Daniel Craig—The Dour Bond

Read my overview of the James Bond franchise

Daniel Craig is a darker Bond. Not more realistic as fantasy is still the thing, but it is a less bright fantasy. With the franchise rebooting, Craig first appears as a proto-Bond, just starting in his career and still developing those characteristics that would define the man in later outings. His James Bond is extremely athletic; he's also troubled and petulant. He shows little intelligence, less charm, and while he can "read people," is devoid of empathy. M calls him a blunt weapon (as she had in a previous film), but this time, she's accurate. He is driven, but little reason is given except for much harping on his ego which does not explain his behavior. He isn't a suave secret agent; he's a killing machine. In the past, Bond was someone men wanted to be, and women wanted to be with. Not this time. This is the James Bond of low-budget exploitation cinema put in a huge budget film. The Connery/Moore Bond was rarely hurt, so could continue his missions without difficulty. James BondConnery's just seemed lucky (and skilled) but someday that luck would run out. Moore's felt invulnerable. Craig's Bond, however, is hurt all the time, but he just keeps coming. Older Bond was a superhero. Now he's a Terminator.

While it seemed at first that it would take one film to develop proto-Bond into Bond, instead they've made that the arc of Craig's entire run. After four films, he's still becoming Bond. This development has gotten a bit strange since his first picture is about a young man newly becoming a 00, while his third dwells on how old and out of touch he is. But Bond has rarely made sense from film to film.

Whatever the Craig Bond is developing into, he's lost his edge. Normal film morality, so lacking in the Connery and Moore years, are now in play. If a man has a lot of casual sex, it isn't because he likes it, but to distract from the meaningless of his existence. If a man kills, then either he must be empty, or those deaths will weigh him down and strip him of his humanity. Those are the lessons of standard cinema, the lessons James Bond rebuked, but now embraces. Craig's Bond is just like all the others.

The Craig villains are of a different breed from the past as well. Gone are the megalomaniac scientists. In come men best described as oily and rapey. They aren't scary, but disgusting. If they were after you, you'd be less concerned about their evil plans and more that they might touch you and transmit something communicable. It is a group in need of a lot of bathing.

It's always been tricky to put the Bond films together in time. Too many years separate Dr. No from Die Another Day for the spy to be one man (thus the multiple actors). But now things are more confusing since Daniel Craig's Bond-adventures predates those in all the other films. This is a young Bond just earning his "00" status, who is set in time after his later selves. And there's M, still played by Judi Dench, who, according to GoldenEye took the position years after Bond had earned his reputation. Is the series rebooting or just thumbing its nose at continuity? It doesn't really matter, but it is curious. I've a demon who swears that the filmmakers'  intention is that James Bond keeps dying every few years so MI6 recruits a new agent and gives him the old name. Hmmmm, now isn't that the plot to the 1967 spoof also titled Casino Royale.

The Craig films are:


Casino Royale

The Devil Says

See It

(If you are a fan boy)

Casino Royale is the fan boy's Bond film. It answers all those questions that if you were asking, you didn't get the movies. When did Bond first wear a tux? Why doesn't he get into close, permanent relationships with women? Did he always want his martini's shaken, not stirred? Under what circumstances did he first introduce himself with, "Bond, James Bond"? 

Gadgets Low
Absurdity of evil plot Low
Killer fish Nope

Let's get this out of the way for all those people who failed physics and are unaware of the working of the human body. This is NOT a realistic film. The term "gritty realism" is being tossed around by uneducated critics who like to lavish praise on anything they can so label. This ain't it. Cars do not barrel-role seven times on their own.  It can't happen. Why is the one flip done in Man With the Golden Gun often criticized as silly and fake while the multiple flips here are called true-to-life? The former was actually performed by a stuntman driving a real car off a ramp, while this time the car was shot out of a cannon. Is it because Bond meant to do the river jump while it is an accident now? Similarly, no human being can leap and swing as Bond and the terrorist do at the beginning of the film. Like the crash, it is pure fantasy.

Luckily, I like fantasy, but I prefer some explanation for the non-real elements, no matter how bizarre and unlikely it is. It'd be nice if something said why a henchmen was able to do tricks that would impress Batman. He jumps around on girders and drops several stories, and he's just some average bomb-maker? Can all bomb-makers do that? Shouldn't he have been some super-villain trained for years or an Olympic gymnast gone bad? I'm perfectly happy to see all the outlandish action (there's a lot more than I'm mentioning); let's just remember that it is just that, and Casino Royale is no closer to our world than Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, just grouchier.

Eva GreenThe plot more-or-less follows the novel's (minus the action scenes). James Bond is sent to stop a banker, Le Chiffre, who supports terrorists (of course it wasn't terrorists in the book, but terrorists are all the rage). Le Chiffre has entered a high stakes poker game (it was baccarat in the book, but that's a little too high-brow and not nearly trendy enough) and Bond must make sure he loses. He's aided by the peevish Vesper Lynd. Considering that as things turn out, she should really want Bond to like her, there's no reason for her to be such a bitch to him. But hey, Eva Green is really hot, and that's the point after all.

Casino Royale is fresh, but only for the franchise, not cinema in general. It is different because it is so very much the same at a more basic level: it may be the most slavish Bond movie ever to the decree that Bond flicks embrace current fads. This is James Bond starring in Mission Impossible 3. This year's cinematic trends are grit, anger, torture, and of course, terrorism. It is reminiscent of Live and Let Die and its peculiar absorption of blaxploitation. Mainstream films have gotten a bit darker, and Bond's along for the ride.

As The Devil, I was disappointed by several things in Casino Royale. What happened to the credits sequence?  Not only is the song forgettable (while it's still playing you're likely to forget it), but there's not a single nude woman in silhouette. Yes, yes, they wanted it to be all serious, but that's no reason to take away the nudes.  Make them serious nudes. The other problem is the sinning. There isn't enough and it's not shown in a good light. James Bond is an icon for the joy of sin. Yet here he comes up almost empty. Of course that could be the reason he's miserable, but I prefer lessons that show how much fun sinning is over ones that demonstrate how rotten life is without sin. This Bond needs to find some Pride, order out some good food and a lot of drinks, exercise his mind, learn a joke or two, and bed some babes.

Trendy Influences: Terrorists, gritty action pics with excessively physical leads, dark make-overs of pop icons like Batman, torture as entertainment on TV and in movies, celebrity poker, parkour.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride Bond needs it to replace his egotism. He doesn't love himself. He's the empty shell of a human moving forward because he can and doesn't care what happens. He's arrogant and vain, but even those aren't major motivating factors. Nor is duty. He's just a killer.
Sloth Nada.
Avarice There are some views of luxury that are pleasant, but it is barely worth mentioning.
Gluttony There are a few nice meals and Bond has a hybrid martini.
Beauty Very little. Mostly we have Eva Green. She counts for quite a bit, but some nice scenery or art wouldn't' have gone amiss.
Wraith Well, this new Bond can get angry, and does. That seems to push him a bit beyond where he might have gone otherwise, but Wraith is not that important. This isn't a man of rage, but a man without a soul.

For surrogate cruelty, we're in good shape: shootings, some in cold blood, a fight with a machete, lots of punching, strangulation, and torture.
Thought Unfortunately nope. This is a dimmer Bond in a movie where intelligence is lacking by all.
Humor Bond goes gritty and serious.
Lust Surprisingly little. This Bond leaves a girl before having sex with her, though he does tumble a bit with Eva Green who does her best to be sexy. For the gals, there's Daniel Craig in a swimsuit pretending he's Ursula Andress. 



Quantum of Solace

The Devil Says

See It

(When you've run out of action films to watch)

Daniel Craig returns as the glum Bond in Quantum of Solace, the middling sequel to the angst-fest that was Casino Royale. The tone is similar, but less extreme and a touch more Bond-like. There's less whining, less grumping, less pointless anger, less interminable scenes of nothing happening, less excitement, less point, and less movie. There's less to complain about, and less to care about. If that is good or bad depends on how much you complained or cared about anything in Casino Royale, which is to say, how much you believe that "Damn it all, comics just don't get enough RESPECT!!" 

Gadgets Low
Absurdity of evil plot Average
Killer fish Nope

This is yet another Bond revenge flick, and that's never a good place to start (remember LicenCe to Kill). James, still grumpy about Vesper’s death—since grumpy has replaced character with this Bond—must drive really fast, jump a lot, and run so much I began to think I’d stumbled into a track meet, to kill random spies, all leading to an evil environmentalist who is the linchpin in SPECTOR’s new plan for world domination. Oh wait. It isn't world domination. It's just to become the utilities provider to Bolivia. The sidekick Bond girl is also out for revenge from the general who raped her mother, killed her family, and now is keen to rape her. His entire personality is "rape" (an exploding building around him doesn't slow down his rape quest, which could be amusing if it wasn't so damn serious) just as the main villain's entire personality is oily middleman.

It seems Bond isn't Bond yet, even though that was the entire point of Casino Royale. He got his tux and catch phrase at the end of the last film, but here he is again Quantom of Solaceas an empty man. Which means there is no fun for him, or us. This is grim stuff, but somehow grim without weight. It isn't a terrible film, but it left me wanting my old Bond back. We also get repeats of "who to trust" and "I don't know if I can trust you" motifs that had been covered quite thoroughly a few years previously. They are odder here as we also get the M is mother metaphor that would continue in the next film.

