With No Time to Die out in cinemas now, I decided to rank the 5 movies in Daniel Craig’s 15 year run as James Bond.
I will admit that although I like most of the movies, I’m not a massive fan of James Bond. My favourite version of Bond however was always Daniel Craig’s. While there’s only three of the five movies that I love, I just really liked this version of Bond, both the approach to the character and Craig’s performance.
This list is going to contain some minor spoilers, since these movies link into each other.
5. Quantum of Solace
For the longest time I was trying to decide which I considered to be worse, Quantum of Solace or Spectre. They are both flawed for incredibly different reasons, but I gave Quantum the edge, if only for its messiness. With that said, I surprisingly liked the movie noticeably more upon recent rewatch of it in the lead up to No Time to Die. It’s quite a different James Bond movie, with it acting as the first direct sequel to the last Bond movie, and does try to be more of a political thriller taking inspiration from real world events. Its known at this point that this movie was made during the writer’s strike and was heavily affected by it, and you can really feel it. The writing felt like it needed more work and fleshing out. With that said, I did like the attempt at grounding itself even more in reality, and although the story is lacklustre compared to Casino Royale’s, I was interested in where it was going. I especially liked the portrayal of James Bond being a ruthless loose cannon, as he’s searching for revenge. The villain in Dominic Greene is underwhelming and doesn’t feel like a real threat compared to many of the other Bond villains, but I think he worked well enough for this story, and the performance was good. The action is also a mixed bag. Aside from a scene involving a plane, all the action has a lot of quick cut editing, making some of them hard to follow. For whatever reason I also enjoyed these more on the more recent viewing. I definitely feel like they could’ve laid off the quick cuts, but I like how gritty and brutal the action was.
I thought the acting was all quite solid. Daniel Craig again puts everything into the role of Bond, and he’s especially great here. The supporting cast, both returning (Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright) and new (Olga Kurylenko) did solid jobs in their part too. I also liked the direction of the movie on the whole, there are some genuinely great moments, such as a sequence taking place at an opera. Overall, I wouldn’t call this one of the best Bond movies by any means. However there’s something about this chaotic, brutal and angry mess of a movie that I genuinely enjoy. At the very least, there’s a lot of this movie I appreciate and admire, even if it’s by no means anywhere to being close to the level of its predecessor.
Spectre might not be the worst of the Daniel Craig Bond films, but it is the most frustrating of the 5. Director Sam Mendes and co. did such incredible work with Skyfall that it’s quite disappointing to see that their follow up didn’t come anywhere close to being as good. With that said, my more recent rewatch did put things in perspective for me. For the most part, Spectre is a solid film that just happens to not work as well as Skyfall. Skyfall did such a good job at paying tribute to the older Bond films, while making it work on its own. Spectre on the other hand was all over the place with what it wanted to do. It tried to tie together all the other Craig Bond films and trying to go into Bond’s past, while also trying to throw back to the classic Bond films, with over the top scenes, and ‘classic’ Bond moments. The two tones just didn’t work together at all. The plot is intriguing and solid, though it’s a little predictable and could’ve been better. Despite the long runtime, a lot of the plot and characters could’ve been fleshed out more. The cast are decent, especially with the returning actors like Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw, and some of the newer additions like Lea Seydoux. However, some actors like Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott and Christoph Waltz don’t really get to do much in their parts. The action is generally well filmed and entertaining, although missing a level of intensity that was present in the previous 3 movies. However, the opening action sequence and the fight between Bond and Dave Bautista’s henchman on a train were genuinely great. In fact, the film is quite good on a technical level, visually stunning, well edited, and greatly put together.
Where the film starts to go downhill is when it enters into its third act, specifically once it gets to Christoph Waltz’s second onscreen appearance. While the prospect of Waltz as a Bond villain sounded exciting, his character and his writing just didn’t work all that well for the story. Had it not been for Waltz’s appearance in No Time to Die, I think that even Dominic Greene from Quantum of Solace would’ve been better. Not only that, but trying to tie all the previous Bond movies together in Spectre just felt misguided. Then it moves into its rather baffling and underwhelming climax. It manages to be silly yet boring at the same time. From the Sony email leaks it seems that the filmmakers didn’t know what to do for the end, and it certainly showed on screen. It is borderline terrible and definitely brought the movie down for me significantly. Spectre is good for the most part, but there’s also a lot here that doesn’t work. I do rank Spectre higher than Quantum of Solace if only for consistency in quality for the first two acts, before it collapses in the last act.
