Now the games begin. Although I’m not a poker player myself and have very little interest in card games, the music, editing, and the acting helps to make things somewhat tense regardless.
Mathis and Vesper watch from the sidelines, with Mathis sort of providing some commentary, sort of some exposition that will help audiences (like me) who are unfamiliar with the game know what’s going on. It’s a beat of a narrative cheat, but I’ll let it pass. We also get the debut of Bond’s favored martini, the “Vesper”: ‘Three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.’ Usually the other movies just use the “Vodka martini,Shaken not stirred” order, but this is more detailed, like it’s original description in the novel.
The whole next half hour isn’t entirely the game of course. First Le Chiffre gets a visit from Obanna, who has discovered his money’s gone and isn’t too happy about it-and there’s a tense scene where he threathens Le Chiffre and his hench-girlfriend. It’s rare to see Bond villains so concerned and helpless against anybody but Bond.
Bond of course needs to protect Le Chiffre in order to extract him-he only wants him to lose, not to die-so he takes on Obanna in another brutal fight. It’s particuarly nasty.
The fight leads to Bond bloodied and and somewhat messed up. We see him come to his hotel room to unwind and clean himself up. The scene of Bond’s slightly haunted look in the mirror is in stark contrast to the earlier swagger of the dinner room scene, which also involved the mirror. While we see the debonair side of Bond in the earlier scene, here’s the more cold-blooded (but somewhat damaged) man once again revealed.
Vesper however is in a state of shock, and Bond comforts her in a very tender scene.
Returning to the game (after Mathis has disposed of the bodies), Bond-perhaps being a bit too overconfident-loses this round, and doesn’t have enough to buy back into the game. Trying to take Le Chiffre by force, he’s stopped by ” his brother from Langley”-the new Felix Leiter, played by Jeffrey Wright, and here we see a new beginning to their friendship. This is also a very clear indicator that this is a fresh continuity, as Connery’s Bond met Felix in Dr.No under very different circumstances. Basically, Felix will get Bond back in the game, on the condition that Le Chiffre is given to the CIA instead of MI6. We also get another Bond deconstruction, where Bond, asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, says “Do I look like I give a damn!?”
Bond manages to gain a bit more of an upper hand, but Le Chiffre gets his girlfriend to poison Bond’s drink, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. Here we see one of the film’s only gadgets, the medical kit.
Bond accidentally fumbles the defibrillator due to the poison,but thankfully Vesper is able to fix that and shock him back to life.
For the final round, Bond is able to defeat Le Chiffre. Bond and Vesper celebrate over dinner, although it’s clear that something’s bothering Vesper on her cell phone. Bond also figures out something about her necklace, it’s an Algerian love knot, and holds special significance for her. We also see the two of them starting to fall for each other even more so than before, especially since he named the drink after her-not because of the bitter aftertaste, but “after you’ve tasted it, that’s all you want to drink.”
After Vesper leaves to meet with Mathis, Bond realizes something isn’t quite right-and soon Vesper is captured by Le Chiffre, with Bond pursuing in his Aston Martin (not the DB5 but an another one) to save her. Which leads to a spectacular wipeout as Bond swerves to avoid Vesper who was being held in the middle of the road.
Le Chiffre captures the injured Bond and takes him to an old dock warehouse (revealing it was Mathis who sold them out), and of course we’ve got an infamous torture scene with the carpet beater, which was one of the key scenes in the novel (Bond gets tortured a lot more nastily in the novels than in the films). We see Lechiffre lose more of his former cool here, trying to get the code to Bond’s money, but Bond’s reaction is partially played for comic effect, although it’s clear he’s terrified of what’s happening with Vesper. Like the rest of the film, this is more brutal then what we’re used to from Bond film-wise.
Bond however, has an unexpected savior in Mr. White, who states that Le Chiffre betrayed his organization’s trust. He’s then shot dead (presumabely, White also disposes of Le Chiffre’s henchmen as well).
And now we’re about to enter the film’s final act, in my next part….