With it looking more than likely that James Bond’s 25th adventure No Time to Die is going to be delayed for a disheartening third time, it gives us plenty of time to look back at what Daniel Craig has achieved in the famous role so far. After replacing Pierce Brosnan as the cinematic spy Craig has starred in four films so far, but which one is the best?
In this list, I’m going to take you through his completed missions from worst to best. So in the words of Q; “Now pay attention”.
4. Spectre (2015) – Director: Sam Mendes
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In 2015 after delivering the hugely successful and now series favourite Skyfall, Sam Mendes returned to direct his second Bond film, Spectre. Expectations were high and fans were hopeful that lightning could strike twice for Mendes; unfortunately, the end result quickly became the worst film in Craig’s era as Bond.
Spectre saw 007 face off against the titular criminal organisation and their global surveillance network. Unlike the previous instalments of Craig’s era Spectre feels more reminiscent of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras, with familiar narrative beats resurfacing and cheesier humour becoming a lot more frequent.
It’s this shift in tone, amongst several other issues that made Spectre feel like it had undone the successes of the previous films. Its departure from the more serious tone of Craig’s earlier films felt like a disconnect from the trajectory of his overall time as Bond and its narrative attempts to tie all of the previous films together came across as forced and unearned, quite possibly becoming the film’s biggest problem.
Most of the performances and action are fine; however, both elements are consistently hampered by the inclusion of out of place humour and an uninspired score. Ultimately whilst still achieving good film-making on a technical level Spectre was a rare misfire for Mendes and Craig’s most disappointing instalment as Bond, leaving audiences neither shaken nor stirred.
3. Quantum of Solace (2008) – Director: Marc Forster
Quantum of Solace is renowned to be one of the worst Bond films of all time, let alone from just Craig’s era. There’s certainly no doubt that it finds itself in the poorer half of Craig’s Bond movies, but I do think it’s somewhat underrated and it’s definitely more in keeping with the rest of Craig’s era than Spectre.
Picking up almost immediately after the events of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace very much took the path of a sequel rather than another standalone film, with Bond seeking revenge for the death of Vesper in Casino Royale. It’s no secret that the production of this film was messy, encountering challenges due to the screenwriters strike.
Furthermore, it ended up being the shortest Bond film in the franchise making it feel rushed and incomplete, almost like a first draft rather than a final one. Despite this it still has a lot going for it, this shorter running time does means that it has a fast pace to it that rarely lets up and several of its action sequences have excellent content, albeit obscured by frantic editing.
Although the film does feel underwritten it does end well, rounding up this two film narrative in a satisfying manner, and at the time leaving this franchise in an exciting place for future standalone instalments, a position that was taken full advantage of by its successor, Skyfall.
2. Casino Royale (2006) – Director: Martin Campbell
Casino Royale was the perfect reboot for this series and would be a more than worthy title to be Craig’s very best outing as Bond. Martin Campbell, who previously directed the Brosnan favourite Goldeneye, took on the mantle once more and in doing so undertook maybe the biggest challenge the series has had to date.
Reinventing Bond for a modern audience, one that hadn’t grown up with him but also staying true to the character’s roots and keeping the already dedicated fan base happy as well. It’s hard to believe that the predecessor to this reboot was Brosnan’s final outing as Bond, the critically panned and much-maligned Die Another Day.
The two films couldn’t be further from each other in tone, quality and appearance and this is just the step forward the Bond franchise needed to take in order to distance itself from its somewhat tired and dated approach. Casino Royale introduced many viewers to Craig for the first time and it was immediately clear that he was an excellent choice to carry the Bond series forward, delivering at the time the very best Bond film audiences had ever seen.
A fantastic theme song, a brilliant score, thrilling action, a tight screenplay and excellent performances including Mads Mikkelson’s portrayal of Le Chiffre, one of the all-time greatest Bond villains made sure that Casino Royale brought Bond back with a bang.
1. Skyfall (2012) – Director: Sam Mendes
So whilst Casino Royale reinvented Bond in truly spectacular fashion it was Skyfall that took full advantage of this new and fresh take on the character to make it Craig’s most iconic outing as the cinematic super spy. Skyfall was exactly what the Bond series needed after the lacklustre execution and reception of Quantum of Solace.
With a killer theme tune courtesy of Adele, one that would go on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, huge casting news in the form of Javier Bardem as the film’s villain and famous director Sam Mendes onboard fans were optimistic that this would be a return to form for Bond. Released in Bond’s 50th anniversary year there couldn’t have been a more fitting time for the cinematic spy to deliver.
Fans were not disappointed, with Skyfall quickly becoming one of the all-time greatest Bond films. Countless nods to past Bond films, its more stripped back and grounded approach to its storytelling, as well as the gorgeous cinematography thanks to Sir Roger Deakins making it the most beautiful Bond film to date, ensured that Skyfall would become an instant classic.
It also serves as the perfect swansong for Judi Dench’s M, a much-loved character that gets explored in more detail than ever before, as well as her relationship with Bond. Skyfall’s smaller-scale, more personal narrative created an emotional aspect to the film rarely seen before but never compromised on the spectacle of the action or adventure reminding fans that nobody does it better than James Bond, and for Craig’s time as the secret agent no film does it better than Skyfall.
What about No Time To Die? Will It Be Daniel Craig’s Best James Bond Movie?
So where will No Time To Die slot in? It certainly has its challenges carrying on from the disappointing narrative elements in Spectre. With a new director in the form of Cary Joji Fukunaga, how will this affect the tone of the film?
It’s an important film in terms of Craig’s legacy too, ultimately acting as the deciding factor on whether Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond has produced more good or bad films. However whatever the outcome Craig can hang up his bowtie with pride knowing he led both Casino Royale and Skyfall right into the hearts of Bond fans everywhere.
What do you make of this feature? Which is your favourite Daniel Craig James Bond movie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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