DANIEL CRAIG is Ian Fleming’s 007
2006 – 2015 ???
2006 – CASINO ROYALE
Directed by Martin Campbell
With Die Another Day signing off on Pearce Brosnan’s Bond on a low note, well as fans were concerned (though I as not being a particular fan, I found this to be good fun), Casino Royale had the responsibility of refreshing the franchise. Some may remember the controversy of the new “Blond Bond” as well as the campaigns which were launched against Daniel Craig as being the wrong choice for the role.
Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Daniel Craig is not the most versatile actor, as playing cold characters is his forte, but for this new, or more authentic James Bond, he seemed to be born for this now, post-Bourne part. Based on the first 007 novel by Ian Flemming, Casino Royale introduced the MI6 Agent as a sociopathic shovanist, who in the book, was a top-notch poker player.
The film does the same but adds the usual action set-pieces which come part and parcel with a Bond opus. But it is the action in the Casino itself which is where the film works best for me. The Casino Royale segment is probably the middle hour of the film, but in that hour we focus on the relationships between him and his Bond-girl, Eva Green, as she is MI6’s money-man as it were, the introduction of CIA Agent Felix Leiter, and where he not only played the key poker game, but is also almost hacked to death with a machete and poisoned!
And both of those scenes rank as the best action in the movie, besides the opening free-running sequence, which whilst spectacular, is a bit redundant we all is said and done. But again, the logic behind the poker game is solid, making you wonder how many international matters are dealt with in this manner?
Casino Royale is clearly Bond’s response to Jason Bourne, and this was the right direction to go in and was certainly in keeping of the reboots of the day, again, with Batman Begins springing to mind just, a year earlier. Grit was to replace flamboyance but this manages to blend to two together, still retaining what it is to be Bond whilst looking more into the physical world of Bourne. The film’s heart is espionage and character, rather than comedic turns and action for action’s sake.
This is the best Bond film in decades…
2008 – QUANTUM OF SOLICE
Directed by Marc Forster
007 has never been my favourite, so there’s only so much excitement I can garner for the subject. But since Jason Bourne, under the directorship of Paul Greengrass that is, redefined the genre, and Daniel Craig’s incarnation followed suit, things have looked up for the franchise. Bond has done remarkably well, there’s no doubting that, with well over 20 outings and on to its 6th official star over five decades. It’s iconic, with its gadgets, visuals, gags, tone and theme songs, let alone the signature tune, whether the late John Barry composed it or not.
I remember, as many will, the backlash against Craig taking over the Bond mantle, as well as the about-face when he proved to be a hit. Daniel Craig makes a great Bond for new decade. This Bond is harder, tougher and more in keeping with the type of man you’d expect to do what he does. The villains are meaner, he get’s hurt, which is about time, and he spends more time out of his tux than in it, and I’m not talking about the ubiquitous nooky, either!
Bond is more believable since Matt Damon fell of a boat and lost his memory. But enough about Casino Royale, this number 2, or 23 whichever… The issue that some critics had with this film was to argue that it was light, that it had returned to the straight forward Bond of days gone by formula after the deeper and more intellectual take of Royale, and whilst that’s true in some respects, its wrong in others. Granted, it’s a straight forwards plot, the villainy seems to be back on the level of SPECTRE and besides killing loads of people, there’s little more going on that what you can see with your naked eye, but the action is spectacular, and the performances do well to keep up, but again, with the gross exception of Gemma Arterton. I’ve asked this before and I will again: Why is she being cast, again and again? She can’t act for toffee! Sorry!
There’s no Oscars on offer here, this isn’t a lost work of Shakespeare and nor does it pretend to be. It’s a modern Bond for the post Bourne era, and we must not forget that Bourne is never about complex plots, just engrossing action. Quantum, though contrived at times, was generally well judged, its heart was in the right place and it had a sense of direction that I personally would only be to happy to follow.
2012 – SKYFALL
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
Opening, yet again within the Daniel Craig Bond era, without the ubiquitous ‘gun barrel’ sequence at the beginning, Oscar winning Director, Sam Mendes, the first of such caliber in the 23 films and 50 years of bond to this date, set out his stall from frame one with an artistic interpretation of the that very sequence using a hallway instead of the optical effect, establishing that cinematography was about to be raised up a notch from what we had seen before.
But that was not all. This is very much Bond post Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight (2008) and Inception (2010) specifically, though Inception was unashamedly Nolan’s so… but i digress. This is such as Casino Royale (2006) was Bond post Bourne (2001 – Present) and Moonraker (1979) was Bond post Star Wars (1977) etc… you get the drift. Bond has always reacted to the trends but with both Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006) and Mendes’ Skyfall, it works perfectly.
But this is masterwork of adaption. With beautiful photography, a gripping and deep screenplay as well as the perfect balance of subtly and outlandish action, this is what Bond should be in the 21st century. Gripping and thrilling in equal measure, with significant character development across the board, as they pay homage to the long history of Bond during it’s 50th anniversary year.
So, after a thrilling and diverse opening chase scene almost playing out as a show reel for every Bond chase imaginable, this was followed up by one of the best Bond songs to date, Adele’s “Skyfall”, which takes us into the film in earnest.
What we have here is the perfect love letter to Bond, something was attempted back in 2002’s franchise killing Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnon’s final Bond film and released in the franchise’s 40th year, but whilst I still like that one a lot more than most fans, it was great fun, it pales in comparison to this, the culmination of Bond’s 21st century makeover, and in may respects, a soft reboot again, finally introducing Moneypenny, “Q” and bidding a moving farewell to Judi Dench’s “M”, after 17 years in the role, introducing her replacement, Ralph Feines.
Class, wit and grit, with a depth never before seen in a Bond movie, this film could stand alone, a perfect spy movie, with a visual flair leaning more towards that of an art house film rather than a blockbuster, yet fulfilling everything required to make this a great Bond flick.
This might not be the best Bond film in the traditions of the well worn franchise but hell, this is what Bond needs to be in this era and Craig, Mendes and all involved here have set the bar high for this genre for a long time to come.
2015 – SPECTRE
Directed by Sam Mendes
This could well be the final outing of Daniel Craig’s Bond and I would suggest that he has been as influential on the role as Sean Connery was back in the 1960’s. Right now, Craig IS Ian Flemming’s James Bond, but is he a likable character? No.
He a very damages brute, a murderer and a ruthless operator who just happens be fighting for on our side. So I like him. But Spectre falters a a bit. The second time that Sam Mendes has directed a Bond movie, he makes FILMS, and it shows. This is a beautiful film but a slightly ponderous and slow bond movie.
We as he found the perfect balance with Skyfall, here he just seems to be taking liberties with his camera, creating some fantastic imagery for film fans but will they stand the test of time as so many other, simpler directors have? I mean, the double-decker bus, the Lotus submarine, the laser at the crotch etc…, these were over blown bond moments and here its seem that Mendes is going out of his way to tame them.
But the story is relevant for the time, the character development is good and this also ties up the previous three films with nice bow so all in all, what is to complain about. Not the best but still a class act.