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On The Eve Of No Time To Die, We Look Back At The Daniel Craig Era Of 007

Daniel Craig is about to ride his Aston Martin into the sunset.
Daniel Craig is about to ride his Aston Martin into the sunset. United Artists
No Time to Die is set to be released next week. The movie is not only the 25th entry in the venerable James Bond series, but the fifth and final installment starring Daniel Craig as 007.

His 15 years in the role is the longest tenure for any Bond (we don't count Sean Connery's return in 1983's non-Eon Never Say Never Again), though you can chalk over 18 months of that to COVID-related delays.

The studio says they'll start looking for a replacement in 2022, during which time we'll all be going through another endless round of arguing about whether a woman/person of color/gay man can be Bond (of course, but why would she want to?) or if the whole character should just be scrapped entirely.

In the meantime, such a milestone necessarily demands us to look back at Craig's tenure. Will he — unlike former 007s Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan — end on a high note? Stay tuned, Q believers.

Q the Bond character, not ... you know.

Casino Royale (2006)

The best film of the Craig era also happens to be on the of best Bond movies, period. It sets the hook in pretty deep in establishing the character's motivation (hint: her name was Vesper) and planting the seeds for the conflicts with his superiors that would highlight the ensuing movies.

Director Martin Campbell knows his way around 007 action pieces, seeing as how this is his second time rebooting the franchise. He also directed GoldenEye, and famously declined to direct any subsequent entries in the franchise ... unless he could get a new actor. And here we are.

As a hard reboot of the franchise, CR gives us a rare look at Bond's fallibility and how rookie mistakes led to serious consequences. They also helped introduce his CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), so maybe it all worked out.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

I think I figured out where a lot of the hate for Bond's sophomore effort comes from: it's that terrible Jack White/Alicia Keys theme song. But if you can get past that, it's better than you remember, promise.

Which is funny, because a lot of the negative word I'm hearing about No Time To Die is how it functions as a sequel to Spectre, thus putting it in the same arena as the hated QoS. The problem with that assessment is, the sequence that follows shooting Mr. White, shoving him into a trunk, and running balls out to Siena is one of the tautest car chases in the series.

Expectations were so high after Casino Royale that this was liable to be a crushing disappointment, but QoS establishes the "007 on the run" template repeated in Skyfall, finally puts a face (well, faces) to the mysterious QUANTUM (see above), and is easily the leanest, most bare-bones entry in the franchise, yet still maintains the series' sense of style.

As for QUANTUM, well ... keep reading.

Skyfall (2012)

It's funny to hear Ben Whishaw et. al talk about how refreshing it would be to have a gay Bond when it was pretty apparent during the Raoul Silva's (Javier Bardem) interrogation of 007 that Bond swings both ways when the need arises. That doesn't count as representation, sadly. And as good a villain Silva is, he's not on screen much.

The film sure is pretty to look at, however. Cinematographer Roger Deakins can make neon reflecting off a high-rise window as breathtaking as the Scottish Highlands, and director Sam Mendes makes sure you (and the characters) know it (I counted at least five scenes in which someone — usually Bond — just stands and stares at his surroundings).

Skyfall marks the first time we really make any sort of detailed exploration of Bond's history (beyond knowing his parents died when he was a kid). There's not much, but it leads into Spectre, for better or worse.

Minus the obligatory globetrotting, Skyfall seems less ambitious than usual. The bigger problem is how Mendes comes perilously close to making the mistake Bryan Singer did in Superman Returns: paying such homage to your predecessors you fail to establish your own identity.

Spectre (2015)

Speaking of predecessors, it was more than a little disappointing that SPECTRE was re-introduced to the series when QUANTUM seemed perfectly formidable on its own. On top of that, there's only a brief glimpse into the breadth of the operation, so ... subtly conveyed by those octopi in the opening titles.

At this point (six years ago!) we were almost ten years into the Daniel Craig era, which was long enough to assert that he's a very good Bond, and his track record is better than of his predecessors, aside from Sean Connery (George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton don't have a large enough sampling, alas).

I'm probably in the minority in that to this point I haven't flat-out disliked any of the Craig films. But there was a sense of finality here, with no clear path forward and an uncharacteristically (for the latest movies) upbeat ending (it was also wholly out of character, for SPOILER reasons).

Six years is a long time to wait for Her Majesty's Secret Service. We'll soon find out if it was worth it.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar