With No Time to Die finally in UK cinemas, we cast an eye back at the entire fifteen-year run of Daniel Craig 007 adventures
That's it. With the arrival of the long delayed twenty-fifth James Bond film No Time to Die, Daniel Craig has finally reached the end of his tenure as the infamous secret agent after a fifteen-year run. Though his casting was initially met with backlash, Craig quickly assured fans he was the right choice with his brutal, hard-hitting take on 007 in 2006's Casino Royale. As the subsequent films have attempted to carry Bond further into the 21st century, though, the results have been undeniably mixed. To coincide with the release of the last Craig outing, we look back at his five adventures to ask: which one's the best?
5. Spectre (2015)
After the success and acclaim that met Skyfall, Sam Mendes seemed like the logical choice to helm another installment in the franchise. But against the odds, this film – despite a promising opener set in Mexico City involving a helicopter – lacks its predecessor's expert pacing and emotional weight. Instead, Spectre is painfully slow and drab in sections, not to mention lacking in the way of memorable action or set-pieces. Its biggest mistake, though, is in the plotting; the decision to try and connect all the storylines from previous Craig outings is clumsy, awkward, and completely illogical. It doesn’t help that Craig and co-star Léa Seydoux lack the needed chemistry to sell us an integral love story, and that the film’s underwhelming villain – Christoph Waltz, playing Blofeld, the self-described “architect” of James Bond’s pain – doesn’t show his face until the final hour. In straining so hard to draw meaning from the meaningless (Bond and Blofeld are long lost brothers?), Spectre now feels like the biggest misfire of the bunch.
4. Quantum of Solace (2008)
The least talked about Craig outing – and the one with the truly awkward title – is perhaps better viewed as an epilogue to Casino Royale rather than its own thing. It picks up right after the events of the 2006 reboot in a bid to tie up its loose ends and introduce the organisation that would later be revealed as “Spectre.” Director Mark Forster just holds it all together, but the narrative is muddled (which can likely be put down to the 2007-2008 Writer's Strike), while the emphasis on “shaky cam” action reaches breaking point here, appearing more like a parody of itself. And after the grandeur of Casino Royale, the film just feels inherently less “important,” with a brisk runtime of only 106 mistakes (though, admittedly, such a runtime would probably be welcomed these days). But what an interesting – and underrated – little curio Quantum of Solace is on reflection, packed with scrappy, brutal action sequences and perhaps the most rough and tumble version of Bond across the five films. Give it another go.
3. No Time to Die (2021)
The most recent Bond film had a lot to live up to, what with that 18 month delay thanks to you know what. For the most part, though, No Time to Die succeeds as a fitting send-off for Craig's 21st century spy, combining some of the best sequences of the franchise to date – director Cary Joji Fukunaga is a natural director of action – with a standout turn from Craig himself, whose increasingly humanistic performance holds the picture together through its shakier parts. Where No Time to Die fumbles is in its insistence on reprising the same old tired beats – scarred villain, evil lair, hijacked technology – and its failure to ditch the long, sombre stretches that brought Spectre down. For the most part, it's more lighthearted and entertaining than that movie, but it has a similar villain problem – Rami Malek doesn't cut it – and spends too much time wrapping up plot points from other movies. Still, the first hour is basically perfect, not to mention it features a twenty-minute showcase for the wonder that is Ana de Armas (read our full review).
2. Skyfall (2012)
With the arrival of Skyfall, which landed with an air of prestige on account of its Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, critics and audiences rushed to declare it “the best one ever.” Maybe some of that initial acclaim has died off in recent years, but this is still a very entertaining – if logically spotty – outing for Daniel Craig. In the very capable hands of Mendes, with Roger Deakins on cinematography duties, Skyfall looks spectacular (if not a little on the showy side). Javier Bardem makes for a thrilling throwback of a villain, while the go-go-go plotting makes it difficult not to get caught up in the relentless twists and turns (just don't think about them too much). The decision to delve into Bond’s surrogate mother-son relationship with Judi Dench's M, and to give Bond something of a “backstory,” also paid off in dividends, ushering in a new era in which 007 was not merely a “blunt instrument,” but somebody who came from somewhere. An excellent and quietly ambitious slice of blockbuster entertainment.
1. Casino Royale (2006)
Not just the best of the Craig Bonds, but the best Bond movie ever, Casino Royale pulled the franchise into the 21st century in an attempt to say farewell to the tired antics of the Brosnan years – ironically, in the hands of Martin Campbell, director of GoldenEye. And it has never been bettered. This is a perfectly paced and exhilarating blockbuster, a “soft reboot” that also managed to give audiences the best romantic storyline in the franchise's history – that of Bond's love affair with Eva Green's Vesper Lynd, whose untimely death shapes Bond into the icier assassin he will become in the movies that follow. There is so much to cherish, from that opening parkour foot-chase, Mads Mikkelsen’s inspired casting as the sinister Le Chiffre, David Arnold's intricate musical score, and a more intimate plot built around a card game. Casino Royale is somehow effortlessly cool, dark, sexy, and brilliantly fun all at once, and proof that Craig – after an initial outcry from fans – was absolutely the right man for the job. If any Bond film might be called a “masterpiece,” it’s this one: twenty viewings later, it never gets old.
No Time to Die is now in UK cinemas everywhere.