Concluding, maybe, a quasi trilogy of looks into the tenure of the sixth official cinematic 007..
(drawing: copyright; Michael Heather: thanks!).
PRE TITLES: What do we know, so far? Have I established certain points more or less beyond dispute? Sure I have!
- Daniel Craig was a great James Bond. Because he is both a movie star and a consummate actor.
- There was a fairly definite Craig ‘era’ in Bond movies. He did not simply hang around for 15 years and take one movie at a time.
- So there was an ethos in the 007 franchise. As in: Daniel’s take is a self contained interpretation of Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
- The above points are matters of linear, logical, verifiable ‘fact’ rather than critical opinion. You neither agree with nor dispute them.
A weakness is simply an overdone strength, in any corporate, cultural, philosophical or cinematic paradigm. Daniel Craig’s James Bond follows that rule.
At a glance, I have hinted at certain inconsistencies in Daniel’s 5 movies, their motifs and the reception they enjoyed. Notably:
- The whole era is a gigantic missed opportunity. There should have been more movies made and actual remakes / re-dressings of Fleming titles.
- Daniel Craig’s Bond films = Pierce Brosnan’s in a different key. Very similar tropes, motifs, concerns and soap operatic character beats.
- Notice that SKYFALL had the patriotic propaganda glow of GOLDENEYE and TOMORROW NEVER DIES.
- Equally, CASINO ROYALE = THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, done ‘right’ (Bond betrayed by a lover; but let him grieve and mourn, properly?).
- IE: A Bond actor in any decade and beyond is a product of their time, both in opportunity and limitation.
Anything else to add? No. Not much, frankly. Just these few bullet-pointy things:
- Daniel liked to deconstruct Bond. And quite right, too. This is a fiercely intelligent actor: literate, curious, attentive to detail, throughout his career.
- And yet: the Craig era is fairly plot light/lite and the stakes are remarkably low until his final movie when they suddenly remember that Bond even in this guise, really ought save the world?
- All very well doing an ‘arc’ becoming Bond /retiring/dying/falling in love/whatever. But if there is a lot of filler in there and a deficit in geopolitical stakes? Then it’s all a bit of a mirage, frankly. Sorry!
- That being said: the movies are rich in philosophical subtext. SKYFALL is a meditation on death, age and mortality: Bond effectively euthanises M in a way by taking her to her death, as a sacrifice to preserve British values?
- Though it was a shame to dodge real world war zones even in pre title sequence mini missions, Daniel’s Bond did indeed do battle with specific political threats. They just disguised it well, same way Fleming had devised renegade SMERSH agents or SPECTRE itself as a kind of apolitical personification of nonetheless possibly partisan threats.
- Hence: QUANTUM as an organisation and antagonists for Daniel’s Bond represented the corporatisation of war and nation building /resource grabbing, without ever having to send our man to Iraq. NO TIME TO DIE sees a post Brexit Britain, isolated from both European and American allies. The virus as threat is chillingly current, albeit coincidental. And Logan Ash is implicitly perhaps an attack on certain extremist elements that have resurfaced in the USA of late, without naming names, of course.
- Craig’s Bond could credibly read The Guardian, with Jason Bourne 😉
- It’s a shame that we never saw Daniel scuba/ski/get measured for a suit/truly relax and enjoy the world of fine food/wine or wear a Commander’s uniform aboard a Naval warship/sub. But hey: you cannot have everything.
- Those tropes are important in Bond films and no doubt they, like the character, will return, in time?
- Craig is more Bond at times in LAYER CAKE, SWORD OF HONOUR and ARCHANGEL than in some of his own 007 films.
- CASINO ROYALE is possibly Craig’s best Bond film. SKYFALL is my sentimental ‘go to’. QUANTUM OF SOLACE is an underrated gem: Daniel looking his best, at peak action capacity and with a pace, purpose, tonal balance and texture in the movie to match.
- As for THAT ending in NO TIME TO DIE? Craig has done better send-offs for his characters, dating back to THE TRENCH. But then nobody is perfect; certain things in Bond movies will be loved by some and loathed by others and I might well be in a minority in my balance of praise and criticism for the latest outing.
- Either way? I admire Craig hugely, enjoy his work and genuinely believe he helped reinvent the Bond brand, forever. The next 007 has a hard act to follow! ‘Yes, considerably’..
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. TRANSMISSION ENDS. X