Daniel Craig is the Bond bookend, giving 007’s story a start and an end
James Bond Will Return, as the title card at the end of each of the 25 EON Productions Bond films released since the Kennedy administration promised. Daniel Craig won’t.
The new – well, new – No time to die is an extended victory lap (163 minutes!) for Craig’s five films as 007. That’s two less than the seven each Sean connery and Roger moore got (although Connery’s 7th was in an “unofficial” entry. Long story.). But due to Craig’s public reluctance followed by production stoppages followed by a series of release delays necessitated by a pandemic, his 15-year stretch in the role is the longest an actor has held without a break. . But what’s more remarkable is that this is the first time in this character’s six decades of history that an actor has had the chance to show us the start, middle and end of 007’s career. in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The Craig Bond model we met in the 2006 reboot Casino Royale was a revelation. Like the Bond of Ian Fleming novels – and unlike the Bond of the first four decades of films derived from them – this professional killer was as fallible as he was arrogant; unlucky in love, frequently injured, aware of the likelihood of being killed on the job, brought to morbid thinking. “I can’t stop thinking about it,” he said in 2015 Spectrum. Derived from this Bond, you knew it was a lie.
Link at the beginning and at the end – never at its peak
What is fascinating about Craig’s five films considered in total is that with the exception of the pre-title sequence from 2012’s Fall from the sky, none of them showed us a Bond in its prime. For the first 20 films, be it played by a slender 29-year-old George Lazenby, a paunchy 41-year-old Sean Connery (as he was when he was drawn to the role he had very loudly left for the first time), or an obviously squeaky 57-year-old Roger Moore, Bond was invariably portrayed as ageless; experienced and worldly but still young and athletic. In Moore’s last two Bond images, 83 and 85, he’s still so sleek and distinguished, and certainly doesn’t look like he’s over 90. But the films in no way recognize his visible infirmity.
In Fall from the sky a generation later, Craig is only in his forties and still has the body of an athlete, but he and everyone else in the film considers Bond to be an old wreck. To recap: Craig’s Bond was a goofy novice for two movies, then a burnout for two. In No time to die, he’s a heartbroken retiree, drawn back into the nauseous world of international espionage by his friend CIA agent, Felix Leiter.
While Casino Royale and its sequel Quantum of Consolation are clearly defined early in Bond’s career as a double-oh, there is a fan theory that argues that 2012 Fall from the sky and his following, Spectrum, take place after all Bond films circa 1962-2002. While this franchise has always shrugged off its own timeline – at least until Spectrum, who made a lame attempt to trace the events of all of Craig’s images together, Marvel-style – the way of dream logic Fall from the sky hinting at Bond’s expansive and intractable backstory was one of his most appealing qualities. (Granted, a big dollop of dream logic is needed to come to terms with its plot, but that’s true of almost every Bond movie.)
We saw the young Bond win his Aston Martin DB5 in a game of poker in Casino Royale, but why, when we see the car in Fall from the sky, would it now be equipped with machine guns and an ejection seat and all the other fantastic upgrades, if the events of The golden finger – what made a meal to present this car – hadn’t it happened to this version of 007 at some point? And what about that big scene that introduces Ben Whishaw’s Q, punctuated by his quip, “An exploding pen? We don’t really do that sort of thing anymore.” Was he specifically referring to an “earlier” movie that is now gone, or was he just kidding? (The two.)
For years, Bond’s face has changed, but not his character
What separates a story from a legend is that stories end. Bond photos haven’t, not for 40 years. With the notable exception of the years 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a movie No time to die nods throughout, each of the Bond films released from 1962 to 2002 ended with their hero in the same place he started: a well-dressed “blunt instrument” of the crown, which could sometimes be addressed to his boss and even Go Rogue when justice or revenge demanded it, but basically no ambivalence as to the rightness of his country or his cause.
This Bond, no doubt of itself, was a creation of cinema. The Bond who strutted out of the sea in the Bahamas in 2006, with a lustful camera gaze of the kind that was previously reserved for “Bond Girls” – this was Fleming’s Bond. Or at least the closest approximation on which one could (or should) build a movie in the 21st century.
Bond is hardly the first popular fictional character to outlive his original audience and require a retroactive overhaul. The Bond of Fleming books, whose Times obituary includes the penultimate chapter of the 1964 novel You only live twice, was born in the early 1920s. Many of the Marvel heroes who conquered the box office during Craig’s tenure first appeared on paper in the early 1960s, a decade after Fleming. Casino Royale has been released – although some, like Captain America, are older. The Spider-Man played by Tom Holland in the Marvel movies is the third on-screen iteration to appear this century alone.
Bond was different. For decades, whenever he got a new face, the filmmakers went out of their way to tell us that the character’s adventures continued and not started again. (This despite the fact that even when they were still tightly adapting Fleming’s novels – a practice that died out in the franchise’s first decade – they adapted them out of order, resulting in all kinds of contradictions.) George Lazenby , Bond’s first replacement, went so far as to look into the camera at the start of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and snark, “This never happened to the other guy!” But a few minutes later, he searches his office and pulls out memories of Connery Bond’s adventures, reminding us of events that made happen to the other guy.
Legends never end, but stories do
At the end of OHMSS – spoiler warning for a film released the same year Easy rider fact – Bond’s wife of just hours, played by the luminous Diana Rigg, is killed in a half-successful attempt by Bond’s nemesis Blofeld to assassinate the happy couple. This seismic tragedy is briefly acknowledged in two of Moore’s images released over the next twelve years, showing only a strand of the darker Leap that Timothy Dalton attempted in the late ’80s but would not come in earnest before Craig.
Ian Fleming liked to say he created his fictional alter-ego 007 to distract him from the nervousness of his impending marriage at the ripe old age of 44. From the moment the character first appeared on movie screens, he and his world have both been presented as an overwhelmingly, if not exclusively male, fantasy – of first-class trips to distant places, of clothes on. measure of cold drinks, violence without suffering, an inextinguishable virility. Of the freedom of age and time.
The Haunted Craig Era, and No time to die in particular, puts an end to it all. James Bond, a legend for so long, is just a story now. It has, for the first time on screen, a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a timeline. All he had was all the time in the world.