It had to happen, sooner or later. By 2006, any available actor who could play the James Bond character, and had been alive when the first Bond movie came out, would have been 55. Pretty old for Bond. Yes Roger Moore played Bond when he was almost 60, but he had already been established in the Bond role for years. If you are going to start a new franchise Bond, though, you want to at least start out with him being a bit younger.
There was a legal snafu once again that delayed production of the next Bond film. In the interim Pierce Brosnan had been ousted from the potential fifth portrayal of the superspy, and producers began to look for a new face for Bond. I personally remember the discussion when it was announced that a new actor would play Bond. Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Colin Farrel and Jason Statham were among the ones the producers considered. Personally, I thought Jason Isaacs would have made a good Bond. But the producers chose Daniel Craig, only the second Bond actor to have been born in England.
Of course, Bond women, being what they are, had been being played by actresses not old enough to have been around when Dr. No came out for years. Bond women are always young and alluring and who wants to see a 50 year old grandmother make out with James Bond anyway? (For the record, the first Bond woman who was not yet born when the first Bond movie was released was Talisa Soto (as Lupe in License to Kill)
Another younger addition to the Bond saga was in the position of director. Of course, directors can be of any age, youth is not a requirement there. Martin Scorcese could conceivably be tagged to be a Bond director and no one would bat an eye. (At least not because of his age, anyway) The first James Bond movie in the Daniel Craig era to be directed by a youngster to the scene was Quantum of Solace. It was directed by Marc Forster, who was born in 1969.
The reboot of Bond harkens to an earlier style of Bond in the way of gadgets, too. In the first two Bond's of the Daniel Craig era there was no character of "Q", and thus there were no especially intricate weapons and gadgets, just your basic car and gun. (Thus I dispensed with the Best Bond Weapon category for this entry)
The final note is, I should point out that with the new Bond there is a running theme of a secret organization behind all the bad guys throughout the four (so far) Daniel Craig movies. While each one is separate in it's story, some of the action refers to the running theme, and while each one could conceivably be watched out of order, you will find some of it a little confusing if you do so.
Casino Royale (2006):
Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: # 15
Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: # 9
Best Bond Quote: Bond: (to Le Chiffre as he is torturing Bond) "I've got an itch down there... Do you mind?"
Best Bond Villain Quote: Le Chiffre: (during the same torture scene as above) "Wow. You've taken good care of your body... such a waste"
The movie starts in Prague where Bond has tracked down a double crossing agent of MI6, and executes him. One point made is that at this point Bond has still not achieved his 007 status because he has not had two confirmed kills. (Seems a little contrived to me, and I would have thought Bond would have been much younger before he was given his 007 status. )
The movie opens with a song by Chris Cornell, the singer for Soundgarden, and one which has more of a feel for the style that I think works better for a Bond movie.
In Uganda, a terrorist named Obanno meets with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) who arranges to take possession of , and launder, the ill gotten gains of the terrorist. Le Chiffre is a less than scrupulous banker. He gambles with the money and also is shotselling stock in an airplane company, one which goes against the prevailing norm because the company's stock is only expected to increase. But Le Chiffre knows something the stock analysts don't. (His plan is to blow up an experimental plane that the airplane company is about to introduce).
While Bond is trying to track down a terrorist bomber, he and another agent find him at a street match between a mongoose and a cobra. THe other agent inadvertently gives himself away and the bomber takes off with Bond in pursuit. It ends with Bond shooting the terrorist and escaping the local army. M is not happy with Bond's penchant for killing potential prisoners who might give information to MI6 (a theme that runs constantly throughout the Daniel Craig series).
A major portion of the movie involves a high stakes poker game (in the novel it was baccarat, but the producers felt that most of the audience would have no idea how baccarat was played so went this route instead). The goal being to make Le Chiffre lose his money (which you already know is not his anway: it belongs to the terrorists). Initially Bond loses his entire stake, and his money supplier from the government, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), declines to supply the money for the "buy back in". Fortunately a Cia agent, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), lets Bond take over his position in the game, with the caveat that the Americans get Le Chiffre after Bond is through with him.
It should come as no surprise that Bond beats Le Chiffre and takes all his money, and it should also come as no surprise that this doesn't set well with Le Chiffre. Leading to the torture scene referenced above.
Double crosses and intrigue still reign supreme as always. There is more to this movie than just the poker game, of course, and you will not see some of the surprises coming. The movie is fairly good, and Le Chiffre makes one hell of a good villain, even if his goal is not the typical world domination scheme one comes to expect from a Bond Villain.
Quantum of Solace (2008):
Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Movie: # 16
Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the Theme Song: # 16
Best Bond Quote:(after leaving the villain stranded in the desert, with just a can of motor oil) Bond: "I'll bet you make it 20 miles before you consider drinking that".
Best Bond Villain Quote: (to Camille, referring to Bond) Greene: "MI6 says he's difficult to control. That's a nice way of saying everything he touches seems to wither and die."
Stepping off from the end of Casino Royale, Bond arrives at an MI6 field location with a captive, Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), for interrogation. Mr White claims that MI6 knows nothing about his organization, despite the fact that they have people everywhere. Whereupon one of the agents present reveals himself as a rogue and shoots up the place killing everyone except Bond, and fortunately, M. During the ensuing chase of the rogue agent, Bond ends up killing him. Of course, M is displeased because they still know nothing about this "secret" organization.
For the first time in a Bond film, the opening theme song is a duet. Alicia Keys and Jack White (of the White Stripes) do the honors. It's not entirely a bad song (although, to the consternation of White it was later used in a diet soda commercial. Which I think is prescient since the title of the song is "Another Way to Die"...)
Money found on the agent leads Bond to a man named Slate, and Bond ends up killing him too. (Things just aren't going well for MI6 to find out information, it seems.) It turns out that Slate was supposed to be an assassin to kill Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko, yes a Russian actress playing a Hispanic, but she pulls it off). Bond meets up with Camille, but they depart and Bond follows her to a dock where she meets with Dominic Greene (Matthieu Amalric).
It turns out that Greene was the one who tried to have her killed. Instead he gives her to General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), wh will kill her after he's finished having fun with her. Bond gives chase to the boat that Medrano is on and rescues her, which doesn't really please her. See, Medrano had killed her family, and she was out for revenge, planning to kill Medrano.
The secret villainous plot revolves around Greene, who is acting as an environmental entrepreneur, supposedly trying to help the world. But what he is secretly doing is diverting water and buying up land, intentionally trying to corner the market on water by creating a drought. He plans to make big money by selling back the water to the thirsty country. (Yes, another somewhat ridiculous evil plot, but the action and intrigue work in its favor this time.)
Because Bond seems to be out of control, MI6 sends an agent, Strawberry Fields (really!) (Gemma Arterton) to arrest him. Bond uses his charm to convince her to hold off, and continues on his mission. This was probably Fields' biggest mistake because, reminiscent of Goldfinger, Fields is later killed by having been drenched in oil and left to die on a hotel bed.
After resolving the current case, Bond traces down Lynd's (from Casino Royale) former lover and finds out another piece to the puzzle of the secret organization that seems to have worldwide fingers in every pie.
That wraps up this foray into the spy world, folks. See you next month with the final installment.