Completing our celebration of Bond we take a look at Daniel Craig’s first two outings as the famous 007 in James Bond: The Craig years…
Casino Royale (2006)
Bond: Daniel Craig
Villain: Le Chiffre played by Mads Mikkelsen
In what amounted to the biggest and most controversial changes to the franchises yet, respected actor Daniel Craig was announced as the new Bond and sparked fury amongst the 007 fan base. “Bond not blonde” was the campaign; Craig did not fit the suave and debonair image that had admittedly begun to stagnate. His rugged looks were more in keeping with Dalton whose tenure was regarded as the weakest. What were the producers thinking? Had they committed commercial suicide? How could they ever hope to persuade the loyal Brosnan fans? What followed proved that installing Craig and “rebooting” the franchise was the canniest decision the Bond producers would ever make.
After Die Another Day it was apparent that Bond was being left behind. The Bourne films with Matt Damon had shown how action movies should be handled. Convincing, realistic, fast and brutal, Bourne appeared to be the Bond that Ian Fleming had conceived. Indeed, in the first two Sean Connery films, that was exactly how he was portrayed. Over the years he had been homogenised, pasteurised and sterilized from a malt whiskey to a bland glass of milk.
Craig felt the same way and initially turned down the offer. It was only after he read the script and saw the direction Bond was taking that he signed on. This was to be a fresh start, showing a younger Bond earning his 00 status. This Bond would make mistakes and suffer injuries and was prepared to get his hands dirty. In keeping with the Bourne ideal, Casino Royale would be more realistic, going back to traditional stunt work and not relying on special effects. This was a new 007 universe, and in this universe Craig fitted Bond like a glove.
The pre credits scene introduced our new man and effectively showed both sides of his character. His “two kills” to qualify for “00” are both very different and showcased Craig’s range. The first set piece, free running across Madagascar, was stunning. The new Bond hit the ground running and silenced all the nay-sayers. In fact, by the end of Casino Royale‘s run, Daniel Craig was touted as the best Bond ever.
It was not only Craig who made the difference. Martin Campbell was drafted in to hold the directorial reigns after successfully introducing Brosnan in Goldeneye. Judi Dench was retained as M and continued to provide quality whilst Jeffrey Wright was excellent as the new Felix Lieter. Le Chiffre was an unusual villain. As played by Mads Mikkelsen he was a deeply flawed man, capable of intense cruelty but equally crippled by self doubt and in debt to a terrorist group. Finally comes Eva Green, as the Treasury agent Vesper Lynd, a complicated and conflicted Bond girl and indicative of the new tone and direction.
No Miss Moneypenny, no Q, no gadgets, this was Bond stripped down, lean and hungry. A new dawn had arrived.
Quantum Of Solace (2008)
Bond: Daniel Craig
Villain: Dominic Greene played by Mathieu Amalric
Casino Royale was a stunning debut for Craig, the trick now was to provide an effective follow up. Quantum of Solace represented something new, a direct sequel to the previous outing, starting where Casino Royale finishes. Quantum represents the shadowy criminal organisation that forms the basis for the plot in both films. It seemed that a new SPECTRE had been born. The film has all the action beats that marked out Craig’s debut; it also has another feisty Bond girl in the form of the Olga Kurylenko. Unfortunately the story was confusing and the movie felt more like a series of set pieces strung together. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the bar had been set so high by Casino Royale that it is a little disappointing. Craig was still the moody and intense Bond that we had seen before and his sparring with Judi Dench provides the best moments in the film. Mathieu Amalric was a little lacking in the villain role but Jeffrey Wright again provided strong support.
Overall, a little disappointing (but tonnes better than most of its predecessors) with a muddled script. Fine performances throughout, but you are definitely left wanting more from a Craig 007 movie. He had consolidated his position in the role and now truly owned it.