Bond With A Broken Heart: Defending Daniel Craig

Actor Daniel Craig. i i

hide captionSeeking Solace: James Bond in Quantum is 007 raw — brooding and heartbroken — but still jet-setting around the world, spying with style.

Karen Ballard/Sony Pictures
Actor Daniel Craig.

Seeking Solace: James Bond in Quantum is 007 raw — brooding and heartbroken — but still jet-setting around the world, spying with style.

Karen Ballard/Sony Pictures
Madhulika Sikka

hide caption"For queen and country": Madhulika Sikka, who grew up in England, developed her appreciation for James Bond early in life. She is now deputy executive producer for NPR's Morning Edition.

Stephen Voss
Gun: Daniel Craig as James Bond i i

hide caption"I was wrong about you": Sikka says it took a little while for her to warm up to the idea of Daniel Craig as James Bond. But Craig won her over; he's "done his homework," she says.

Gun: Daniel Craig as James Bond

"I was wrong about you": Sikka says it took a little while for her to warm up to the idea of Daniel Craig as James Bond. But Craig won her over; he's "done his homework," she says.

I love James Bond. Actually, I love Daniel Craig as James Bond. There, I said it. Now that's not a particularly popular sentiment among the critics who have seen the latest Bond episode, Quantum of Solace.

"James Bond goes MIA" laments Variety. "Has Bond Lost His Balls?" asks The Daily Beast. And here's The New Yorker: "You have to ask whether anyone, man or boy, still yearns to get in touch with his inner 007. In short, who wants to be Daniel Craig?"

Variety's Todd McCarthy is wistful for the "ultimate male fantasy figure, an impudent, self-possessed, worldly man of action who is a villain-killer by vocation and a lady-killer by avocation." Well, boys, I'm here to tell you that the "literary" Bond has finally met the "celluloid" Bond — and it works.

Here's the truth — I've been a Bond fan since I was a child. Look, I grew up in England, and James Bond movies were a must-see event in my family. He's a character who made Britain feel good about itself at a time when the empire was definitely a distant memory. (And it seems he still does. Quantum's opening day smashed box-office records in Britain two weeks ago, even beating out previous record holder — another British icon — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.) The movie Bond I grew up with was all about cool gizmos and gadgets, exotic ports of call, a bit of wit and the occasional double entendre. What's not to love? Moneypenny and I were in agreement on that.

But I found Ian Fleming's Bond when I re-read Casino Royale, the book that launched the franchise more than 50 years ago. The Bond in these pages actually has feelings — feelings of doubt, fear, love and loss. So, I am here to tell you to forget about those cartoonish renditions you know from the movies. You need to go back to the source.

Gentlemen, Craig's Bond works because he went back to the source. I'll be the first to admit I thought the choice of Craig as Bond was ill-advised — why was this actor with the steely blue eyes who looks more like a Russian gangster taking the role that rightfully belonged to Clive Owen? But I was so wrong.

When he exploded on the screen in Casino Royale, he had done his homework. This Bond is a man that women can love because he loved a woman — Vesper Lynd — a woman who died. If you are looking for motivation, here it is. In the chapter that describes Lynd's death, Bond is clearly a broken man.

Now maybe it was the heartbreak that turned him into the carefree sex machine, the cavalier Bond that most men would like to be and the Bond that we know so well from the movies, a man who went through as many women as he went through ports of call. But Daniel Craig's Bond is not that Bond — yet.

Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale left off. Bond is a brooding, heartbroken killing machine looking to avenge the death of Lynd. What is preserved of the old movie Bond? He's still jet-setting across the globe in search of a shadowy network of bad guys; he still looks delicious in a tux; he still drinks — but this time to drown his sorrows. This movie has no gadgets; no trail of women seduced and discarded by the undeniable charm of the world's greatest spy; not even a villain with a hideous infliction like Le Chiffre's bleeding eye.

What we have is James Bond — raw. This is a big-screen Bond whose character may actually develop over the next few movies. Guys, after the absurdity of movie Bond circa '80s and '90s, we must raise a glass to Daniel Craig for giving us a Bond for our time. Martinis all around — shaken, not stirred, of course.

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