Filming the latest Bond adventure took up two years of Daniel Craig’s life – so unsurprisingly the word’s gone round that he’s thinking of hanging up the tuxedo. According to Entertainment Weekly he’d rather ‘slash his wrists’ than appear for a fifth time as James Bond. Hardly the reaction you’d expect from an actor who’s now world-famous for being one of the lucky few to play 007, but only time will tell as to whether he’ll be back.
If Spectre does turn out to be Craig’s last hurrah as Bond, then fans around the world will surely wish him well in future endeavours – while others may pray that he’ll change his mind and get back in the Aston Martin for another go round. While Spectre looks set to tie up a fair few loose ends – the identity of the mysterious Mr White who’s appeared in previous instalments for one – it’s this continuity that fans of previous Bond eras have come to love, which means that in this more gritty series of films, replacing Craig would mean there’s a huge disconnect in the realism that we’d previously given up for dead every time a new Bond swaggered into the room. Now that Craig’s given us a twist of realism not seen since Timothy Dalton and early Pierce Brosnan, who even knows how long it would take audiences to get used to another new face?
For me there’s three key reasons why Daniel Craig has done such a sterling job of his time as Bond – something which the box office-shattering records would concur with.
The modern Bond
For starters, it might just be that he fits a more modern sort of spy drama better than any past Bond actors would have. This point was actually raised by former Goldfinger “Bond girl” Honor Blackman, whose comments in The Mirror newspaper even went so far as to say Craig is a superior actor to Sean Connery (who’s widely viewed by fans and critics alike as the best Bond, at least before Craig’s stint (though I’m partial to a bit of Dalton myself)). Blackman reckons that Connery was a perfect fit for the original adaptations of Ian Fleming’s work, whereas Craig fits the more modern and Bourne Identity-like style that the series has taken on.
This makes a whole lot of sense, and explains why imagining past Bonds specifically in Craig’s films just doesn’t work. (Seriously, try it yourself: Roger Moore doing parkour. Yikes.) Basically, Craig matches the films they’re making for him to star in, which elevates both his own performance and the films themselves.
High stakes Bond
I also really like Craig’s version of Bond because he feels like a genuine high roller of sorts, as opposed to a spy who feigns sophistication, or even pretentiousness, when necessary. (Again, try it yourself: this time, George Lazenby turning his nose up at the hotel accommodation.) We appreciate Bond’s more brutish qualities, but the reason that those high class scenes are sprinkled throughout Bond films give viewers of a certain age something to aspire to.
Just think about your everyday life for confirmation: we take notice of fancy cars and people who use valet parking; we dream wistfully of winning a few hands of high-stakes poker, or having special drinks brought to us in casinos. Even in the online gaming community, Gala Bingo has taken to offering a virtual champagne room to tap into its players’ desire for high-end living – though that’s strictly a BYOB sort of scene. Whether it’s a real (or virtual) casino floor, or simply the outside of a popular restaurant where the cars are parked, we always take notice of high roller status—and Craig exudes it.
Imagining any other Bond in some of the Casino Royale scenes, for instance, in which Craig is playing poker hands worth millions of dollars, almost seems comical. (For the hat-trick: Pierce Brosnan going all-in with a pair of twos. Impossible.) But when Craig does it, he looks like he belongs there, and that elevates his status with audiences.
Bond in love
But more than any of these factors, and almost in direct conflict with the idea of Bond’s high roller image, a common word used to praise Craig’s performance is that he made the role more “human” again. Moviepilot expanded on this, stating that “he feels anger, fear, and love.” Indeed, these are some of the most basic of human emotions, and yet past versions of the character hardly seemed to notice them, too busy moving on to the next gadget, girl, or gun. (We’re ignoring Lazenby here, right?) Craig has arguably given us the first Bond who takes the time to express himself, often wordlessly but always profoundly, and that, in the end, is what’s sealed his iconic turn as Bond, James Bond.
Some of the flashier stuff we’ve been treated to in the rebooted movies so far—Craig’s Bourne-like pace and action prowess, or his ability to embrace Bond’s high life—is a great deal of fun. But it’s the emotion that gets to us, and the emotion that we’ll miss if Spectre is indeed Craig’s last film in the series.