This may be a bit controversial, but I don’t think Daniel Craig makes an excellent Bond.
Granted, my knowledge of Bond is limited to the films (I haven’t read the books), but to me, Bond is supposed to be cool, elegant, sexy, mischievous, a touch hedonistic, with a sense of mirth and mischief behind his eyes.
Well, one out of six ain’t bad: Craig is cool. (Okay I suppose he’s sexy too, but he’s hardly a seducer. ) He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would luxuriate in a good martini, a beautiful woman, an elegant cut of a suit. (Although he does look good in a tux—and, uh, even better out of one.) If there’s anything hiding behind his eyes, it’s darkness, not mischief. Craig’s fairly good with a dry joke, which is one of his better, Bond-like qualities. But he doesn’t seem to possess a delicious secret, as all Bonds should. Indeed, inconceivable as this may be, he doesn’t seem to love being Bond, which is pretty essential to the Bond character.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Craig as an actor—I find his dark, hooded face endlessly fascinating. And I’ve enjoyed his work over the years, particularly in Layer Cake and Munich. But he’s third on my personal list of Bonds, after Connery and Brosnan.
I think I became particularly aware of this deficit on Craig’s part after watching Sam Mendes’s Skyfall, which is the most Bondian of recent Bond films—and that's a good thing.
It seems that when they introduced Craig as Bond they were trying to change the character in some essential way—make him more like Jason Bourne, more understated, more reticent, more tough. But to me, there should always be some campy silliness associated with the Bond franchise. (I was bummed to read this excellent article by Matt Zoller Seitz about a bunch of young people watching From Russia With Love: They kept an ironic distance—laughing at it without realizing how freaking great it actually is.)
Mendes never loses sight of the franchise’s roots. Any time the action threatens to get too serious, he throws in one of those Bondian horn bursts or groovy bass lines or has Bond unveil an Aston Martin, make a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Bond canon, or compliment the execution of a perfect martini. (Even the classic bit we’ve all seen in the trailer—Bond straightening his cufflinks after falling from the hood of an exploding train—struck me as a great touch on Mendes’s part.)
At least, Javier Bardem, playing a Bond-villain-as-crazed-mama’s-boy (Norman Bates meets Anton Chigurh) seems to know he’s in a Bond film. He plays super hacker Silva, an ex agent who’s got it out for Judi Dench’s M, with all sorts of rococo gusto.
The film is absolutely fabulous to look at—particularly the scenes in Shanghai, where Bond tracks down Silva’s beautiful moll (Bérénice Marlohe) and does some derring-do in a high-tech skyscraper. I love the addition of cute-as-a-button Ben Whishaw as Bond’s new hipster nerd Q and Ralph Fiennes as a more-than-meets-the-eye bureaucrat.
Best of all, Skyfall is a great showcase for Judi Dench’s withholding, tough-love-dispensing M. (And I’ll leave it at that.)
Craig has signed on for two more Bond films, and I’m okay with that. I hope he partners with more directors like Mendes who remind him to lighten up, have a little fun with the part. He’s playing Bond for God’s sake, not Hamlet.