On Daniel Craig and James Bond

Yesterday EON Productions announced the title for the next James Bond film, the second starring Daniel Craig.

“Quantum of Solace.”

Speculation for months had been that EON was going to use a Fleming title from the film. Perhaps “The Hildebrand Rarity.” Or even “The Property of a Lady” (even though the bulk of that story has been adapted into parts of Octopussy, a film that has absolutely zero to do with its story).

“Quantum of Solace.”

It’s an interesting title, and I’ll be curious to see if anything from the original story — in which Bond is a minor character — makes its way to the screen.

Of course, it’s not as if the James Bond films since the Roger Moore days have tried to adapt Ian Fleming’s original source material. You Only Live Twice kept the Japanese setting and the Bond girl, and chucked the rest. The Man With the Golden Gun kept the Bond villain and chucked the rest. The Spy Who Loved Me had nothing to do with the novel of the same name (due to Ian Fleming’s dislike of his own book; the thing is, the book would actually make an interesting film, if not an interesting Bond film). At that point, the only film to show any fidelity to Fleming’s source material was The Living Daylights, which adapts the short story in its first twenty minutes and does a rather good job of it.

Until Casino Royale, that is.

When Casino Royale was announced, casting decided, and such, I had two issues.

Daniel Craig was not one of those issues, however. Oh, Craig was never my top choice — that would have been Clive Owen. Nor my second choice — that would have been Colin Salmon. Or, even in the top five, really. (Though I never saw Hugh Jackman or Eric Bana as realistic choices on the part of the producers, and I have no idea what they were thinking with Goran Visnjic.)

I always thought Craig had the right menace for the role — just look at Road to Perdition or Layer Cake. As Kenneth Turan noted in his review of Casino Royale, Craig has the chameleon-like ability to submerge himself into any role. Even the London Evening Standard solicited my opinion on an American’s take on Craig’s casting. “Thumbs up,” wrote I.

No, my issues were more with the choice of the source material and the director.

I hadn’t liked Martin Campbell’s work behind the camera on GoldenEye. It was… okay. Adequate. But nothing compelling. True, it’s a James Bond film, and one doesn’t expect great things behind the camera on a James Bond film, but GoldenEye was, for me, less visually interesting than the norm. Campbell coming back to direct another Bond film was, in my opinion, setting the film up for failure.

The other issue is that Fleming’s Casino Royale doesn’t deliver a lot in the Bond-thrills-and-chills department. The caper proper ends at about the halfway point, and then the book becomes a psychological drama as Bond recovers from his torture at the hands of Le Chiffre. The latter is, I think, the point of the book, but audiences used to the traditional Bond story want more of the former. The adaptation choice faced, then, was this — chop off the last half of the book and stretch the first half to fill a film, or bite the bullet and do the whole thing.

To my surprise, then, Casino Royale succeeded. I had no doubts on Craig’s ability to fill the role admirably — only Timothy Dalton conveyed a similar level of menace and the darker nature of Bond, but not, to my thinking, quite to the same degree as Craig.

I have no idea what Quantum of Solace will be about. Truthfully, I can’t even remember off-hand who the director will be. (And yes, I could look it up, but I’m not going to.) That the film is planned as a direct sequel to Casino Royale is an interesting — and different — approach. (I’ve long thought that Diamonds are Forever would have been a truly awesome film if they had grafted Marc-Ange Draco into the story.)

But I have no doubts about Daniel Craig’s ability to pull off the role — and to keep the role fresh.

3 thoughts on “On Daniel Craig and James Bond

  1. At some point, I need to get the Criterion audio commentaries recorded (where Albert Broccoli lays into the studio). I’ll see if I can get them done before Farpoint, but no promises.

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