Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

15954464Oh, James Bond. How I love thee. At least when you are brought to life by Daniel Craig. Casino Royale and Skyfall are two of my favorite movies of all time so I decided to give the source material a read. I worried the books wouldn’t live up to my love of the films and that the woman-hate would be too hard to overcome.

The first Bond novel, Casino Royale, is at first about a high stakes baccarat game between a British Secret Services operative, our handsome Bond, and the soviet scumbag, Le Chiffre. Le Chiffre has lost millions of dollars that belong to a high terrorist conglomerate, SMERSH, and he needs to win this showdown if he’s to save his own life. But pesky James is always in the way. Interrupting Bond’s game playing is that beguiling minx, Vesper Lynd. She’s been assigned to work with Bond in the field and becomes quite the player in Bond’s work and surprisingly, his heart.

Gotta say – a great overall reading experience. I loved Fleming’s writing. His novel reads like a literary page-turner that manages to feel far less dated than I would have thought. The sexism is there, but I think Vesper’s character is far more interesting than just some piece of meat for Bond to bed. She’s extremely important to this novel and the rest of Bond’s life. I could get annoyed that she ultimately ends up being a boobed villain without much depth, but I like when a woman manages to sneak up on a world renowned master spy – so sue me.

The book is different enough from the movie to be a worthwhile read. I’m also convinced that Bond’s character in the books is far less campy playboy, and much more brooding, clever lone wolf with a sharp tongue and sense of humor. For this reason, I really appreciate the newer films even more and believe Daniel Craig’s Bond to be very faithful to the source material. Reading the novel allows one to get inside James’s mind and see that there’s a lot going on there – at least in this initial offering. He philosophizes ideas of good and evil. He also weighs his role of hired killer in a far more moral and intriguing way than one might expect.  Bond is blunt about the world he sees and how he sees himself.

So I definitely recommend Casino Royale to anyone with even the slightest interest in 007. It’s a great companion to the movie and a wonderful addition to any readathon TBR. I’ll definitely be continuing on with Fleming’s next Bond installment!

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Let’s Gush About Skyfall, Shall We?

Second best Bond film of all-time.  I wanted to get that out of the way for those readers who can only stomach the first sentence.  The best Bond film is obviously Casino Royale – you never forget your first love.  And yes, I understand that all of the above is opinion.  I’ve never been a huge Bond fan despite growing up watching the Sean Connery films repeatedly.  The Pierce Brosnan movies made me want to gouge my eyes out.  I hate campy Bond (don’t shoot!).  I also was never satisfied with the female characters or the derogatory sexual innuendo.  Octopussy?  No thanks.  My husband, however, LOVES them.  Bless his heart.

Anywho, I’m not going to harp on about my first James Bond lovefest, Casino Royale.  Instead, I’m going to continue the affair with a little gushing about Skyfall, the newest film in the legendary series (Number 23!!!).  Daniel Craig is back and better than ever in a worst than ever way.  He gets injured, presumed dead, and has a hard time recovering because – let’s face it – he’s getting older.  M still has full faith in her 007 and sends him on the mission of hunting down and capturing the person responsible for a cyber terrorism attack on MI6.  That’s when Bond meets Javier Bardem – maybe the best Bond villian EVER.  Hi-jinks ensue.  Also, the new theme song by Adele is AMAZEBALLS.

So what worked?  Everything, silly!  Visually, a masterpiece film deserving of Oscar attention.  The cinematography is absolutely stunning.  I could freeze frame the film at any point, blow up the picture in black and white, and hang it on my wall because the photography is flawless.  Each shot was done with purpose and with beauty.  The dismal gray London skies are almost always visible and add the perfect amount of ambiance and atmosphere.

The acting?  Spot on.  Judi Dench and Daniel Craig both bring their A-games and leave nothing on the table.  I kid you not, Jimmy totally teared up during one scene no matter how hard he tries to deny it.  And Javier Bardem?  The most maniacally, evil, creepy son of a bitch I’ve ever seen on film.  He’s INSANE and INSANELY good.  I think it has a lot to do with the blonde hair.  Plus, once you know where his evil comes from you’re all like – ‘Ok, I can dig.  I still hope Bond blows you to smithereens, but I don’t mind him having a hard time doing it.’  When you can love an evil man, that man is SMOOTH.

How about the new Bond girls?  The scantily clad brief sexual encounter in China is typical Bond.  But she is gorgeous.  I much preferred the somewhat shaky field agent, Eve.  She is tough, a spy, and has wicked chemistry with Bond.  Their scenes together always made me smile and I totally wanted to be her.  What unfolds at the end with Eve was exciting and something to look forward to!  And again, Judi Dench is marvelous as M and one badass woman who can simultaneously be intense, make the touch decisions, and still display a moving vulnerability.

Honestly, all of the above could have been sub-par and the movie still would have won me over because the script is top notch and so very deserving of an Oscar in my opinion.  Since we’re all fans of reading here, at least most of us, you have to know that this film unfolds like a perfectly plotted novel of espionage, suspense, and thematic depth unseen in any prior 007 movie.  The characters are so three-dimensional, so complex, and experience the kind of character growth that feels natural and so very honest.  Bond and M, in particular, carve their way slowly through dealing with their individual pasts and how that affects the very deep emotional connection they have as a kind of mother and son.  The film really delves deeply into the idea of ‘the circle of life’, confronting our past, mortality, and the ability to be content with it all.

Fans of old-school Bond will be super pleased to see many throwbacks to the early stories.  For those worried about the length – don’t!  I never got bored, never zoned out, and actually appreciated the slower middle.  The beginning starts off with a bang, but then slows down allowing the viewer to really get inside Bond’s mental space which allows us to care that much more deeply for the explosive ending.  I’d go back and watch it again tomorrow if I wasn’t low on funds!  Can’t wait for the dvd release.  I think tomorrow’s gonna be a Casino Royale kind of a day.