(This article contains spoilers)
To mark the 50th Anniversary of one of the most successful movie franchises of all time and with James Bond’s 23rd official outing in Skyfall due for release in a matter of days, I have been tasked with taking a retrospective look at the films that turned author Ian Fleming’s creation into one of the most recognised and iconic characters in film history.
Even before the monumental success of Casino Royale, producer Michael G. Wilson had been developing ideas to make the next film a direct sequel expanding on the themes of the previous film and exposing a wider criminal organisation linked to events that took place in Daniel Craig’s debut Bond film. Taking its title from a Fleming short story contained in the book For Your Eyes Only, returning screenwriters Neil Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis took Wilson’s suggestions as inspiration to create a completely original story for the 22nd James Bond film, Quantum Of Solace.
After Casino Royale and GoldenEye director Martin Campbell declined the opportunity to return for a third time, the director’s job was offered to Marc Forster who had previously had success with films such as Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland. Forster contributed to the script re-writes during pre-production but with an impending strike by the Writers Guild of America due to begin in November 2007, the final script was hurriedly written and completed just two hours before the strike officially began. This meant the film was able to go into production on schedule but as the strike continued no writers could be employed to work on the film during this time. As a result, the cast and crew were forced to write dialogue and develop scenes themselves during early stages of the film’s production.
As well as featuring a few Bond regulars such as David Arnold, Chris Corbould and Gary Powell, Forster’s crew included a number of people making their Bond debut. Production designer Dennis Gassner, replacing the recently retired Peter Lamont, was brought in to provide sets harking back to the iconic designs of Ken Adam, but the most surprising addition to the team was Dan Bradley as second-unit director. His groundbreaking work on the Bourne series had clearly influenced Bond’s return in Casino Royale but with this film the action would undoubtedly be even closer in style to that of the Bourne films. With everything in place, the pressure was on for Forster to deliver a worthy follow-up to the immensely popular Casino Royale.
In his second film in the lead role, Daniel Craig continues in a similar vein to his debut in Casino Royale. His Bond remains battered and bruised in a way no other Bond has been before. His brutal, kill first ask questions later approach is a running theme throughout the film as is his minimalist, straight to the point dialogue exchanges with M, once again played by Judi Dench. Following on from his betrayal by Vesper Lynd in the previous film, Bond’s feelings towards women have noticeably changed with his mission solely focussed on revenge that his relationship with the film’s main Bond girl does not follow the traditional path normally associated with his companions.
M: It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved.
After proving the critics wrong with Casino Royale, Craig secures his position as the person to take Bond forward into the future. Craig’s Bond is a multi-layered force of pent-up emotion and anger leaving little room for the throwaway humour and excesses of the past. Taking influence from the literary character rather than the other actors who have played the role through the years, he takes the character back to his gritty roots and in doing so delivers a much more unpredictable and believable character.