It’s funny to think that Daniel Craig’s James Bond has spent at least as much time suspended from MI6, missing (presumed dead), operating rogue, and enjoying retirement as he has clocking in and doing his regular 9-5.
Still, with the release of No Time to Die on 30 September 2021, Craig’s 007 really will – honestly, no-backsies – finally hang up his tuxedo and Walther PPK.
Which makes this the perfect time to celebrate Daniel Craig’s Bond films and pick out his 10 best moments.
Now, pay attention, 007 fans…
James Bond’s dogged pursuit of bombmaker Mollaka – played by one of parkour’s creators, Sébastien Foucan – through, up, down and over a Madagascan building site isn’t ‘just’ one of the Bond franchise’s most thrilling action sequences, it’s an undeniable statement about how Daniel CraIg’s 007 is cut from different cloth than his predecessors.
Craig’s Bond takes bull-headed tenacity to the next level, compensating for Mollaka’s superior agility with a refreshingly practical approach to problem solving. So, when Mollaka swoops through a tiny opening in a half finished wall, Bond simply runs through the drywall like a Looney Tunes character; when Mollaka throws his spent gun at Bond’s face atop a crane, he catches it and throws it straight back, scoring a hit.
And Craig’s Bond doesn’t look as invincible as his Teflon-coated predecessors either. He barely makes jumps, lands awkwardly and looks every bit the man operating at his physical limit. This not only makes the set-piece super exciting, but also increases our sense of Craig’s Bond as someone who absolutely will not give up. So, by the time 007 finally runs the bombmaker down, the look of panic and incredulity on Mollaka’s face is a terrific payoff.
Many 007 fans believe that Quantum of Solace is the Craig era’s weakest entry, but to that we say, 1.) like pizza, even average Bond films are still awesome and, 2.) time has been kind to Quantum, revealing it to be a surprisingly solid Bond movie with some truly spectacular set-pieces. Take this film-opening thriller that throws us straight into a breakneck car chase on the shore of Lake Garda as Bond escorts Mr White (captured, in the boot of his Aston Martin DBS V12) to an MI6 safe house in Sienna.
The sequence is directed with impressive flair by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner), crashing from leisurely aerial-shot silence to rapid-cut mayhem soundtracked by screeching metal collisions, shunting red-line gear shifts and gunfire. Pursued by Mr White’s Alfa Romeo-driving goons (at first) and then by Italian traffic police, 007 is clearly in his element, riding pure adrenalised instinct through tunnels and into a quarry, dispatching his pursuers one by one even as they systematically turn his Aston into battered, bullet-ridden MOT fail.
Coming as it did four years after Pierce Brosnan’s janky Bond swansong Die Another Day (2002) and entering a world that was deeply smitten with a new, more authentically exciting super spy, Jason Bourne, Eon Productions had a big task on its hands with Casino Royale. Daniel Craig’s first 007 adventure had to perform a hard reset on the franchise while still giving Bond fans what they loved about the, then, 46-year-old series.
Cleverly, the filmmakers decided to remix rather than jettison some of the most beloved Bond elements. And so, when Craig’s Bond is asked – after a punishing loss at cards – whether he wants the character’s classic vodka martini shaken or stirred, he barks back “do I look like I give a damn?”
One of the advantages of the decision to give Daniel Craig’s Bond an overarching story that links his individual missions (AKA films) is that we see 007 mature from untested double ‘oh’ to increasingly self-assured agent. Compare Bond’s exciting Skyfall-opening pursuit of mercenary Patrice through Istanbul with his Casino Royale parkour chase and you’ll see what we mean. Teamed up with pre-desk-job Moneypenny, Craig’s 007 has the same muscular doggedness as ever, but he’s also smarter and smoother than before.
What do we mean? Well, take the stakes-raising separation of Bond and Moneypenny as he follows Patrice onto (and we really mean ‘on’) a speeding train and she follows in what we assume is a standard-issue MI6 Land Rover Defender. Pinned down by Patrice’s gunfire, Bond doesn’t metaphorically bulldoze his way forward – he cleverly, literally, bulldozes his way forward.
Okay, well technically it’s a backhoe loader, but he uses the digger’s bucket as a shield before using its hydraulic arm to create a bridge to the rest of the train. And what does 007 do when he enters the train carriage through the hole he’s just torn in its roof? He casually, classily adjusts his shirt cuff before resuming his pursuit. It’s a moment of classic, in-control Bond that makes the sequence’s surprise end all the more shocking.
We don’t personally know any MI6 field agents (or do we…?) but we’re fairly certain that, under intense Odeon interrogation, they’d probably confess that James Bond’s spycraft style – heavy on expensive supercar chases, explosions, shootouts and outrunning space laser blasts – is a lot more action-packed than their reality. So, it’s a genuine delight when Craig’s 007 indulges in some tense, flawlessly executed, old-school espionage.
