When I first saw Casino Royale I didn’t know what to think. Part of me loved the action and the new direction the films were headed and another part of me was pining for the old formula. I was genuinely nonplussed and remained that way until my second viewing, after which the film rocketed up to the top of my favourite Bond films list, supplanting On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I came to really love Casino Royale and I still do (although On Her Majesy’s Secret Service has reclaimed top-spot), it’s an excellent film in it’s own right and is up there with the best of the Bonds.
Because I love the film so much I have not often stopped to think of what I think of Daniel Craig’s take on the character. I always say I love Craig as Bond but lately I have been questioning this. Owing to the fact that I love all of his films (yes, even Quantum), I automatically associate my love of his films with a love of his portrayal as Bond. I do have, or had, a few reservations about Craig’s Bond as follows:
He lack the raw magnetism of Connery.
He lacks the effortless cool of Connery, Moore and Brosnan.
His one liners, with one exception*, come off a little stiff – *”That last hand… nearly killed me”.
While undoubtedly attractive, he lacks the good looks of Connery, Moore and Brosnan.
It was while thinking of these reservations that I realised that I was not really being fair. Why should he have to measure up to the other Bond actors. Such comparisons are a little trite. It is particularly unfair on Craig as his Bond is a completely new Bond, he may be the same character but he is operating on a completely different timeline and Daniel Craig is the first actor since Connery that is afforded the luxury of a completely fresh start. As I came to realise this, my reservations vanished, to me they simply don’t count or matter in the slightest. His Bond is a new Bond and future actors operating on this new timeline should be judged against Craig.
Given the direction the ‘old style’ films were heading, Craig’s portrayal was a brave one and quite a gamble. The creation of the utterly stupid websites in protest of Craig’s casting stand as proof of this gamble but it paid off spectacularly. Not even the most ardent of Daniel Craig supporters could have dreamed that Casino Royale would turn out the way it did, not only was it not a complete failure, it is held up by many as the best film in the series.
In the past we have seen many great individual character moments and on occasion a film with a genuinely interesting character arc, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being the best example, but all too often the character is lost among the action. An over emphasis is placed on the set-pieces to the point were the central character almost doesn’t matter and the some of the worst films in the series are nothing but set pieces strung together by poor dialogue. This is were Craig stands out, his first two films, and Skyfall to a lesser extent, place the character front and centre and take him on an incredible journey from awkward killer to ruthless double-0 agent. This would not be possible without Daniel Craig’s performance as 007. We see him go from earning his 00 status in Casino Royale, where killing is difficult – “Made you feel it did he” – to the point where he kills without emotion mid way through Quantum of Solace. By the end of the film though he regains some humanity and becomes less of a stone cold killer and more of the charming yet ruthless agent we all know and love. This is shown through his refusal to let Greene die in the fire and his leaving Vesper’s boyfriend alive at the end of Quantum of Solace. The old films were tied to a rigid formula that, while exciting, did not really allow room for the character to breathe fully. The rebooted series is doing just that and in Daniel Craig we have the right man for the job.
After much consideration I came to realise that I do love Daniel Craig as James Bond and while he isn’t my favourite of the Bond actors, Connery takes that honour, he runs a very close second just ahead of Dalton. The problem we have now is that with each new film released and with large gaps in between them comes the realisation that he is not going to be Bond forever and it will be interesting to see the direction the series takes when he is no longer part of it.