The James Bond films are a part of any boy’s life growing up. For me, I grew up in the Pierce Brosnan era and Goldeneye was the first 007 film I watched. It wasn’t until Tomorrow Never Dies, my first cinema experience of the MI6 agent (which I had to sneak in to, as I was underage at 11!), that I started to realise the cultural importance of Bond. Every screening is full to the brim of every age group, and for those 2 hours it feels like Great Britain is united for an event. I can always remember vividly where I was when I saw each film at the cinema. These aren’t just movies; they’re a British institution.
Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan…..and Craig. Notice anything out of place? Daniel Craig was publicly and unfairly criticised by some as the “blonde Bond”, and I was initially surprised at his casting, but not dismissive before actually seeing a finished article. Sitting in Canterbury Odeon on opening night with some uni friends in November 2006, my expectations were completely shattered and built back up higher than I could have ever imagined. Shivers pulsated down my spinal chord at key moments such as the return of the opening barrel sequence; everything was done perfectly and the whole cinema knew this was an excellent film. Daniel Craig put so much work into psyche of Bond to play it true to Ian Fleming’s character of the novels, whilst simultaneously adding in some contemporary elements of his own. He physically looked like he could kill, and he wasn’t known by every hotel owner wherever he went across the globe (defeating the whole idea of a spy, surely?). Whereas Brosnan had that perfect mix of Connery and Moore, he made this character his own and proved his haters wrong with a glorious smile back at them. It was for this which I find most inspiring about him. There was a hell of a lot of nasty words circulating on a simple Google search, but he gave Bond more depth and swagger than the previous (official) 5 combined. That, is impressive.
Casino Royale is a fantastic film in its own right. Martin Campbell delivered some of the best action of the series (that parkour crane chase still amazes) and a solid story line with deeper look into the character of Bond. He’s a blunt instrument and is not as invincible as you’ve previously seen. With this and Goldeneye under Campbell’s belt that’s not bad going. The colour literally leaps off the screen from every location; be it Monaco, the Caribbean or Italy. The idea driving the film was to reset the franchise, almost like Christopher Nolan did with Batman, and free the filmmakers from the CGI-heavy debacle that Lee Tamahori unfortunately created for Die Another Day. A contemporary, grittier and more vulnerable Bond that can be hurt. Q Branch and the gadgets have been sidelined to focus on character rather than special effects, and I have to say they’re not really missed in this film. The references to the aspects we all know and love about 007 over it’s (then) 44 year run, such as his “affection” for a vodka Martini (“Do I look like I give a damn?”) and his first encounter with Felix Leiter, all help us understand Bond more without detracting from the actual story. People who know the series in and out will get them, while people fresh to it will not feel alienated. It was exciting to try and guess what elements the producers would keep in or adapt.
Bond and Vesper’s turbulent relationship is a highlight of the film. It makes this character who has previously only had 1-film meaningless “flings” with countless women, and given him more depth and purpose. He’s initially a closed book and a cold-hearted assassin, but he lets Vesper in and pays a hefty emotional price. Time for just one more thing before the closing titles; the immortal line, “The name’s Bond…James Bond.” It was almost an overly extroverted-american-patriotic-punch-in-the-air moment in the cinema that sent shivers down my spine. After the 2 hour roller-coaster, it was now time to breath.
Before, it was From Russia With Love, but now Casino Royale stands as my favourite Bond film and Daniel Craig as my favourite incarnation of 007. However, that could all well change with the upcoming release of Skyfall!