The name James Bond first became cemented into the history of the film industry in 1962 when Sir Sean Connery played the iconic hero in a film adaptation of Ian Flemings Novel of the same title. Whilst the novel failed to gain much praise from critics, the film was a remarkable success and launched a franchise which men, women and children alike have grown to love. The series of films have increased over the years in size and budget, and as I write this there are currently 22 films which have been released.
Despite the main character seemingly staying the same there have been 7 different actors to play the suave and elusive James Bond, with the most recent being Daniel Craig.
Any Bond fan or film buff alike would happily tell you, with a twinkle in their eye and a fondness in their voice, who their personal favourite actor was to have played Bond. Each and everyone depending on their age and up bringing will bicker and quarrel as to who played the MI6 agent with the most charm, the most arrogance or to the fullest of the original characters description. This is my argument, my turn to put forward my case as to why, controversially, I feel that Daniel Craig is the best bond of them all.
From 1989 when Timothy Dalton ordered his last Martini, ’shaken…not stirred’ up until 1995, the Bond films had taken a breather, a 6 year siesta due to legal issues. It was in 1995 that Pierce Brosnan, a sickeningly suave English actor agreed to become Bond and once more the iconic opening sequence was seen.
Brosnan re-invented James Bond, fairly well in my opinion. The films from the 60’s and 70’s were, and it was part of their charm, fairly sexist and tongue in cheek and riddled with double entendres. With Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day Brosnan managed to alter Bond, to create from his predecessors a new character, one with a modicum of depth and feeling. The iconic eye brow raise of Sir Roger Moore was gone, the rough and ready attitude of Sir Sean Connery had vanished. The films still had the incredibly spectacular stunt sequences and a touch of the sexism, thanks in part to some fantastic casting of leading ladies, but to the avid fan, it was clearly apparent that the structure of Bond had altered. A change had been made which was needed if Bond were to survive against his worst foes of all. Never mind Dr No, Jaws, and Auric Goldfinger, these were a walk in the park, an aperitif, compared to modern day feminists and political correctness.
I am a thirty year old male, and so being born in 1982, my first real taste of Bond was with the aforementioned Pierce Brosnan, at the age of 13. As you can probably imagine my hormones were raging, and having the complex cocktail of full on action sequences, guns, secret agents and women whom I found mysteriously arousing, being thrown at my eyeballs through the television I was hooked. I eventually watched the complete catalogue of Bond through rentals of various V.H.S cassettes and obviously the Christmas period would deliver at least one or two of the films for ‘post lunch’ viewing.
I then had to wait a further four years, from Brosnan’s final film Die another Day until 2006. The year came and I eagerly awaited the release of Casino Royale albeit tentatively as it starred a new actor, Daniel Craig.
I had seen Craig in other films such as Layer Cake and Tomb Raider but knew very little of him, I doubted his credentials and knew he couldn’t match Brosnan, but looked forward to the film regardless, at the end of the day it was Bond and guaranteed to entertain.
I remember sitting down on the sofa, DVD in the machine, and starting to watch Casino Royale. The opening sequence was in black and white, and I struggled to understand if there was something wrong with my player? However, in the short segment, a prologue to the actual film, it very cleverly and excitedly explained how Craig had become Bond and achieved his 007 status, his license to kill.
From the beginning there was action, mystery and intrigue. This was Bond. This was bigger, bolder and better than previous films. The timeline for Bond had been altered, Casino Royale was in effect his first outing as 007 as I understand that simple structure change allowed Craig to completely alter James Bond as we knew him.
This version of Bond had angst, a bitterness and coldness within him, that made him dark, emotionless and the ultimate reckless agent. He was still incredibly charming, handsome and intelligent and could get anything he wanted and make someone do anything he chose, but behind that lay a sorrow, which was remarkably well put across by Craig.
Craig followed the success of Casino Royale with another nice addition to the franchise, Quantum of Solace, the story arc of which was directly related to the first film, giving the films a frame, a reason for being.
The success and praise of the films does not lie solely with the lead however. Visually the films are stars within themselves, the way scenes were captured and events drawn out on screen are a marvel and highly underrated in my opinion.
The Director of Casino Royale, Martin Campbell, and the director of Quantum of solace, Marc Forster, as well as the writers, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, work incredibly well together. Purvis and Wade were also involved in the screenplay for Die Another Day and The World is Not Enough. Perhaps why the essence of the original films was still apparent?
The use of camera angles and gritty real life shots help the viewer to feel 100 per cent part of the action.
Fight scenes are crisp and real with very little by way of sound effects, no ridiculous slapping sounds or grunting, just pure real action, one particular scene in Quantum of Solace involving Bond and a Hit man in a hotel room is one of my all time favourite scenes, for one small reason. This fresh Bond, this newly promoted Bond, who has two kills under his belt, fights off the attack by the hitman culminating in Bond stabbing him in the leg through the main femoral artery, whilst the victim lays there bleeding to death, Bond turns his head, unable to look at the life he is taking. This one small head turn for me speaks volumes as to the personality of Craig’s revitalised Bond and one reason why I believe him to be the best.
The story arc that spans both films is very cleverly thought out, evolving characters and intricately weaving a web which snares the viewer and refuses to allow them to miss-understand or miss-interpret what is unfolding on the screen before them. The original characters are all still heavily involved in the plot, with the exception of Miss Moneypenny who unfortunately fails to make an appearance.
The acting prowess of Dame Judi Dench in the role of ‘M’ is, as you would expect, incredible. The relationship that develops on screen between herself and Craig as Bond is an utter joy to behold, a mutual respect and admiration, whilst also portraying itself as quite Freudian, quite maternal.
We are also treated to small, fascinating, insights into certain plot and character details such as in one particular scene Bond states;
‘I always thought M was a randomly assigned initial, I had no idea it stood for…..’
To which ‘M’ replies;
‘Utter one more syllable and I’ll have you killed’
Giving us a small clue as to whom M actually is, as well as showing the humorous side to both characters.
So as I said, I believe Craig to be my favourite Bond, but not just because of Craig, although he is in my opinion exceptional. The latest in the long line of Bond films work as a whole because of a number of factors, comparable to Bonds very own favourite drink;
* 3 measures of superb acting
* 1 measure of incredibly intelligent and perceptive direction and writing
* ½ measure of superbly crafted and intricately presented storytelling
Shake the above, mix in some amazingly original stunt sequences and finally garnish with a traditionally catchy theme song and some very intelligent P.R marketing and there you have it.
The latest film Skyfall is due for release on the 26th of October and I for one cannot wait and will be first in line to see my favourite Bond, Daniel Craig take to the stage once again. I urge you all to do the same.