The best James Bonds
Fifty years ago this month, the first James Bond film, “Dr. No,” was screened and became a big hit, launching the film world’s longest-running and most successful film franchise.
Proof positive that the franchise isn’t about to croak or go into retirement just yet is the fact that the latest Bond caper, “Skyfall,” is about to open in theaters worldwide, from Australia to Zanzibar.
Yes, the deadpan and deadly secret agent with a license to kill and thrill is beating much younger villains to the punch and draw. It’s all the height of escapist fantasy, of course, but the formula of action, sex, cars and newfangled gadgets has worked for five prosperous decades, and it’s not about to conclude its top-grossing run!
When Bond film fans get together, the discussion sometimes ends up as a “running gun battle” of conflicting opinions about the best James Bond exponent of them all. There have been quite a number of them, but three “finalists” seem to be the original Bond player Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and the current exponent, Daniel Craig.
Connery gets top marks, because his performance was the template. It set the tone for others to follow or to provide variations thereof. Connery’s signature portrayal was a deft combination of killer looks and moves, plus a seminal fascination for martinis (unstirred) and lovely ladies (stirred)!
The actor got the character down pat, so he went from one Bond caper to the next—until he simply couldn’t take it anymore!
Yes, it had made him a big star, and rich beyond his wildest dreams, but the 007 stereotype was so limiting and stultifying that he had to give it up, for fear of expiring from utter artistic ennui.
On hindsight, Connery made the right decision, because his subsequent characterizations proved that he was a versatile performer, going from drama to comedy with great style and panache.
For his part, Pierce Brosnan coolly veered away from Connery’s template by focusing more on Bond’s sophistication. More of a looker than Connery, he also had a more puckish wit, which he stylishly unleashed with one eyebrow perennially cocked for added “punctuation.”
After Brosnan, the current Bond, Daniel Craig, is a bit of a stretch, because he looks rougher, more chunky and even Eastern European rather than a stiff-upper-lip Brit. To “compensate,” however, Craig made a name for himself as a fine actor before he agreed to play James Bond.
Thus, his few films as Bond have been radically different from the usual kiss-kiss, bang-bang “sleuth in tux” caper—darker, more complex, and occasionally even tragic in tone and emotion. His new film, “Skyfall,” shouldn’t turn out to be an exception to that emerging, defining rule.
Given Craig’s acting prowess, will the day come when, like Connery and Brosnan before him, he shall have been in Bond-age for too long, and similarly opt out of the profitable but predictable film franchise?
Perhaps, but he’s on a career high at the moment, and the series has bent over backwards to accommodate his “darker” acting impulses. So, he’ll probably stick around for a few more films before he turns the long-running franchise over to its next stellar exponent.
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