Every actor added something of his own to this familiar womanizing saviour of the (Western) world. I’ve seen quite a few of the old Bond films but would be lying to say that I was a fan of the franchise. That is, until Daniel Craig picked up the mantle. With him, the Bond franchise took a very peculiar turn. Of course, it wasn’t just the actor himself. It was also the producers, the screewriters, the directors who wanted to abandon the overly-used model and try something new. A risky gamble but a gamble well worth it in my opinion.
Daniel Craig has portrayed James Bond in four movies. All four act to deliver a single story (and character) arc. There’ve been clues in all four movies that his nemesis is a single entity, one that has been pulling the strings for a very long time.
The arc began with Vesper, a woman James falls in love because he’s impressed with her mind as well as her looks. In the end of Casino Royale, we can see that James genuinely loved Vesper and wanted to spend his life with her. Her death led to his quest of learning who was behind it.
This is how a man of action mourns his lover: by hunting down those responsible for her death. In Quantum of Solace, James is still in the early phase of mourning: he drinks heavily, he doesn’t sleep and he takes a very depressing view of the world. Above all, he follows the clues and eventually comes to the man who played Vesper into betraying James and had led to her death.
It seems his only reason of staying with MI6 is because this gives him data and resources to help in his hunt. He’s not working for MI6; MI6 is working for him. This would imply that James feels no sense of loyalty to MI6 or to M. But in Skyfall, James gets a chance to walk away from his double-0 life. He stays invisible for a time before he eventually returns to the fort. His reason: MI6 is under attack. While James fails the physical tests, M reinstates him anyway, going with her gut feeling that he is what the organization needs to survive. The film puts a lot of effort into showing that James cares about M and that M cares about James. While not romantic in nature, it is a very deep affection. M’s death causes James more pain and more determination to stay with MI6 and continue with the hunt for the mastermind that is pulling the strings.
In Spectre, James gets to the end of the long trail and punishes the man who was killing his loved ones. This is the closure James needed. The film ends with him leaving MI6 (possibly for good) and his current life behind. Madeleine, the woman he meets and bonds with, is just as scarred by Spectre as he is. Her father, Mr. White, is nothing but a projection of James himself if he kept to his current way of life.
James Bond remains one of the manliest characters of all time, but Daniel Craig’s portrayal has managed to humanize him. He is no longer an arrogant, bullet-proof prick but a tangible, flawed, fragile and resilient human being. For that alone, he’s worthy of our attention.