The action is all typical Bond action, but like Casino Royale, is unbelievable not due to gadgets, but to people jumping higher, running further, and surviving where they should have died. It's also edited chaotically. It'd be nice to slow down here and there to see who is shooting at who and to determine if it matters.

Quantum of Solace also contains the silliest building of any Bond film. A safety message: Do not power your hotel with "fuel cells" that blow up incredibly easily and have to be everywhere so you get an inferno. I don't think it will pass code.

Trendy Influences: Fast, choppy cuts and action filmed way too close. Environmentalism, particularly doubt of environmentalists.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride Not much of the old Bond pride here. He trusts himself, but that's not saying much.
Sloth Nada.
Avarice Bond refuses cheap accommodations in favor of the high life, and it seems the way to go.
Gluttony They eat well, but there's little focus on nice food and the drinking seems to be to hide or wash away pain.
Wraith Bond is generally a bit miffed, but it is more seething anger which doesn't appear to help anyone. However, if you are here to watch people die, things are OK. Many do, including the rapey guy.
Beauty The landscapes are pretty, but they are filmed with little interest. The architecture is just there, likewise the music. We don't get much flesh. Gemma Arterton is a pretty woman, but look elsewhere to confirm that.
Thought Still nothing. Sigh.
Humor Nada. Laughs left with the fun.
Lust We're low. Lust doesn't s motive our "hero" and he doesn't get much himself. All is platonic with main Bond girl, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who never attempts to appear sexy. This is probably just as well for a movie that keeps bringing up rape as a way to identify the bad guys. A better move would have been to write better bad guys and stop with all the rape.




The Devil Says

See It

(Particularly if you like Home Alone)

This isn't the best Bond film, but it is the most interesting.

What had been planned as a one film reboot for Bond enters its third film. Bond still isn't our Bond, but he's getting there. By the time Skyfall is finished, most of the old Bond mythology is in place, if not quite in the same form as before. The vengeance and emptiness of the last two films are now replaced by family. Yes, This film is all about your family, including your dead ancestors, your mother, and your very troublesome black sheep brother. Thankfully that's all metaphor, because how stupid would it be for a Bond film to talk about brotherhood literally...?

Gadgets Low
Absurdity of evil plot Average
Killer fish Close enough

An unknown enemy has stolen a list of all MI6 agents embedded in terrorist organizations and intends to release the information, bit by bit. But this isn't blackmail. It's personal, and M is the target.

James Bond is a good place to go to look for the meaning of life in the Nine Vital Sins, or at least six of them, but it isn't where you should look for other themes. Bond is action and adventure, not deep meaning. Bu this time, it has theme. A lot of theme. It is dripping in theme. It has so much theme that it can't manage it all. Most of it is left dangling, but hey, it's still there to think about. The biggest theme is aging. What does it mean to grow old? Do we change? Does the world change fundamentally? Can we get left behind? Are we still useful? Is there a time when we should step aside? To go with that, we are given heaping doses of family counseling. Mothers are very important. They often make huge mistakes, but your mother is still your mother no matter what. Likewise, your family history is important. We all need to belong. Yes, there's even more, but in the end all of it is dropped by just saying, "Yup, we needed James Bond; move along." James actually de-ages over the course of the film.

The entire age theme is an odd one to be playing out on James (less odd with M) when we just finished two Bond films about him being an undeveloped young Turk.

skyfallThe story is generally a rehash of The World is Not Enough with a touch of GoldenEye. Like the first, someone who saw M as a mother figure is abandoned by her and held as a prisoner. Now, having escaped and gained strange levels about power he (in this case) wants revenge. Like in the first go round, very little is made of M's responsibility. There was some theme to dig into, but in place of ideas we get only vague platitudes.

What does this give us? A really creepy villain modeled on Nolan's Joker, some gay innuendo, a bit of serious cruelty, and some pretty tense action scenes. It isn't a lot of fun, but at least it doesn't feel like cotton candy.

Note: In all their rebooting, there are several things I dislike, but some go beyond and are vast mistakes. Making Miss Moneypenny a field agent who couldn't hack it is one of the latter.

Trendy Influences: Terrorists (still), gritty action pics with excessively physical leads (still), Nolan's Dark Knight films. Computer Hacking and information released online.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride He's getting better, but there's as much vanity here as Pride.
Sloth Bond hides out in the islands for awhile and relaxes, though this is more of an escape then enjoyment.
Avarice Not much.
Gluttony Again. Not much. Bond needs to get back to being Bond.
Wraith We see lots of death and cruelty. The nastiest is the death of a Bond girl who is used as a target. None of it feels satisfying to watch.
Beauty One of the lowest of any Bond films. Some scenery looks nice, but a bit of flesh from Bérénice Marlohe is pretty much it.
Thought There's a lot of theme to think about. It doesn't come to much, but it is there.
Humor I wish.
Lust Bond manages sex with an unnamed women, but it is sex to forget. It's implied he and Moneypenny have some fun too, but they leave it open so those who want to deny it can do so. That leaves only Severine, who is beautiful, but her story is so sad it strips all the joy out.




