The Legacy of Daniel Craig’s James Bond


That haunted quality made Craig’s Bond a deeper character, but it didn’t always work in the series’ favor. Craig would never find the same chemistry with any of his co-stars after Green. And while Bond would have sex in each successive film, the pairings usually seemed more dutiful than sexy.

Casino Royale’s immediate follow-up, Quantum of Solace, made the choice of continuing the story begun in Casino Royale. Previously, Bond films would more or less forget earlier Bond films existed. Sure, there would be an occasional reference to a past film’s plot development (like Tracy, Bond’s doomed wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and supporting characters like M, Felix Leiter, Moneypenny, and Q would remain (albeit played at various points by different actors), and villains would sometimes return for encores. But the series mostly took a clean slate approach and never demanded viewers have any knowledge of what had come before.

Quantum changed that, picking up almost immediately where Casino Royale left off as Bond deals with a villain left over from his previous adventure. The film ends with him capturing another bad guy tied to Vesper. Rather than a fresh start each time out, Craig’s Bond series would become a continuing story.

That suits Craig’s approach to the character. His Bond becomes increasingly weary as the series progresses. But drawing out the narrative also requires a story that commands interest and demands new chapters, which the Craig era films have never figured out how to do. It’s been easy to care about the stories within individual entries. The good films are quite good and the weaker ones are usually good enough. But the connections between the Daniel Craig Bond movies have largely felt unnecessary, an intriguing idea that never fully took root.

Quantum of Solace doubled down on the gritty Bourne vibe, yet it all feels like more of the same but somehow lesser, despite introducing Naomie Harris’s winning take on Moneypenny, giving more room to Judi Dench’s M (a rare holdover from the pre-Craig era) and bringing back Jeffrey Wright’s Leiter. There’s nothing awful about Quantum of Solace, but it plays a bit like an idling vehicle after the thrilling Casino Royale.

To kick it back into gear, Bond’s handlers brought in Sam Mendes, a stylish director whose Iraq War drama Jarhead was the closest he’d made to an action film at that point. It was a puzzling decision. The franchise had largely relied on action craftsmen. Mendes was a name, and one best known for dramas like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road. It also proved to be the right choice.

James Bond films have always featured an abundance of beauty: beautiful locations, beautiful people, beautiful clothes, beautiful cars, and so on. But Skyfall is the first entry that can be called a beautiful film. Visually, it’s a stunning achievement, due in no small part to the great cinematographer Roger Deakins. It’s practically a series of #OnePerfectShot scenes after another, whether capturing the mist-swept Scottish hills or the neon-drenched skyline of Macau.

Skyfall also featured a villain who feels like Bond’s equal in the form of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), offered a few suggestions about why Bond became the man he is, and deepened his connection to M. (Craig’s Bond would never become a great romantic, but he’s the first Bond to seem like he has deep attachment to his friends.)

The story, a tale of betrayal and revenge played out on a global scale with a John LeCarré-like understanding of the moral murkiness inherent to the spy game, is compelling too. Is it a coincidence that it’s the Craig Bond with the fewest connections to the overarching narrative begun in Casino Royale (at least until its successor forces some retconned connections)?





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