me away.

As fun and thrilling as the film might be (and it is: the construction site, airport, and stairwell sequences are all standouts), it's the story of how James Bond loses his soul, or rather, it's the story of how James Bond chooses not to have a soul because it just hurts too much. This is all staked in the destructive disuniting of sex and intimacy, which is pretty much the lynchpin of the whole franchise: James Bond can have sex with any woman he meets, but cannot trust any of them. The film is constructed around this perversity and the anxiety that accompanies it. It's practically a Hitchcock-level treatise on the fate of eros in the modern world.

The first time a woman comes out of the water in a bathing suit (a James Bond staple), Le Chiffre looks at her with lust and his eyes start to bleed. Of course, Le Chiffre does not believe in God, and he explains away his sin as a medical issue: a deformation of the tear ducts, "nothing sinister." Later, Bond sleeps with a woman to get information, which leads him, aptly enough, to "Body Worlds" – one of those anatomical museum exhibits where the human body is displayed in various states of exposure: just muscles, just skeletons. The point is driven home when Bond returns to find the woman dead because of him: i.e., mere body, sans spirit. Ultimately, the film returns to the image of the woman emerging from the water, as Bond carries Vesper out of the water – her body, that is. "The bitch is dead."

P.S. The prominence of gambling and gaming expands on the theme. The whole point of poker is to conceal one's true self from others in order to win. Vesper, who has no tell, is cheating on Bond the whole time, in multiple senses of the word.

Block or Report

Timothy liked these reviews