A Unique Acting Talent
The end of an era is coming. On 3 April 2020 the 25th James Bond film will land in cinemas, marking the final outing of Daniel Craig as 007. While it’s fair to say that his four Bond films to date – Casino Royale, A Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre – haven’t been universally adored, Craig’s tenure has certainly reimagined the character for a modern era. The whimsy of the Brosnan era has been banished and in its place, Craig brought a tough, brooding and bruised super spy to audiences that expect more than a dash of charm and a steady stream of quips from their action heroes.
So, with just a little time left with Craig behind the gun, let’s take this moment to take a look back at Daniel Craig’s best moments, not just as Bond but across the length of his career…
Casino Royale was great for all sorts of reasons. It introduced Craig as Bond, recasting the hero as a tough, thuggish but charismatic hard man with a lot less of the polish than we’d seen in the previous incarnations. There was more than a hint of the Bourne franchise in this revamped offering, but it was a fitting tone for a post-911 world. The early scene where Bond earns his license to kill by assassinating MI6 section chief Dryden in a toilet is, frankly, punishing.
It’s got to be the poker scene that really stands out as Craig’s all time greatest moment as Bond, though. For all his relative lack of poise compared to previous Bond, in this game there’s no doubt at all that Bond is as smooth as ever. At the start of the game he gains the upper hand by learning the villainous Le Chiffre’s tell. There’s a brief break for an attempt on Le Chiffre’s life by another player and a quick murder by Bond, before the game resumes and Bond proceeds to lose his stake after Le Chiffre is tipped off to the tell. Vesper (Eva Green) refuses to fund his reentry into the game but in a twist, he’s bankrolled by Felix Leiter, secretly a CIA agent, in return for being able to take Le Chiffre into American custody.
There’s a brief break for Bond to be poisoned, nearly die, be saved by Vesper and then return to the game in time to beat Le Chiffre’s poker hand with a straight flush. It’s truly gripping stuff, as exciting as any car chase or gun fight, we’ve ever seen in Bond, and a masterpiece of dramatic storytelling.
Our Friends in the North
We’ll start at the beginning. Craig had roles in films and TV including The Power of One, Heartbeat, Drop the Dead Donkey, Sharpe’s Eagle and (the terrible) A Kid in King Arthur’s Court in the early 90s, but it’s pretty clear in hindsight that his breakout role was as George ‘Geordie’ Peacock in Our Friends in the North for the BBC. Written by Peter Flannery and also starring the likes of Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong and Gina McKee, the serial followed the Newcastle-based friends across a 31 year period spanning 1964 to 1995.
The show was considered by many critics to be one of the finest pieces of drama produced by the BBC in the 1990s and was praised for its very human portrayal of the events sweeping Britain across the period. This was, in many ways, the crucible in which the career of Daniel Craig was forged.
If you’re looking for a smart choice of role by a big-name actor, look no further than Craig’s portrayal of Joe Bang in Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky. It came out in 2017, when the actor had already been playing the moody Bond for 12 years and brought a much lighter (and funnier) Craig to the screen. In the film he plays safecracker Joe Bang enlisted in a heist to cause an explosion. It wasn’t exactly a box office smash hit, but it was certainly well-liked by critics, picking up 91 per cent for its high-octane fun that’s smart without being too full of its own importance.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
In this 2011 adaptation of the (phenomenally successful) novel of the same name directed by David Fincher, Daniel Craig played journalist Mikael Blomkvist to team up with Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander to solve the mystery of a woman who disappeared 40 years earlier.
It picked up praise for its brutal, austere, but ultimately captivating atmosphere and momentum while Craig got to put another brooding lead role under his belt, getting nods for his chemistry with Mara. It’s not as iconic a role as Bond, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get.
Not quite Craig’s single best moment as Bond, but certainly the best overall film since the reboot starring Craig. There was something grimly amusing about a then 44-year-old Craig playing a supposedly over the hill Bond when he was 14 years younger than Roger Moore was in A View to a Kill, but aside from that it was good fun watching the actor playing a down at heel Bond take a swing back towards some of the franchise’s earlier touchstones. The scene in Scotland in which (SPOILER WARNING, BY THE WAY) Judi Dench’s M dies is perhaps the most moving we’ve ever seen in a Bond film, too.
Cowboys and Aliens
Dreadfully named, critically unloved and financially a bit of a flop, Cowboys and Aliens is, nonetheless, better than its reputation suggests – particularly from the point of view of a viewer with an eye on Daniel Craig. It’s a lot of fun watching Craig and Harrison Ford bounce off each other on screen. Craig is excellent as an amnesiac ‘Man With No Name’ type burdened with a piece of alien tech stuck to his wrist, and overall it’s a fun genre mash-up that definitely has its flaws but perhaps deserves another bite of the apple.