Last week, I established:
- Daniel Craig has retired as James Bond. NOT returning.
- He was born to play the role, but is a versatile actor, across genres.
- There was a definite sense of tenure; an ‘era’ is the legitimate tagline.
- A weakness is simply strength, overplayed and stretched out.
- Style v substance and somewhere in between, Craig did it well.
There is much and always will be much to dissect within the Daniel Craig ‘era’ of 007 movies. And I have only just started that process.
Here are some more thoughts/observations/blog worthy opinions. Feel free to disagree, of course.
- CRAIG ERA = BROSNAN FILMS IN DIFFERING KEY ?
Could Pierce have pulled off CASINO ROYALE? No. Because it was an origin story for 007 and even as a veteran serviceman, Bond in that story is a new agent. Stuff to learn.
Pierce’s ‘take’ was that of an indomitable hero, adept in all arts and crafts required by a world saving gentleman spy. And much as I love Brosnan, he could not ‘do’ pain or fear or sorrow in one look: whereas Daniel Craig mastered that as a kind of trademark talent.
That said? Each actor wanted to make Bond their own take/thing. They expected and demanded stuff to do, wishing their 007 to emote and be tested.
Hence: Pierce’s got captured/tortured in DIE ANOTHER DAY. And whilst I will not spoil NO TIME TO DIE (yet), I think you know by now where Daniel’s Bond ends up.
Equally: every 007 actor has distinctive strengths. EG: Lazenby = best hand to hand combatant, bar none and could still take the other Bonds in a fight. Timothy Dalton sold the heart and heroism as well as the conflicted emotions of the character. Daniel Craig has raw physicality, poise, presence and pitch perfect vocal style which made him look, sound and feel like Fleming’s Bond. Dalton + Craig = best actors to play Bond. Ever.
But it was Pierce who ‘nailed’ the need for a balance in tones. Though that made him feel inhibited (and he rather uncharacteristically /ill advisedly began to voice reservation about that; coincidentally just as his contract expired), Brosnan’s films knew their limitations.
IE: Give hints of big ideas, emotions, real world geopolitical threats and character arcs. Just know when to stop, like any good gambler. Never TOO camp (kitesurfing tsunamis aside) or entirely ‘dark’.
Craig’s movies took that paradigm and flipped it, going places Pierce’s Bond could not. But ironically, the two eras thereby overlap in tonal deficit and coincidental triumphs.
When Craig’s films tried to ‘do’ a more fantastical or escapist gloss, it was at odds with the more brutal pulp movie method through which their enterprise launched.
Equally: Pierce almost gets a Vesper/Blofeld -ish moment with Elektra in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH yet has to end the movie with ‘Christmas comes once a year’. Daniel gets to face a bionic eyed Blofeld yet ends his whole tenure with Bond..um..well..go see NO TIME TO DIE and find out. And so on.
But somewhere in between the polar contrasts, both actors had perfectly balanced tonal moments as 007. Style and substance. Text and meta-text in harmony.
GOLDENEYE and SKYFALL are perfect companion pieces on that front. Both movies were a kind of soft reboot: matching old Bond lore to new cast and tech. And the politics of the time echoed the generally upbeat (but never bland) notes of the films in question.
From the dawn of Cool Britannia to the rebirth of a Britain for the 2012 Olympics: THOSE are peak Bond moments, on film AND in recent history. Slightly differing key, for sure. And backed by measures of luck and timing.
Of course, magic coincidences cannot be replicated except by fate. But they are special, nonetheless and every 007 has ‘that’ powerful pocket of cinematic and cultural history to define their era.
Daniel Craig is in that sense, distinct from and equal to his predecessors. His successors, hopefully, will enjoy a similar legacy.
MORE ON THIS NEXT WEEK. JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. TRANSMISSION ENDS X