Quantum of Solace’s opera sequence (filmed at the Bregenzer Festspiele’s spectacular floating stage in Austria) sees Bond trailing Quantum member Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) to a performance of Tosca. Having carefully made his way backstage, Bond listens in on the assembled Quantum members hidden in the audience discussing their evil plans. Only then does 007 announce over their earpieces that he’s been listening, prompting the Quantum reps to leave in a hurry. This reveals their locations to Bond and his, now endearingly off-the-pace, Sony Ericsson camera phone. Granted, things get a lot more shooty after this, but it’s great to see Ian Fleming’s super spy doing some actual spy stuff.
Director Sam Mendes may have perfected the faked long-single-take with the entirety of 1917, but he got in some spectacular practice with Spectre’s seemingly unbroken four-minute opening shot that follows 007 as he trails a villain through Mexico City’s Day of the Dead festivities.
So what if it’s a seamlessly crafted hybrid of six different camera setups? The sequence is riveting and immersive. With Craig’s Bond in full mission mode we never leave his side, putting us right there in the action.
This bravura opening then segues into an explosive second act that climaxes with an edge-of-the-seat low-level helicopter flight/fight above thousands of partygoers in Zocalo Square, making its inclusion in the Daniel Craig 007 Hall of Fame an absolute no-brainer.
Henchmountain Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) and goons have kidnapped Dr. Madeleine Swann from her Tyrolean workplace from under Bond’s nose. And so, with Hinx and colleagues bombing down the snowy mountainside in a trio of Land/Range Rovers, 007 gives chase.
Only, this being James Bond, he doesn’t pursue Hinx in a reasonably specced SUV. He doesn’t even hotwire a snowmobile. No, Bond commandeers a twin-engined Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander plane and sets about chasing his prey down in that. And yes, it’s even more insane than that sounds. First, he plays chicken with the convoy, taking out one of the Defenders when its driver blinks first. Then 007 circles around and pursues the remaining two vehicles at an altitude of – checks notes – zero feet. First, the wings get trimmed, then the plane loses its landing gear and finally, the tail gets lopped off.
But Bond keeps chasing, much to the increasing panic of the remaining bad guys – and a truly classic ‘are you absolutely nuts??’ stare from Swann through the rear window. And, what do you know? With engines on full power, Bond’s toboggan plane launches through a wooden barn, takes out vehicle number two and forces Hinx to make an emergency stop (through his own windscreen). Rescue successful. Job done. Maximum unnecessary damage achieved. Truly, nobody does it better.
The opposing poles of Craig’s brilliance as James Bond are his physical toughness and his vulnerability. And, much of what makes him one of the most (if not the most) complete Bond to date exists in the tension between the two. And so far as emotional rawness is concerned, 007’s deepest psychological wound stems from his love for Vesper Lynd.
Having established that Vesper is very much the Alpha equal of James on their train-bound first meeting, an unexpected explosion of violence in a stairwell at Montenegro’s Casino Royale leaves Bond bloodied and Treasury agent Lynd in shock. With the clock ticking before the high-stakes poker match with Le Chiffre resumes, 007 patches himself up then checks in on Vesper to find her fully clothed and traumatised in her shower.
And this is where Craig’s Bond deviates from his previous incarnations. Rather than distract Vesper, James wordlessly sits beside her and, with the shower soaking them both, tenderly kisses the blood she imagines she can’t shift from her fingertips. He simply stays, and that says everything.
Now, we’re not saying that Kevin McCallister grew up to be James Bond or that Harry Lyme had a distant young cousin called Raoul Silva, but there’s definitely more than a hint of Home Alone to 007’s booby-trap-the-homestead plan to take down his nemesis in 2012’s megahit Skyfall. And we love it.
Both the calm-before-the-storm preparation for Silva’s attack on Bond’s remote childhood home, and the final devastating assault – complete with private army and a helicopter gunship – are massively entertaining. Playing The Animals’ cover of John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom from his chopper’s speakers à la Apocalypse Now is a nice stylistic touch by the showboating cyberterrorist Silva but he definitely loses marks for needlessly Swiss-cheesing 007’s beloved Aston Martin DB5 with armour-piercing bullets. Shame on you, Silva, and don’t get us started on Bond’s beloved M.
Our last Daniel Craig best Bond bit for now is, appropriately enough, the last bit of Spectre. It’s not flashy, and it’s so short on sustained gunplay that the villain actively invites our superspy to shoot him. And yet, it makes our list because it’s a deeply meaningful moment in the character arc of Daniel Craig’s 007 that also just happens to set up his Bond’s upcoming (and final) mission in No Time to Die (released 8 October).
Having downed Blofeld’s helicopter, Bond heads to the wreckage – located for optimal metaphorical convenience slap bang in the middle of Westminster Bridge. With Blofeld wounded at his feet, 007 looks left and right. To his left stands M (Ralph Fiennes) and a future of continued service to Queen and country. To his right stands Madeleine Swann and the promise of a life free from violence, and full of love. Bond pauses then makes his decision, leaving Blofeld to be arrested by the Met while he walks away from MI6, choosing happiness over duty. Even as Madeleine and James drive off in his restored DB5 we know Bond will return, but it’s still an unforgettable scene.
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