Sunday, April 6, 2008

Don't Make a Scene: Casino Royale

The Set-up: Life is tough enough for a "00" agent given their short life expectancy. James Bond (Daniel Craig), for instance, has just survived a sprinting fire-fight at a high-rise construction site, a shoot-'em-up at an Embassy, getting blown up at an airport and getting dressed down by his boss, "M" (Dame Judi Dench). And he's just started! Now, this is more like it: a quick bullet-train ride to Montenegro to take part in a high-stakes poker game with a representative of a particularly active terrorist cell. But first he has to meet his assets--in the form of Treasury Agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who starts out skeptical of the whole scheme, and only becomes more so when she meets the man the government is betting on to bet well. She's skeptical. And he's...well, he's unrepetently Bond.* So much for taking it easy.

The verbal jousting that these two characters engage in does not make the trip any less bumpy, as they question, cajole, psycho-analyze, and spar over a dinner where egos seem to be the main entree. Such crackling dialogue scenes are few and far between in Bond films where the words might just as well be directions from the ski chase to the boat chase to the car chase. Here the stakes are laid out, the rules and strategy briefly mentioned, and the flinty relationship between Bond and Vesper becomes established. And where there's flint there's sure to be flame. Action!
Vesper Lynd: (walks in unannounced and sits down across from Bond): I'm the money.James Bond: (surveys her and smiles): Every penny of it!

Vesper(giving him her business card): The treasury has agreed to stake you in the game.

Bond (reads it): Vesper. Well, I do hope you gave your parents hell for that.

Vesper:(Takes menu from waiter): Thank you. Your boss must be very well connected. I’ve never seen so money go out the door so quickly.
Bond: Or quite so stylishly. May I ask where it is?

Vesper: 10 million was wired to your account in Montenegro, with a contingency for five more if I deem it a prudent investment.

Vesper: I suppose you’ve given some thought to the notion that if you lose, our government will have directly financed terrorism.

(Bond's smile drops)

Vesper: What looks good?

(Transition, until later that evening.)

Vesper: So you’re telling me it’s a matter of probability and odds. I was worried there was some chance involved.

Bond: That’s only if you assume that the player with the best hand, wins.

Vesper: So that would be what you call “bluffing.”

Bond: You’ve heard the term… Then you’ll also know that in poker you never play the hand, you play the man across from you.
Vesper: And you’re good at reading people.

Bond: Yes, I am. Which is why I’ve been able to detect an undercurrent of sarcasm in your voice.

Vesper: Now I’m assured our money is in good hands.
Bond: You don’t think this is a very good plan, do you?

Vesper: So there is a plan. I got the impression we were risking millions of dollars and hundreds of lives on a game of luck. What else can your surmise, Mr. Bond?

Bond: About you, Miss Lynd? Well, your beauty’s a problem. You worry you won’t be taken seriously.

Vesper: Which one can say of any attractive woman with half a brain.

Bond: True, but this one overcompensates by wearing slightly masculine clothing, being more aggressive than her female colleagues, which gives her a somewhat prickly demeanor and, ironically enough, makes it less likely for her to be accepted and promoted by her male superiors who mistake her insecurities for arrogance.

Bond: Now, I’d have normally gone with “only child,” but, uh…you see, by the way you ignored the quip about your parents...

Bond: …I’m going to have to go with “orphan.”

(She's pissed, but determined not to show it, but her following remarks are cutting)
Vesper: Alright. By the cut of your suit...

Vesper: went to Oxford or wherever, naturally think that human beings dress like that. But you wear it with such disdain...

Vesper: guess is you didn’t come from money and your school-friends never let you forget it.

Vesper: Which means you were at that school by the grace of someone else’s charity, hence the chip on your shoulder. And since your first thought about me ran to “orphan,” that is what I’d say you are.

Vesper: Oh you are! I like this poker thing. And that makes perfect sense. Since MI6 looks for maladjusted young men that give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect Queen and country.

Vesper: You know…former SAS types with easy smiles and expensive watches...

Vesper: Rolex?
Bond: Omega.

Vesper: Beautiful.

Vesper: Now, having just met you, I wouldn’t go as far as calling you a cold-hearted bastard.

Bond: No, of course not.

Vesper: But it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine you think of women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. So, as charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money, and off your perfectly-formed arse.
Bond: You noticed.

Vesper: Even accountants have imagination. How was your lamb?

Bond: Skewered. One sympathizes.

Vesper(she gets up to leave): Good night, Mr. Bond.

Bond: Good evening, Miss Lynd.

He watches her leave the compartment, then chuckles ruefully.

Casino Royale

Words by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and Paul Haggis

Pictures by Phil Meheux and Martin Campbell

Casino Royale is available on DVD through Sony Home Video.

* And, of course, what that means has changed with the actor and the decade. Craig sits there and takes it, knowing he's dished it out. Connery in the 60's would have slapped her fanny and dismissed her. Moore in the 70's would have raised an eyebrow and been passive-aggressive. Dalton would have sulked. Brosnan would have sulked, then adjusted his tie and checked his hair. Lazenby would have asked for a line-reading.

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