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Remember This Scene?: 'Casino Royale'

Jeremy Fuster |
October 29, 2013 | 1:50 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer


Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (Eon Productions)
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd (Eon Productions)
Each week, Jeremy Fuster analyzes a critical scene from a popular film. Join him as he delves into what exactly makes these critical scenes so memorable and successful.

Consider the legacy of the Bond Girl. 

Through a half-century of James Bond films, dozens of gorgeous women have followed 007 on his adventures. Some were allies, some were villains, some were just there for the eye candy. But all of them embodied the mystique and sophistication of Bond's world, and because they are unique to each film, they add a special flavor to each adventure. 

Still, that hasn't stopped the Bond Girls from becoming the most hotly debated element of the franchise. They have been criticized for perpetuating the misogyny that has hovered over the Bond series since Ian Fleming first put a pen to paper. Considering how Sean Connery seduced and smacked his way through multiple women during his tenure, it's easy to see where the feminists are coming from. Honor Blackman tried to turn it around in "Goldfinger" by making Pussy Galore into a capable action girl, but once she crossed paths with Bond, she was destined to be nothing more than another one of his conquests. 

The problems aren't confined to the sixties, either. The Roger Moore era saw the ditzy blonde "agent" Mary Goodnight act like a klutz, get thrown into car trunks and wardrobes, and spend half of "The Man With The Golden Gun" in a bikini. Even as recent as 1999 we've been presented a woman named Christmas Jones in a tank top and shorts and been told that she is a nuclear physicist. It's…not very convincing. 

On the other hand, the best of the Bond Girls managed to break this submissive mold -- at least partially -- and leave an impression as strong as the ones left by the six Bond actors. Teresa Di Vicenzo became the first woman to break Bond's cold exterior in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," forming a deep romance and actually becoming Bond's wife. In "Goldeneye," Natalya Simonova uses her quick thinking to survive a terrorist attack that kills all her co-workers and later uses her computer skills to save London from a satellite EMP attack. What's more, she not only saves Bond from a failed mission and gruesome death, she also becomes one of the few women to make Bond question who he is. "It's what keeps me alive," he says. "No," she replies. "It's what keeps you alone!"

But of all the Bond Girls that have graced the screen over the years, there's never been done more stunning or complex than Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale." Played by Eva Green, Lynd is everything you could ask for from a Bond Girl. She is smart, managing to outwit Bond on more than one occasion. She is stunningly beautiful, but the film allows that beauty to speak for itself. She never bursts out of the ocean in a bikini like Ursula Andress or Halle Berry. She simply walks down a staircase in a dress like a normal entrance of a character, lets her performance be the focus, and in doing so blows every bikini and nightgown scene in Bond history out of the water.

What really puts Vesper over the top, however, is the role she plays in the story. In the novel, she's only there to seduce and backstab Bond. Even though she comes to truly love him and commits suicide out of grief for what she's done to him, she's nothing more than a  tool Ian Fleming uses to create a cautionary tale about trusting women. Typical Bond misogyny. But in the film, Vesper is a much more sympathetic and tragic character. We get to see the romance between her and Bond gradually build through witty dialogue and tender silence, which makes her betrayal all the more heartbreaking. Eva Green puts incredible subtlety into every line she gets, rewarding repeat viewings by allowing the audience to go back and see the double meanings behind everything Vesper says and does. 

Let's look at two scenes to show you what I mean. First, take a look at the scene where Vesper introduces herself to Bond on the train to Monte Carlo. 

Trains have always been a common staple of the Bond series, particularly with the Bond Girls, and in this scene we get some of the best dialogue in the history of the franchise. Vesper immediately establishes herself as Bond's intellectual equal, managing to completely decipher Bond's past and fire off some nice burns along the way. The usual methods Bond would use to one-up his female companions do not work here, and the exchange ends with him, as he aptly puts it, skewered. 

The scene also shows that like Bond, Vesper has put up a tough emotional barrier. On the train, Vesper sports a very business-like attitude and wears a suit, which only further accentuates her aforementioned entrance in a dress during the poker game. Bond and Vesper seem to make an agreement here to keep this mission professional, but the events that unfold at the Monte Carlo break down their barriers and bring them closer together, with Vesper coming face-to-face with the brutal side of Bond's profession. When Bond finally emerges victorious, he holds a private dinner with Vesper to celebrate.

This dinner is a perfect mirror of the train scene and shows how much Bond and Vesper have changed. They are both openly smiling and laughing, Vesper is now in a dress, and Bond has ditched the tie and top button. The harsh fluorescent lighting of the train is now replaced with candles. Most importantly, Bond questions Vesper about her necklace, and using the deduction that we saw on the train earlier, he figures out that Vesper has a lover. Vesper's reaction to his gentle acceptance of this is to simply avert her gaze, and there's this clear feeling that there's more to her that we don't know yet. Knowing the ending, the reason for her reaction becomes completely clear. 

Never has there been a Bond Girl written and performed with such immense depth. Vesper has the intelligence of Simonova and the pathos of Vicenzo. Her romance with Bond is real, and her betrayal is by no means a clean-cut backstab. It is the result of her being manipulated by unseen evil and her attempt to spare the lives of those she cares for at the cost of her own, and it takes Bond an entire sequel to understand this and forgive her. Vesper Lynd is the woman who shaped James Bond into the cold, smooth agent he would become known for, and it's hard to see any future Bond Girl having as powerful and dramatic a story as she had. 

Find other "Remember This Scene?" posts hereCheck back on Thursday for a special Halloween addition of RTS.

Reach Jeremy Fuster here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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