The new James Bond.

Running thoughts on movies and their makings.
Oct. 11 2005 5:03 PM

For Your Eyes Only

A preview of the new James Bond.

On the run between screenings, I gulp down an espresso and check my e-mail. What's this? A note from my editor: "Anything Reel Timey to say about Daniel Craig, the new Bond?"

(The scoop has been  attributed to London's Daily Mail. My apologies to Cubby Broccoli's heirs if the tabloid has jumped the gun.)

Anyway, if he is the new Bond: Well done. Craig is rugged, brooding, English, and, as you'll see from my scribblings over the last four years, easily the most fascinating actor to assume the mantle since Connery.

Further thoughts (7:48 p.m.): He's a bit of rough trade, is Daniel Craig. A lot different than Pierce Brosnan—who I liked more and more, but who was fatally undermined by his too-convincing turn as the foppish Remington Steele. Timothy Dalton was peevish—the sort of Bond who'd look at his watch and exhale noisily: A good actor, but no generosity of spirit. Roger Moore had no edge—and after Connery, no edge meant no sexual threat. And as Moore got older and fatter and looked less and less like his stunt double, he became the drag-show Bond--pure camp.

If Daniel Craig does not have the men's-club aristocratic airs of Fleming's Bond, let's remember that neither did Connery, who was Scottish to boot.

Further further thoughts (4:55 a.m.): Many thanks to those who reminded me that Fleming's Bond is half Scottish. I read several of the books in my misspent youth, but that piece of information was muddled with memories of Connery. Robert Pauley argues that Fleming's Bond and the cinema's Bond are even further apart than I have suggested; the former isn't a men's-club sort at all, and likened to Hoagy Carmichael with a "cruel" and "saturnine" mouth. He adds that the "broad, beefy" Craig is wrong, too, and puts himself squarely in the Clive Owen camp. I agree that Owen would make a fascinating Bond, but think that Craig is enough of an actor--and a chameleon--to find the pulse of the character again. Also: Please no more e-mails about Layer Cake. I didn't write about it, and the quotes below are all recycled...

Further further update (7:55 a.m.): Dr. Richard Leung writes: "Actually, Bond's half-Scottish heritage is mentioned only once in the books, in You Only Live Twice, published in 1964, after the film series was already underway. It was Fleming's way of retrofitting Bond to be closer to Connery, not the other way around." See how much you learn from reading this column?

We've almost left Daniel Craig behind, but here are all those squibs from my old reviews:

In Road to Perdition (2002): "Also at the wake is a morbid, glowingly blue-eyed creature identified as Rooney's son Connor (Daniel Craig), who might as well have 'PSYCHO MORON' projected on his forehead. That a loose cannon wields so much power in so tightly organized an outfit is meant as one of the eternal mysteries of fathers and sons; the real reason, of course, is that without a senseless maniac there would be no movie."

In Sylvia (2003): "Craig finds an affecting middle ground between caddishness and conscience—the balance is all the more remarkable because people argue over the proportions of each in [Ted] Hughes today, five years after his death."

In The Mother (2003): "Flush with sexual pleasure, [Anne] Reid's May confesses to Darren [Daniel Craig, as a studly carpenter]: 'I thought no one would ever touch me again, apart from the undertaker,' and we're with her, completely. Then she's watching her lover with her daughter, Paula, and the possessive fury in her eyes is, well, unmotherly: I want. I want. I want. This is an astoundingly discomfiting performance—realistic but mythic—and it's matched, note for note, by Craig's tenderhearted opportunist."

In Enduring Love (2004): "Daniel Craig—a sniveling weasel in Road to Perdition, a broodingly self-absorbed Ted Hughes in Sylvia, a feckless stud in The Mother—shows off his uncanny versatility by making Joe a bespectacled intellectual at arm's length from his own life."

In The Jacket (2005): "Daniel Craig overacts like mad as a fellow inmate, but his transformation is so astounding (in the last few years, he has played the spineless son of Paul Newman in Road to Perdition, the dark rogue Ted Hughes in Sylvia, and the haunted writer in Enduring Love) that I didn't even recognize him; he seems to be able to alter his features along with his voice and posture." … 1:34 p.m.

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can read his reviews in "Reel Time" and in "Movies." He can be contacted at slatemovies@slate.com.