Even if you aren’t a fan of spy movies, it’s pretty safe to say you know the phrase “Bond, James Bond.”
But when you think of Mr. Bond, whom do you picture? There’s the ever-charming and witty Irishman Pierce Brosnan, responsible for reviving the series after a long hiatus in the early 90s, and then there’s the rugged Brit Daniel Craig, of present-day Bond films. Both men have filled the shoes of the iconic spy, but they’ve each brought their own personality to the role. And with another villain born each day, the world is in constant need of their espionage abilities.
Let’s start with the different interpretations of James Bond himself. Brosnan brought a touch of roguish charm to the role, giving nineties Bond an air of classic sophistication. Whether it was dodging a bullet with a simple tilt of the head or swiftly disabling a weapon, Brosnan was always one step ahead of the bad guys. He captivated his captors, and could sweet talk his way out of any situation with remarkable ease. And of course, we loved his witty one-liners and various innuendos that teased in every sense of the word.
Craig had clearly studied Brosnan’s approach before choosing to make some alterations. Bond might still be a rogue, but while Brosnan played his cards close to his chest, Craig gives us glimpses of his full emotional depth. Occasionally brutish and rough, his take doesn’t put any stake in decorum, like his classier counterpart. At times, Craig’s Bond comes off as a little more unstable, even unsure of himself. The situations he finds himself in have been mentally and physically challenging, and Craig’s Bond allows himself to display both the effects this environment and the fact that this job has hardened him.
Bond, in both cases, is capable of effortlessly seducing multiple women throughout the course of a single film. But each man seems to attract a different type. Take, for instance, Brosnan in GoldenEye (watchable on Vudu). First there’s Moneypenny, who swoons during their wild car ride. Next, he was able to best the sadistic foreplay of Xenia Onatopp thanks to his experience in combat. Lastly, he captivated the heart of the intelligent and beautiful computer hacker Natalya Simonova — all women of authoritative positions. On the other hand, in the recent Skyfall (streaming info here), the only woman Craig takes the time to seduce — not counting the fling in the beginning of the film — is the very vulnerable Severine, the hostage girlfriend of the main villain, Silva. His heart was broken years before by the death of Vesper Lynd, and it’s clear that his wounds are still open.
Perhaps Craig, still feeling a tad fragile and vulnerable after going off the grid, finds a kindred spirit with the victim Severine, while Brosnan, never wavering in his confidence, goes after women of authority. All the while, both types of women speak to the characters’ personality at the time.
What a softie.
The plots for each era’s Bond reflect the world’s political climate at a given time, further distinguishing the Brosnan/Craig divide. The politics of Brosnan’s age tell the story of post-Perestroika Russia and an uneasiness in the face of burgeoning capitalism. In Craig’s time, the present day, he is often at war with himself. The latest Bond films have looked deeper within the character as he fights contemporary cyber-villians. To summarize M’s words in regards to our ever-changing enemies, they are no longer as apparent as they once were, and we have come to a time where we cannot see our attackers. Yet there is still some overlap. A former friend (Goldeneye), former lovers, and ex-agents (Casino Royale, Skyfall) will always turn traitor and conspire against our protagonist.
So which type of Bond do you prefer: the rough masculinity of Daniel Craig or confidence and charm of Pierce Brosnan? It’s a tough choice, and both have their merits. Craig has brought both a sense of humanity and physicality to the role, but it’s Brosnan who represents Bond as he will always be remembered — an unflappable super-spy, shaken but never stirred.
Article by contributor Beth Kelly.