These next three are very close together and are interchangeable.
3. No Time to Die
The most recent film on this list, No Time to Die is the latest James Bond film and the conclusion of Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond. At a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes there was a lot to take in with this film, especially from the one viewing I had of it. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. The story itself is the closest to a classic Bond movie with some of the tropes and aspects you’d expect, an over-the-top villain with a plan that affects the whole world, gadgets, cheesy one liners, you name it. It was quite an entertaining ride and despite the length, it never really dragged for me. It also has an emotional core, and worked in tying up all the characters and storylines, better than Spectre did at least. It even made some of the elements from Spectre work better retroactively. Cary Fukunaga’s direction was great, delivering an energetic, well-paced, and vibrant film. The action was great and memorable, very well shot, and definitely rivals the best action scenes from the previous 4 films.
Everyone in this ensemble cast is great, from the returning actors like Lea Seydoux and Ralph Fiennes, to newer actors including Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas and Rami Malek. However, it all comes down to Daniel Craig, and while he’s great in all of these movies, this is his best work as James Bond. He delivers the one-liners and the action, but also gives his most emotional performance as the character. Despite the global stakes involving a dangerous weapon, No Time to Die’s main story is Bond’s story and above all else, it gives him a great sendoff. Again, the film was a lot to take in, so I will need to watch it again. However at the moment, I’m prepared to say that I loved it.
2. Casino Royale
The James Bond franchise rebooted yet again after 2002’s Die Another Day, with GoldenEye director Martin Campbell releasing Casino Royale in 2006. This is where Daniel Craig’s James Bond was introduced, focussing on a Bond who just became a double 0 agent. By James Bond standards, it stays relatively grounded, with the lead character never relying on gadgets. It’s a comparatively refined and mature Bond film, and everything from the intriguing story to the well-developed characters are all on point. It’s quite something watching Casino Royale again 15 years after its release, it still holds up really well.
Daniel Craig gave his own take on Bond, with his incarnation being the best version of the character to date. Both his performance and the writing provided to him is very strong and for made for him being more human and a more interesting character. The supporting cast is also strong, with the likes of Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench and others playing their parts greatly. Martin Campbell’s work as a director is also excellent and helped the film succeed as well as it did, especially when it comes to the outstanding action sequences. Nearly a decade and a half later, Casino Royale still holds up very well as a James Bond movie, an action movie, and a movie in general.
It was pretty hard deciding between Skyfall and Casino Royale as my favourite Craig-era Bond film, ultimately I gave Skyfall the edge. After the first two movies being more grounded and Bourne-esque, Skyfall brings it closer to more what people picture when they think of Bond, while also delivering a personal and emotional story for the character. Both elements are balanced incredibly well, delivering an intriguing and riveting film. Despite it being closer to classic Bond than the previous 2 movies, whether it be a hacker villain, gadgets, larger action scenes and the like, the stakes are smaller and personal. The climax is particularly strong on both an entertainment and emotional level, and one that’s very different for a Bond film. While the first half is definitely strong, it’s the second half which really solidified it as my favourite of Craig’s run.
The characters and acting were also great, Daniel Craig delivers as Bond as always, but it was many of the supporting actors that stood out. The new interpretations of Q and Moneypenny with Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris, along with the eventual next M in Ralph Fiennes, were all welcome additions. Javier Bardem ranks among the best Bond villains, with a very memorable performance and character. And of course, there’s Judi Dench’s last performance as M, who gets to shine the most here out of all her Bond film appearances. Sam Mendes directs Skyfall, and his work here is fantastic. From the fantastic cinematography from Roger Deakins, to the phenomenal score from Thomas Newman, and the outstanding action, its so great on a technical level. Skyfall has held up incredibly well over the past near decade it’s been released, and still remains my favourite Daniel Craig James Bond film.
How would you rank Daniel Craig’s James Bond films?