The Devil Says

See It

(But don't' worry if you have to leave early)

At the end of Skyfall, it appeared that Bond was back, that M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny were in place, so the franchise was ready to move on. But no. At the start of Spectre, Bond's gone rogue again, M doesn't trust him, and he has old business to tie up dealing with the previous M, a past villain, his childhood, the Quantum organization, and Vesper. Simultaneously, Britain is questioning the usefulness of the Double O program and Bond still has some developing to do. It's time to wrap up things you didn't even know, or care, were unwrapped.

Gadgets Low
Absurdity of evil plot Average
Killer fish No

Following up on a posthumous message from Q, Bond finds a late night meeting of that international organization of evil, Spectre. Bond recognizes the leader from his past, but still needs the help of a hot babe to find the evil headquarters of Blofeld so that he can...march right in the front door. Meanwhile, the new M must deal with an obviously evil bureaucrat who plans to fire all the spies while he uses technology to invade the lives of a majority of the citizens of Western countries.

The is the most Bond of the Craig Bond films, so much so that I can imagine the same script having been written for Brosnan. He finally gets a few mild gadgets, is not constantly angry or in mourning, and here and there seems to be having a good time. He also has casual sex with a woman, and while he wants information from her, he also shows signs of it being something he'd like to do. There is even an old-style unstoppable henchman. That's all good, and makes Spectre by far the most fun of the Craig films. It's a Craig Bond film, so "dour" is still the word, but things are a bit less glum. The stunts are the best of the last four films, the cinematography is a bit sharper and brighter, and for two-thirds of it, it whips along.

spectreThe It all crumbles in that final third, but hey, you can't have everything. The problems come from the extreme idiocy of both Bond and Blofeld (neither should do what they do and wouldn't if they were thinking even a tiny bit), the story halting so that we can be served up with monologuingso much monologuing—and a final answer to a question that no one asked that makes this film and its three predecessors much smaller, makes Blofeld much less impressive, and takes what had been a central metaphor in Skyfall and makes it literal. We also have James Bond's journey to become a traditional hero. Sigh. I can't say which of those is more annoying.

Well, the first two-thirds really work, and there's some nice action is the final bit, so this is a good film to watch at home, where you can follow closely for a while, and then just leave it on in the background toward the end.

Trendy Influences: Terrorists (still), gritty action pics with excessively physical leads (still), Intrusive government spying on its citizens.

Sins (What does this mean?)

Pride This is as good as it gets for the Craig Bond, but he's still searching for himself rather than embracing himself.
Sloth Nada.
Avarice Nice to travel and wear expensive clothing. And everyone will want those cars.
Gluttony A few drinks and he orders some fancy food, but no, not much here.
Wraith M and Madeleine are the only ones who get really angry and it doesn't do them much good.

As always, there is a good deal of killing, the most graphic being one SPECTRE agent taking out another that includes eye gouging. And because this is modern Bond, we get torture again. Yes, Bond is strapped down to a chair and tortured. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to move past the torture scenes.
Beauty There's some nice buildings in Mexico and Rome, One of the lowest of any Bond films. Some scenery looks nice, but a bit of flesh from Bérénice Marlohe is pretty much it.
Thought No... Just... No.
Humor A few dark jokes: "Don't you see that I am grieving?". "No."
Lust Things are looking up a bit. Bond isn't pushed to action by his Lust, but at least it is showing up, and not simply as a way to hide pain. Monica Bellucci makes a fine, casual sex Bond girl (and probably should have been one a decade ago when she auditioned for Tomorrow Never Dies) and Léa Seydoux is fine for the longer term sex partner, but you won't get very excited watching any of them.



My Bond Reviews

The Connery Films
The Lazenby Film
The Moore Films
The Dalton Films
The Brosnan Films

Buy It





Bond Girls

Casino Royale
Eva Green: Vesper Lynd
Caterina Murino: Solange
Quantum of Solace
Olga Kurylenko: Camille Montes
Gemma Arterton: Strawberry Fields
Bérénice Marlohe: Sévérine
Naomie Harris: Eve Moneypenny
Léa Seydoux: Dr. Madeleine Swann
Monica Bellucci: Lucia Sciarra





Bond Villains

Casino Royale
Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen)
Quantum of Solace
Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric)
Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem)
Ernst Blofeld (Christoph Waltz)


Two Views...

For a second, and far sexier view of Bond Girl Eva Green, check out The Devil's review of  The Dreamers.




A differnt View of a Bond Girl

Olga Kurylenko topless
Olga Kurylenko