Sunday, June 07, 2009

Royale With Cheese

The artwork on this book reminds me of the decor of a Korean restaurant I ate at yesterday.
His name is Bond...James Bond. The original James Bond. My cousin picked up a full collection of James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming in a nice paperback set. She lent the set to me so I'm going to do some book reviewing on these as well as comparing it to the movies they spawned. I've been a fan of James Bond for a long time now, since College though I've seen some of his movies before then. Of the books, I've only read two or three so this should be fun. A new discovery so to speak.

The first book in the series is Casino Royale. Being a book instead of a movie, it functions differently just by its nature. James Bond in the book is more of a brooding type of fellow, more emotional and nervous. It seems Timothy Dalton had the right approach as far as bringing this version of the character to life on screen. Bond is not cool and impervious as he waltzes through danger zinging one liners left and right. This James Bond is a tense man, always aware of his role as a spy and trying to figure out the schemes he's embroiled in. Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's way off. He is given to more emotions than the films imply, showing anger or love or surprise openly.

There are similarities to the films though, James Bond is a spy with a double O number (meaning he has killed in the line of duty) who is a bit of a risk taker. He goes to exotic locations and meets beautiful women and evil men. The evil men are not people out to rule the world, just small parts of it so to speak. Not a lot of gadgetry and there are some differences in his trademark devices: Bond carries a Baretta with a skeleton grip as his gun of choice and drives a Bentley instead of an Aston Martin.

Reading the book, of course I was picturing Daniel Craig because this was his first movie as 007. I was surprised that the film more or less followed the story presented in the book. James Bond is sent to Casino Royale to gamble against Le Chiffe (an overweight monger as presented in the book versus the sleek red blood crying guy in the film) to force the bad guy to lose money needed to fund Russian operations. Assassination attempts are made against Bond which he survives by luck and desperation. Like the film, Bond defeats Le Chiffe at the tables so Le Chiffe kidnaps his female partner, the beautiful Vesper Lynd. Le Chiffe captures Bond by forcing a car accident (with a spike strip) and tortures Bond similarly to the movie. But SMERSH, the Russian killer arm of their secret service, is unhappy with Le Chiffe's activities and kills him.

So very close to the movie so far, minus the Die Hard / Raiders Of The Lost Ark like airport fight and the assassination attempts are carried out differently. Being the 1950s when the books are written, James Bond is much more sexist here than in the films. When Lynd is kidnapped he goes to rescue her out of duty more than affection because it feels its her sex that causes her stupidity in capture.

It's the second half of the book that differs from the movie a bit. It takes Bond longer to recover in storytelling time and it is during that recovery that he falls for Vesper. They take a vacation together that has a bit of a Vertigo feel as the pace of the story slows. 007 becomes reflective and philosophical about his line of work and whether he would be happier married to Vesper doing something else. Meanwhile Lynd becomes mysterious, running hot and cold on Bond depending on the day. An underlying tension develops as Lynd seems to panic about mysterious men and secret phone calls until she eventually kills herself. Her suicide note to Bond reveals she loves him but is a double agent working for the Russians (this is the Cold War, working for Russians is very bad!). She was trying to keep her first love held by the Russians alive by being a double agent.

Further than the movie goes, it was Lynd who tipped off the Russians of Bond's assignment including developing opportunities to have 007 killed. Granted this isn't as exciting as a fist fight in Venice inside a crumbling building and because of the movie I knew a betrayal was coming, yet this version of Lynd's death had a lot more power. Like Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock's famed film, he discovers true love only to have it taken from him like a kick to the stomach. I actually wish it was the book version of the story that was filmed, but then again who knows? When Casino Royale was made it was rumored to have reshoots because there wasn't enough action.

As a book on its own, Casino Royale is packed with adventure to far off places. More background on the places Bond goes is here. He is less of a ladies man in the book and is fooled more easily as well. The story is told in a taut pace and I finally learned how baccarat works. Because this is pre-Civil Rights, the book take on Vesper Lynd is that she is appears less intelligent and accomplished than her cinematic version. Much more manipulative though.

The movie adaptation introducing Daniel Craig as the super secret agent stays true to the most part to the spirit of the book which is cool. Even though details are changed the story arc and intent is pretty faithful to the source material.

Casino Royale is a strong spy story with a nice angle focusing on the intense gambling of the first part and the Vertigo like mystery of the second part. Dixie likes this one, she gives Casino Royale the book an:

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