Saturday, November 18, 2006

Daniel Craig, RIP

(No, no, he isn't dead but read on...)

Consider this. There's this obscure and, a not-so-popular one that you think makes great music. You are, in other words, a fan. And then suddenly, this band gets a hit, a chart-topping single and all of a sudden, is the toast of the world. Your friends, who, a day before, wouldn't even have heard of this band are now giddy fans. How would you feel? Happy for the band? Sad? Sad and happy? Bitter-sweet? All of the above?

When it was announced that Ang Lee would direct Brokeback Mountain, most of us who'd read Annie Proulx's short story felt a nice sensation inside: this would be good, we thought. It was better. Commercially, the film did better than anyone expected; best, it became a sensation and Lee won a well-deserved Oscar. Now of course it was everyone's, everyone appreciated it; and it was ours no longer. Overall, not a bad state of affairs too (although I have serious reservations about the way the film was marketed/perceived).

Its deja vu time today as Casino Royale comes out in theaters, with its star attraction, the new James Bond: Daniel Craig. I guess I am one of the few people who've seen many of Craig's films: the harrowing The Mother, the so-so Sylvia, and smashing-good-times Enduring Love and Layer Cake. Plus he was in Spielberg's Munich (proof that his star was rising, I'd say) and the more recent Truman Capote biopic Infamous (which I have yet to see).

What can I say? The man is a brilliant actor, who seems to internalize every character he plays. But more than that, he's an astonishingly feral presence in any movie. Craig is the kind of actor whose sheer physicality -- I was almost going to say animalness -- hits you in the face, even when he's behind the movie screen, enough to make a frission of excitement run down your spine. (The only other actor today who comes close in doing this is Clive Owen -- and to a much lesser extent, Russell Crowe). Craig is like a tightly coiled tiger and his vulnerability (when he shows it) only underscores his lethalness; even when he's down, you only feel sorry for the other guy, because you know that Craig can't be kept down.

If all this resembles how a giddy school-girl might sound, then that just proves how Craig's charms can get though even the most battle-hardened critics (for the record, I consider myself movie-hardened). Most female critics, revewing Casino Royale have outdone themselves -- and I'm not being pejorative -- in describing the Daniel Craig-effect. Here's the relatively restrained Manohla Dargis (who, being what she is, simply cannot take out that note of sweeping dismissal from her voice) talking about Craig in the Times:
attractive bit of blond rough named Daniel Craig ... You see Mr. Craig sweating (and very nice sweat it is too);...
Sarah Lyall's feature in the Times is even more giddy, it comes replete with admiring references to Craig's torso. One would have thought that this kind of reporting was beneath the Times (No, wait, I was joking, of course it isn't -- remember this article?) but that's Daniel Craig for you.

The crowning achievement is Dana Steven's piece in Slate -- it has a starting paragraph that made me gasp, even as I started to laugh, referring to a certain orifice in Craig's body and what it might be capable of holding. But no, read it for yourself; it's worth reading, with an inevitable paragraph or two on Craig's torso (again, what can I say? that's Daniel Craig for you), it also nicely summarizes his other work. You might want to check them out; for all the chemical reactions he seems to arouse in people, Craig really is a darn good actor.

Which finally brings me back to the epitaph I titled this post with. A year ago, Daniel Craig was the property of a few people, who'd seen and admired his other films, now he's ours no longer. As James Bond -- and now an acclaimed one, so more Bond roles will surely follow -- he's well on his way to being a movie star and god only knows, he deserves to be one.


Anonymous said...

feral???? I was thrown off my chair when I read that, never recovered.


Shreeharsh said...

He is too. No? Seriously....

jacopo said...

giddy school girl - that u are

and an intellectual snob - that u are too