- “Casino Royale” revolutionized the cinematography of the James Bond franchise.
- The film achieved this in part by moving the camera more than any previous Bond film.
- Additionally, “Casino Royale” used cinematography to reflect the mood of the film, creating a more elegant atmosphere through the shot composition and lighting.
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Here is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: What is the difference between this snapshot and this snapshot?
They are from the same franchise, a few years apart. What exactly is the camera doing that makes these similar shots so different from each other?
Okay, one more. What about this plan … and this plan? Did you catch it?
“Casino Royale” brings two subtle changes to the cinematography that make it completely different from any Bond movie that came before it. To find out what exactly he does and why he does it, we have to go back to the beginning of the franchise.
For the overwhelming majority of Bond films before “Casino Royale”, the cinematography seems to have been an afterthought. The lighting was flat, the composition was boring, and the cinematography did nothing to advance the character or the story. While the action scenes adequately presented the sets, and the quality of the sets and production design helped mask cinematic shortcomings, in general there was very little art put into cinematography. James Bond is supposed to be a super stylish spy, but so many of these awkward, boring scenes did nothing to further that conceit.
It came to a head after “Die Another Day,” when Bond film producers decided to reboot the franchise and make the next film more grounded and realistic. While a terrific new actor, return to practicality, and stripped-down script all helped the new dedication to realism, cinematography was arguably the biggest component that needed updating. Cinematography is responsible for creating the look of a movie, dictating the lighting, composition, and camera movement of each shot.
As you study the film, it becomes clear that there are two main principles that guide the distinctive cinematography of “Casino Royale”: moving the camera and reflecting the mood. So what does this mean exactly?
For starters, let’s talk about how “Casino Royale” moves its camera differently than any other Bond movie. For example, let’s say the script calls out a scene where Bond talks to M. While M is pacing the room, you can film the scene with fairly standard coverage, panning the camera so that it and Bond stay in frame, or you could have the camera follow M’s movement, emphasizing his restless state of mind and using a tighter frame to help foster a connection with his character.
Here’s another example: two scenes that show a setup shot of a car arriving at a new location. Note that the camera that stays still is not as attractive. Viewers’ eyes are naturally more drawn to increased movement. This is the reason why still images on TV or YouTube videos often have additional zooming or panning. Compare that first scene of Bond running … with this second scene. Notice how much more exciting it is and how much more effectively it conveys urgency and speed.
Here are a few other things smart camera movement can do: show off the chaotic nature of a new location, amplify a character’s dynamic movement, convey multiple pieces of information at once, and the list goes on.
However, adding movement to a shot doesn’t always make it better. The uninterrupted movement of the camera can be annoying and it usually takes some kind of motivation to get the camera to move. For example, this interrogation scene from “Die another day”. Take a look at that strange camera movement at the end of the foreground. There is no reason for the camera to move to the right.
Despite all of its excellent camera movements, “Casino Royale” always knows when not to move the camera. Like at the start of the film, when Le Chiffre is playing poker on his yacht. The camera is completely stationary, emphasizing Le Chiffre’s total control over the poker game.
Discussing how camera work influences the tone of a scene brings us to the second cinematic principle of “Casino Royale”, reflecting the ambiance.
Each film has a mood or a tone. In “The Godfather”, the story’s emphasis on its characters’ internal battle between good and evil is reflected in its use of dark and dark lighting. The epic story of “Lawrence of Arabia” is underscored by sweeping landscapes and uses 70mm film to create a massive frame.
The vibe of every Bond film is sweet. In each film, Bond solves mysteries, catches women and narrowly escapes enemy attacks. He wears beautiful costumes and has a very special drink order.
Link: Shaken not moved.
Narrator: But this sleek demeanor is rarely reflected in the lackluster cinematography. What the cinematography of “Casino Royale” does so well is that it is just as elegant as its protagonist for the duration of the film, emphasizing the elegant nature of Bond and the secret world he inhabits.
Here is an example. Let’s say there’s a single line in the script that describes Bond grabbing a gun from the glove compartment of his car. You can do this in two shots using an insert … or, if you want to emphasize the sleek nature of the car, you can do it in one shot.
Again, let’s say there’s another basic scene that needs to be filmed. This time it’s Bond talking to a woman in bed, arguably where James Bond is at his best. You can shoot the scene with flat lighting and standard composition … or you can shoot the scene with stylized lighting, interesting camera angles, and then end the scene with a fantastic shot like this.
And “Casino Royale” uses many different ways to use sleek cinematography to enhance the movie. He uses lighting to emphasize emotions, tilted camera angles to create a sense of imbalance, and color schemes to reflect character traits. Each scene in “Casino Royale” looks like a separate scene from a spy movie.
“Casino Royale” is so confident in the effectiveness of its sleek cinematography to capture the essence of Bond that instead of putting the iconic animated women in the title sequence, like every other Bond film, it creates a better version of the plan in camera.
And it’s shots like this, which combine camera movement with a suave cinematic style, that create some of the best footage in the movie. For example, a scene where a moving camera conveys the sense of speed and urgency and the elegant shot composition adds to the trill. How about a shot that expertly communicates the location and distance between characters? Need to move Bond from one conversation to another? You can do this using multiple awkward cuts, or you can do it with just one smooth camera movement.
Following the success of “Casino Royale,” 2012’s “Skyfall” actually dubbed cinematography, hiring legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins to create stunning sets and compositions. Bringing cinematography to the forefront of the film was applauded by critics and audiences alike and helped “Skyfall” become the highest-grossing Bond film of all time.
“Casino Royale” demonstrates that with a little extra effort, care, and solid cinematic principles, you can completely reinvent the cinematic look of a franchise and proves it’s worth it when you can turn that. in this.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally posted in March 2020.