James Bond’s Swan Song: Reflections on the Daniel Craig Era

The name's Bond. Blonde Bond.
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Are the villains effective?

Bond Beginner:

This is what they call, in the business, a mixed bag. On the one hand, we’ve got genuine maniacs like the weepy-eyed ball-busting Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). But on the other, we’ve got a criminal waste of Christoph Waltz‘s talents (get that coin, Christoph, but still).

A shining light in the Daniel Craig era of the James Bond movies is Javier Bardem‘s Raoul Silva. He is far and away one of the most compelling villains of the whole franchise. Like GoldenEye‘s Alec Trevelyan before him, Silva is physical evidence of MI6’s sins; a ghoulish bogeyman with a bone to pick and the style and substance to give Bond something more existential to wrestle with. And yet for every charismatic enigma, we’re left with another dull, charmless terrorist.

I’d say something about Mathieu Amalric‘s Dominic Greene if I could remember anything about him. Overall, coming off the banger baddie run of the Brosnan run, the Craig era’s batting average is just squeaking by. Side note: As soon as Silva’s gaping, cyanide-ravaged mouth was revealed, I was convinced that this retcon-happy era was going to hit us with a “this is actually Jaws’ origin story” end credits sequence or something. I was wrong, thank god. But I had to share with the class.

Bond Veteran:

Do you think Mads Mikkelsen’s back is sore from carrying Craig-era villainy? He’s got it all: a menacing stare, a terrifying torture method, and a quirk that causes him to cry blood. It’s gimmicky and pure genius. Beyond that, the villains are effective in the sense that they get the job done.

I dig that Dominic Greene‘s scheme is as simple and as heinous as seizing a country’s water supply. As long as you don’t think too hard about the logistics of how Silva accomplishes everything he does, he’s definitely a commendable adversary, especially when it comes to the grimy terror of the third act.

Waltz is underused as Blofeld but at least we get a good Bond-strapped-to-a-torture-chair scene. Rami Malek‘s Lyutsifer Safin reminds me a lot of Bond villains past — particularly Dr. No. And on one hand, this seems like a retread of what we’ve seen. On the other hand, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Overall, not bad, not great.

Which of these movies will you re-visit first?

Bond Beginner:

In my opinion, Skyfall is the most competent James Bond film of the Daniel Craig era. It doesn’t beat around the bush so much as dive headfirst into the depressing, anti-hero hedge. Does the film follow similar/identical story beats to Nolan’s The Dark Knight? Sure. But I know a well-made film when I see one.

I have a problem with Skyfall‘s blatant disinterest in women who aren’t M. But frankly, that’s true of most of the Craig films and anyone who believes otherwise is lying to themselves. Skyfall‘s just more blunt about what it does and does not care about. Plus, we got Roger Deakins behind the camera, bringing fire, ice, and smoke together in one of the most visually rapturous sequences in the franchise. If this film was just 120 minutes of James Bond sneaking across that field from his burning childhood home to a church, I’d watch. Avidly.

Bond Veteran:

Casino Royale. Is it weird that this is a comfort movie? Well, too bad, it is. I never tire of it. I will never not gasp when Bond catches the gun, never not swoon over Vesper’s introduction, and never not sit on the edge of my seat during the defibrillator scene. I love every second of it. I love what Craig does in the role here. This movie works for me on every level, and it gets me every time.

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Anna Swanson and Meg Shields: Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.