Casino Royale: The Adaptation

It’s a while since I read the book, and I’d always thought they couldn’t do that scene (with the chair with the cutout seat) apart from anything else.  It’s also quite a short novel, essentially just three acts; the film, by contrast, is the longest Bond yet.

Well, all the essential elements are there, including the eye-watering torture scene (albeit somewhat shortened). The writers have done an excellent job (and I suspect a lot of the credit here goes to Due South and Million Dollar Baby writer Paul Haggis) shaping a well paced, dramatic story with some emotional depth.  It’s excellent to be watching a Fleming story again, and the modern setting works extremely well.  The plot has been adapted to fit a post 9/11, rather than a cold war setting, but for all that it makes little difference to the motivation of the protagonists and it achieves an edgy relevance that the book may have had fifty years ago, but which would have been lost in a period adaptation.

As in the book (which introduced the character), the Bond we know isn’t fully formed yet, although this is played up in the film, with teasers that play on our expectations of the character we know so well.  But all of the details; the little scenes of confrontation, the first encounter with Leiter, even the correct recipe for the Vesper Martini made full use of the source material. The epic card game at the centre of the story is made the centrepiece of the film, too, with time allowed to build the tension and explore the dynamics between the players in that room.

In fact my only gripe is the softened ending. The event that most shapes Bond into the character with which we have become so familiar is the betrayal by Vesper.  By having her motivation explained to Bond he gets to feel a measure of sympathy or understanding that isn’t there in the book, where the betrayal he cannot forgive deepens his misogyny.  Yes, they kept the line in “the bitch is dead” but it doesn’t have the same callousness Fleming gave it (“Yes, dammit, I said ‘was’. The bitch is dead now.”)  It may only be a small quibble, but if Vesper’s backstory is, as is rumoured, the plot to Bond 22 (or Bond 2 part 2) it doesn’t bode well. Still, I’ll admit I was sceptical about this film, but the producers really have delivered, and they’ve certainly earned the right to the benefit of the doubt for next time.

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I’m surprised by it, but despite the reinvention of Bond as a totally 21st century spy, this really is a true adaptation of Casino Royale, and it’s terrific.

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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