Next month sees the release of ‘Skyfall’, the 23rd installment of the James Bond series. It will also be the third film to star Daniel Craig as 007 which, in films completed, sets him above Timothy Dalton and below only Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore and Sean Connery. Not bad for a man people expected to flop worse than George Lazenby.
I must admit, I was a Craig sceptic. I didn’t really see how a gruff, blue-eyed theatre actor with the physique and charm of an Eastern European bouncer would play the role of the master spy; a discrete, sophisticated, dry martini-swilling cad who somehow managed to be the most valuable agent in the Foreign Office.
Of course, neither could the producers. Which is why Craig’s Bond is as far from the vaguely effete Roger Moore and the occasionally camp Brosnan as possible. Instead of being a walk-on-water superman who masters dangerous activities at the first attempt and winks into the camera as the credits start to roll, Craig’s Bond is a physically brutal killer who spends the same amount of time sprinting around in a polo shirt and jeans as Moore did exercising his eyebrows in a double-breasted blazer.
In truth, in the age of Connery, Moore and Brosnan, Bond was a rather implausible character. The books of Fleming had afforded licence to play up the spy to an audience ill-prepared for heavy-duty violence. One liners, beautiful women, sexual innuendo, silly names, fast cars and snazzy suits – the shaken-not-stirred Bond cocktail – made light of his occupation, and the genre. So much so that people expected other screen spies to retain the same level of cover-blowing glamour.
Craig’s Bond has gone cold turkey. There might be a fast car or two, but the drunken silliness of the series has been erased.
However, as well as the guns, the gadgets and the girls, there is another part of Bond that has continued into the age of Craig. One thing that sets Bond apart from other screen heroes that, incongruous as it might be, still manages to make his seemingly impossible existence more credible – the suits of James Bond.
When I heard that Craig was taking the role, there were whispers that the era of Bond in tailored suits was over. As a fan of the series, I felt a pang. As unrealistic as it is that an assassin of the British government should be prancing around the world in Brioni or Savile Row tailoring, the suits add a maturity and an air of diplomacy that could never exist in the Bourne franchise.
Though the current confection is not entirely to my taste, it remains true to the man’s occupation and the need for discretion. There are no garish patterns, striped shirts or paisley pocket squares and you can forget about looking out for a pair of Berlutis, but then this isn’t the arena for that kind of thing. Bond is a survivor, not an entertainer.
As silly, and as horrifying, as it is that Craig scrabbles around in the dirt wearing a mohair suit – he should in all honesty be wearing camouflage – it wouldn’t make sense otherwise. Just as he wrecks the gadgets and the cars, his use (and abuse) of the suits represents a will to overcome and a disregard for his costume, of which Hardy Amies would have been proud.
There is no doubting that with his seven-year old’s haircut, earpiece and Mad Men pocket square that Craig makes for an unlikely Bond. In truth, he looks more like a bodyguard. However, the Olympic stunt in an immaculate black tie ensemble proved that the suits maketh the spy. In terms of ‘sartoria exotica’, it’s no Boardwalk Empire, but the sleek, steely sharpness of the suits is still a joy to behold.