Casino Royale

Inciting Event: Bond discovers the Ellipsis code in the phone of a terrorist he just killed in a foreign embassy. Aside from the fireworks of the huge parkour chase scene and the exploding embassy, this is the moment when Bond gets his first conscious brush with the main conflict with Le Chiffre and the “organization” backing him—although he doesn’t yet have a clue who they are.

First Plot Point: Bond follows the man who sent the Ellipsis text and stops him and his cohort from bombing the Miami airport. In general, this is an extremely well done movie that only gets stronger as it goes, but this is decidedly its weakest moment. This is a big scene (although, for my money, the most visually and thematically boring in the movie), but it isn’t a great First Plot Point.

Not only is the timing a little wonky (it’s late and gives no practical space between its end and the pinch point that follows), but its effect is clearer upon the antagonist (who loses in the stock market as a result of the failed bombing and ends up in desperate need of money) than it is upon the protagonist. There is no clear designation between Bond’s Normal World in the First Act and the “adventure world” that here begins the Second.

First Pinch Point: Bond returns to find M waiting for him in the Bahamas, where he discovers that the wife of the man he had been following has been tortured and murdered. Because this follows so closely on the heels of the First Plot Point, it doesn’t really get enough space to emphasize the pinch of the antagonistic force as much as it otherwise might. Really, this scene is the catalyst that distinctly propels Bond into the Second Act, as MI6 determines to send him to Le Chiffre’s high-stakes poker game in Montenegro.

Midpoint: The poker game begins. This second half of this movie is an art unto itself. It is clearly the heart of the movie—both as indicated by the movie’s title and by the emotional heart created via Bond’s genuine romance with the prickly accountant Vesper Lynn. It’s distinct from the episodic “detective” nature of the first half and the subsequent sudden turn taken into the Third Act, and, as such, it features its own mini-structure.

There isn’t a single wasted movement or scene in this second half, which is why it, strangely, works almost flawlessly, despite breaking almost every rule in introducing both its main conflict and its main relationship so late in the film.

Second Pinch Point: Bond goes all in, believing Le Chiffre is bluffing—only to lose everything. Vesper refuses to buy him back into the game, believing his ego will endanger the rest of the money as well. This nicely emphasizes all the stakes: the main conflict, in which Le Chiffre seems to stand uninhibited in his ability to fund terrorism, and the romantic subplot, in which Bond’s growing relationship with Vesper seems threatened by their cross-purposes.

Third Plot Point: After the false victory of winning the game, Bond and Vesper are captured and tortured by Le Chiffre. Here, again, the story takes a (structurally) strange turn when the segment ends abruptly when a strange man kills Le Chiffre and allows Bond and Vesper to escape.

Climax: After deciding to leave MI6 and “roam the world” with Vesper—the only woman he has ever truly loved—Bond discovers, in Venice, that Vesper has stolen all the winnings from the poker game. He follows her and watches as she hands off the money to strange men—whom he fights.

Climactic Moment: Vesper dies. This is an interesting moment, from a structural perspective. This is the emotional climactic moment. It’s the climactic moment to the second half of this story, not the first. The conflict and the dramatic question of the first half is answered when Le Chiffre dies at the Third Plot Point. After that, the story carries on, but in a new vein, now that audiences have invested in the relationship plot. That relationship plot abruptly ends here.

Resolution: Bond learns from M that Vesper was being blackmailed and that she had struck a deal to turn over the money in order to save Bond from Le Chiffre. He sees that Vesper left him a message on her phone, telling him where to find the man who blackmailed her and took the money.

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