I didn’t recognise Daniel Craig by name, but after looking him up I realised that I had seen him a number of times. The first movie was Sharpe’s Eagle, when he was 25 and starting his movie career (from 16 he had been involved in theatre, first with the National Youth Theatre in London, then after a few false starts he entered the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican in 1988). He played a very creditable nasty named Lt. Berry, and died with credit and a curse on his lips. Then he played Adam West opposite Angelina Jolie (poor sod) in the first Lara Croft movie (some of my female friend loved his “nude” scene). Then he did a fairly good job with Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition. Finally, I saw him do a really good performance in the excellent movie Munich.
My impression from these was that he was a pretty good character actor, and really good in Munich. But overall I hadn’t thought of him as being special. Casino Royale changed my mind. His acting was very nuanced, subtle, and clever, and all this in an action movie. Vicky mentioned his great control of his expression. I concur wholeheartedly. There was also something about his face and his expressions of emotion that really got to me.
His face is rugged and looks a bit battered, with an almost delicate chin and with large ears. It looks vulnerable and you sometimes feel a sense of yearning peeking through. Then he gets into a struggle or a chase, and through this visage you see his pale blue eyes like lasers, totally focused on attaining his goal, and a ruthless resolve shows though his clenched face. You feel he has been hurt, but by damn nothing is going to stop him. If you’ve ever seen seen the screwed up face of a sensitive little boy who has decided to go for broke, you get the idea. His strength of character, intelligence, and sensitivity shine through the wall he erects to keep others out. He also goes his own way, almost regardless of outside influences.
I think the reason that this wonderful actor is really shining in this movie is the support he gets from the script and the direction. I personally think the direction of this movie is the best of any Bond movie. Even when the cliches from previous movies and the Bond canon show up (not too often), they are treated in new ways and from new perspectives. Every one of the characters have depths and are not stereotypes, and the dialogue was exemplary. Judy Dench has been M in all the Brosnan movies, and was one of the strong points, but in this movie the dialogue and direction bring her to a new level.
The feel of the movie is different. There is a grittiness and a sense of reality that isn’t really evident in the previous Bond movies. A lot of the previous movies feel like post-adolescent carnival rides, where the escapism is so obvious that you can’t really immerse yourself into the flow. There is less of this in Royale. Gadgets, while cool, tend to be realistic for today. There is also a sailboat in this movie that I am still drooling over.
Finally, it has been over thirty years since I read Casino Royale. While I was watching the movie certain scenes and actions were bringing up twinges of memory and a feeling of deja vu. So today I acquired a copy, and have started reading it. I’m really hoping, and am almost certain, that they tried not to diverge too much from the spirit of the book in this movie. This was one of the reasons that I liked the Connery era; the first movies were pretty faithful to the books.
Thanks again, Vicky.
BTW, Craig has been chosen as Lord Asriel in the new movie The Golden Compass. Given the depth and intensity of his performance here, he could do a really good job. However, The Golden Compass is a book with subtlety and a carefully crafted atmosphere. There were also numerous characters with interesting personalities, depths, and often hidden motivations. It will take a very careful touch with direction, script, and casting to bring this one off. However, wild horses aren’t going to keep me away; I really was impressed by the His Dark Materials series by Pullman.