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Book Review: Revisioning 007: James Bond and Casino Royale by Christoph Lindner

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Christoph Lindner’s superb case study of Casino Royale (2006) does more to explain the generic problems of its successor, Quantum of Solace (2008), than that ventured by the whole fleet of its popular and contemporary press. Lindner’s collection of essays reveals the richness of Royale in its triple commitment to generic continuity, challenge, and change, all missing from the baldly sterile Solace. Notably, and one might say nobly, this volume also fills in a serious and longstanding gap in the scholarship, finally taking up a strenuous, stylistic, and specifically filmic analysis of James Bond.

Unlike the populist historical approach of James Chapman’s fine License to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films (2008), Lindner’s compilation is more academic in methodology. Contributors connect with many fields of cultural studies to textually render Royale comprehensible, including film, feminism, economics, race and ethnicity, architecture, technology, postcolonialism, and geopolitics. Although such an assortment of academic disciplines makes for an occasionally troubling read, most of the essays are disciplined and depend on the same or similar textual evidence; thus the obvious benefit of bringing up Royale as a case study in popular culture generally; by fixating on the micro – the seemingly innocuous entertainment provided by a Bond film – more determined and detailed concerns can be considered on the macro, tethered to an array of concentrations and considerably expanding each.

And Royale is richly adaptable to this academic attitude. Common concerns threaded throughout the collection include the influences, and growing confluences, of technology and the body, gendered and re-gendered performance, post-9/11 aesthetics and politics, and the well-worn, but always worthwhile, adjustments in the series’ sexism, heterosexism, racism, imperialism, masochism, and violence. Textual confirmation of these concerns is culled from Royale’s most regarded and striking scenes: the black-and-white pre-title sequence, the free-running and remarkably vertical chase between Bond and a Madagascan bomb-maker, the tram exchange between Bond and Vesper Lynd (“But it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine you think of women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits.”), the torture of Bond by Le Chiffre and its masochistic reversal by Bond (“I’ve got a little itch down there. Would you mind?”), and the display made of Bond’s body emerging from the water in sensationally short swim trunks, one of the more subversive gendered moments in the cinematic career of 007.Daniel Craig

Dilemmas and textual material, such as those items listed above, only take meaning – real, non-literal meaning – when described in aesthetically deliberate (in this instance, specifically cinematic) details. Thankfully, Revisioning 007 divulges the devices driving Royale, revealing the working parts producing its multifaceted meanings. This has long been a neglected aspect of any significant inquiry into the Bond films, and perhaps understandably, considering the substantial stylistic changes in the cycle as a whole. Lindner’s case study of Royale, however, has the space to open up an individual scene for scrutiny and its attendant stylistic properties. Generally speaking, these essays do an excellent service in stressing how cinematography, editing, mise-en-scène, and sound signify for the cinemagoer, deemphasizing the trap of an exclusively narrative sample selection.

Revisioning 007 is an exceedingly excellent and lucid collection for film analysis and certainly an outstanding case study in contemporary film and pop culture, not withstanding its immense appeal to those Bond aficionados seeking to delve Casino Royale for all its depth. I also recommend Lindner’s previous collection, The James Bond Phenomenon (2003), as a first-rate companion piece for those looking for the limits of 007.

About Jesse Balzer