Spectre of Death: Mourning and Daniel Craig's Bond

Curator's Note

Daniel Craig's Bond was haunted long before Spectre, but by death not Christoph Waltz. The pre-credit sequence for Casino Royale in the video follows a well-established strategy for franchise reinvigoration: a return to the origin--though here only in a brief flashback instead of a whole movie--and a "gritty and dark" tone, especially if the franchise is reacting to a period of silly excess, which is how the Brosnan Bond films are often characterized. Bond's first kill is brutal, and we are forced to watch it. More importantly, we witness its aftermath: Craig's deep breaths, grim set to his jaw, and a sense that the kill weighs on him, even if we don't have to sit with that weight long before we see his ease with his second kill. But it's echoed later in the film with two scenes in a bathroom (like his first kill) portraying the weight death bears on those who survive: Bond contemplating his own reflection after the stairway fight and Vesper's shower breakdown. Casino Royale sets itself apart from earlier Bonds in its realism in tone and aesthetic, yes, but also in that death means something to Craig's Bond. Not all deaths; there are still seemingly disposable Bond girls who die without affecting Bond, but Craig's Bond is one who does mourn.

Quantum of Solace is practically an elegy for Vesper Lynd trying to fit into a typical Bond film. Bond comes off as more unhinged and suicidal than usual and there's basically no fun in the long slog of the film. But it's in Skyfall that the power others' deaths can hold over Bond comes to the fore. We learn that Bond cut himself off from the life he had before his parents died, letting the titular estate be sold and dismantled. And, perhaps most significantly, he cries over M's death. James Bond, the noted misogynist, who has looked at many a dead Bond girl with no reaction, mourns. And, though he moves on with a new M, the bequeathment of M's desktop bulldog to Bond implies that he will remember. His first kill, Vesper, and M: these deaths mean something for this iteration of Bond. Whether it be the difficulty in killing or the inescapablity of mourning, they haunt this iteration of Bond like death never has before.



I think this is a really fascinating topic. And I think that you are correct that this aspect of mourning has become a proper thematic element of Daniel Craig's Bond, which have seemed needlessly joyless to me. A few things to perhaps consider: Does the fact that Craig's iteration of Bond is treated like a long frame story, a sustained narrative, lend itself to exploring his mourning more thoroughly? And does the fact that we have gone back chronologically, allow him to mourn because he has not yet been hardened by years of being 007. If Bond allowed himself to mourn for every Bond girl, or friend that was killed, it seems he would not be a particularly effective spy. Lastly, what of Tracy in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE? That death haunts Bond throughout Roger Moore's era as the character. (and also interestingly debunks the silly fan theory that 007 is just a code name for multiple people). And provides possibly the most heartbreaking moment in the series to date. Great post!

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