In 1996, Daniel Craig melted hearts doubling as the lothario and malefactor in the brilliant serial Our Friends In The North. Ten years later, he brought similar marks to the rebooted 007 franchise, though his announcement came as a surprise in the shadow of Pierce Brosnan’s insouciant Bond. “When I got the call, it really was left-field,” Craig later admitted in an interview with The Guardian. “Honoured though I was, I wasn’t deeply enthusiastic. I met Barbara and Michael [Broccoli and Wilson, the film’s producers] who are lovely people and they were trying to take it in a different direction. The aim was to rebrand Bond, they wanted to create a new 007 with interesting psychological flaws to enable him to compete with troubled modern icons such as Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne.”
In a scoped field of quips, gadgets and sartorial style, Craig’s rougher and ragged appearance had its critics leading up to the film’s release, not least those writing their views on DanielCraigIsNotBond, curated as it were a picture of a facade in tux—and more deserving of the praise than one Alan Partridge, Craig had the last laugh.
Not since Roger Moore has a Bond driven the box office with such consistent decennium draw, yet with critical adoration lauded at a behemoth level unheard of in a compendium of space suits and eyebrows. Not since Timothy Dalton’s willowy locution has anyone gifted Bond with tact, tenacity and intellectual menace, though Craig’s fitful comic flair has proven more palatable to Dalton’s acidic presentation for mainstream audiences. Furthermore, it goes without saying that no Bond has doubled as effectively with commercial glee and artful project since the days of one Mr.Connery. Mid-Bond films steered from the hieratic (Defiance, Flashbacks Of a Fool) and mordant (The Golden Compass, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) before displaying a penchant for slapstick in Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky. With deductive evidence expressing the impending Rian Johnson “whodunit” mystery Knives Out furthering Craig’s sardonic palette, this is an artist with inestimable and epigrammatic qualities going for him.
That said, history will forever remember him for Ian Fleming’s sleuth, delivering the series two staples of modern day British cinema (Casino Royale and Skyfall) and one $880million action escapade (Spectre). Only the oddly misunderstood Quantum of Solace spurns audiences as it does in opposing directions. Bathetic-ally, it has Craig’s steeliest, deadliest and, yes, most handsome performance as the irascible James Bond. An oddly polemic entry in the 24 movie series, Quantum proved an assemblage of chimerical colours, drenched as it was in the furious motions cascading through an impassioned voyage of post modern poisson. Time and a cycle of film students will appraise Quantum as a compelling diaphoretic thriller, when time and cycles have been called on Craig’s tenure.
It’s been a tenure of broken bones, fractured legs, bruised egos and tiring soul bearing. Craig, a man less accustomed to the act of gallant showmanship as TV heartthrobs Brosnan and Moore were, opened to internal frustration, promising a “slashed wrist” while promoting Spectre. Descriptions of his character as a misogynist and alcoholic did little to win him favour among the ferverous. Such criticisms made him human, but they did much to distant Craig from the spy’s fanbase which made him a millionaire. Marked in the written line, Craig showed himself more vulnerable than his alter ego at his lowest ebb. But Craig never claimed he was an unflappable spy, only that he played one so brilliantly and successfully.
“In terms of what I can bring to the character,” new Bond director Cary Fukunaga has hinted, “Bond is on a character arc that started with Casino Royale, and I will be carrying that on. There will be changes, I am sure. As in any story, a character has to change in order [to have] a narrative.”
For a series steeped as it is in modernity, Craig’s tenure has been respectful, even mindful, of its history. In the first film written in the wake of a Bond’s death (Sir Roger Moore died in May 2017), No Time To Die finds itself in Jamaica, the centre-piece of Connery’s debut Dr.No. The one Bond whose born the closest in appearance and style to the premier Bond, Craig has accumulated a record by which Connery himself had hoped to bow out on.
Connery’s status diminished with the turns of interminable comedies Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again, two works barely more palatable than Moore’s plodding A View To A Kill. Craig’s been welcomed to the role and finds himself in the wise position not to outstay his welcome—and let’s not hasten the eulogies. Craig’s tenure will be missed soon enough. For now, let us welcome him to a role he has shaped, moulded and finessed beyond anyone’s expectations.