We are shaken and stirred. Though an official decision has apparently not been made, it’s widely rumored that Daniel Craig will not return to the role that made him a household name. When the news broke that the 48 year old may pass on playing 007 for a fifth time, questions abounded: How could he turn down $100 million? Who’s next? Tom Hiddleston? Michael Fassbender? Idris Elba?
Despite all of the hoopla surrounding his potential departure, we felt compelled to reflect on Bond’s most successful era yet: the four-film run of Daniel Craig. Since 2006, the English gentleman has filled the shoes of Ian Fleming’s character with unbridled panache. From Casino Royale to Spectre, he helped earn several billion dollars for Eon Productions and Sony Pictures, solidifying James Bond as the most enduring character in the history of cinema.
In chronological order, here are the 12 Best Bond Moments of Daniel Craig.
12. Becoming 007
How fitting for the much criticized “blond Bond” to be introduced in black and white. The Casino Royale opener kicks off in the city of Prague, as much the longtime capital of spy movies as of its country, the Czech Republic. This colorless beginning is stark and Hitchcockian, a direct callback to the vintage hues of the Connery era. Coldest of all is Bond’s effortless execution of Dryden, the traitorous MI6 Section Chief. Before pulling the trigger of his silenced Walther PPK, Bond receives a few questions from his nervous victim.
He answers them tersely, affirming how Dryden’s spy died: “not well.” Through quick cutaways to Bond’s vicious first kill (earning the first of his double O’s), we quickly learn that Daniel Craig’s bond is truly “half monk, half hitman.” Before pulling the trigger on Dryden, the MI6 turncoat advises how much easier killing becomes after the first: “You needn’t worry. The second is…”
Bam. Bond shoots him before he can finish his sentence. As he tucks away his gun, he replies: “Yes. Considerably.” The scene sets the tone for the entire series; this Bond was going to be cool as hell.
11. Crane Jumping
Action sequences are at their best when they tell us something about the characters involved. In Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale, the Madagascar rundown quickly separates Daniel Craig’s Bond from those who preceded him. Abandoning espionage for more brash tactics, he drives bulldozers, crashes into monstrous construction sites, then jumps from crane-to-crane at death-defying heights. Even in the opening action scene for Goldeneye, the Pierce Brosnan reboot that Martin Campbell also directed, Bond sleuths more than he shoots (until he gets his hands on an AK-47, of course).
Not so in Casino Royale, where Daniel Craig’s talents are highlighted directly opposite the Parkour prancing of Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan), who jumps and glides effortlessly through the terrain. Meanwhile, Bond breaks through walls just to keep up. Casino Royale tells us everything we need to know about Daniel Craig’s 007: he’s confident, he’s committed, and he doesn’t really care what you think.
10. Winning The Aston Martin
For James Bond, the Aston Martin DB5 is essential. From its first appearance in the 1964 Goldfinger to 2015’s Spectre, the DB5 has been merged with Bond’s identity for over fifty years. While executive producers Barbara Broccoli and Frank G. Wilson definitely emphasized new elements with the Casino Royale reboot, they still made room for Aston Martin’s timeless beauty. In the film’s first game of poker, Bond gets his hands on the beautiful machine while investigating a terrorist network in the Bahamas.
Rather than leasing the car or outright buying it on Her Majesty’s corporate credit card, Bond wins it from the meddling middleman, Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian). On the low stakes tables of the Ocean Club’s game room, Dimitrios takes an immediate disliking to Bond and bets it all, placing his Aston Martin keys on the emerald felt. Though the dealer first balks at his request, Bond encourages her to accept Dimitrios’ demand. Thanks to trip aces, 007 walks away with a new pair of wheels.
9. Seducing Solange
Daniel Craig’s infamous ocean-emergence was also Bond’s first interaction with Solange (Caterina Murino). As the wife of Alex Dimitrios, Bond sees her as an opportunity. While only the secondary “Bond girl” role in Casino Royale, Murino’s Solange plays her hand quite memorably. Frustrated with her passive and inattentive husband, she falls for Bond almost instantly, an attraction sealed by his strategic victory on the poker tables.
That’s only the beginning. Bond doesn’t just joyride with the prized DB5, he uses it to seduce Solange. Selecting humor as the weapon of choice, Craig’s Bond offers Solange a ride in her husband’s recently lost treasure. When she asks if he lives close by, Bond insists that he does. He then takes her on a breakneck trip around the circular parking lot and winds up back where they started. “This is my home,” he says, to her great amusement. Though he only partially indulges in his second prize, Bond mines Solange for information that leads him closer to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).
8. Meeting Vesper
For all of his fleeting romances, even Bond isn’t immune to love. With Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Bond finally meets his intellectual match. Sliding into a seat aboard a luxury train car, she tells James, “I’m the money.” He sizes her up and agrees: “Every penny of it.”
So begins the indelibly dynamic pairing between James and Vesper. A train bound tete-a-tete frames their relationship with verbal foreplay, a dialogue that takes over two full acts to finally consummate. Their conjugal union is much deserved, earning its conclusion rather than rushing to get to it. Of course, Vesper’s final legacy dictates the subsequent entries for Daniel Craig’s Bond. In Quantum of Solace, he seeks revenge for her killers, and in Skyfall and Spectre, he puts the mourning behind him and finally starts to move on. Out of the pantheon of Bond girls, Vesper challenges him on a level he’s never seen.
7. “The Name’s Bond…”
There are two key lines to expect in any Bond film: For vodka martinis, it’s “Shaken, not stirred.” For introductions, it’s “The name’s Bond…James Bond.” In Casino Royale, both of these tropes were intelligently upended. When his mission goes awry at the Montenegro casino, Bond seeks out a bartender and orders a martini. The gentleman asks, “Shaken or stirred?” To which Bond replies, “Do I look like I give a damn?” Even the poor bartender is taken aback by this inversion of the famous quip.
As for the second trope, only in the last moment of Casino Royale does Daniel Craig’s Bond firmly state his name. After sniping Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) amid the beautiful views of the Italian Lake Como, Bond waits for the crippled henchman to crawl through the gravel. Upon his arrival, the brassy Bond theme begins to swell, paving for the way his final line: “The name’s Bond…James Bond.”
6. “I never left…”
While Quantum of Solace and Spectre duke it out for the third-best entry in the Daniel Craig canon, director Marc Forster still managed to build some solid scenes in his followup to Casino Royale. Along with impressive action sequences in the air, on land, and at sea, Quantum shows Daniel Craig’s Bond at his most vulnerable. After all, the film opens just minutes after the events of Casino Royale, with Bond’s emotional wounds from Vesper still raw. Much of the movie shows Bond working through his bitterness, relying on M and Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) to pull him out of the doldrums as he seeks vengeance for the death of his lover.
When Bond appears to have fully lost his nerve, however, MI6 cuts him loose entirely. His future as 007 seems uncertain as he pursues Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) alongside his platonic sidekick, Camille (Olga Kurylenko). When he finally proves himself and includes MI6 in his conquest, he puts his demons to bed and regains his stature as James Bond. Thanking M for her guidance, she tells him, “I need you back,” to which he replies, “I never left.”
5. Shanghai Fight
Skyfall united top filmmaking talent across the board. With Sam Mendes at the helm, legendary director of photography Roger Deakins hopped behind the lens to shoot Bond in unprecedented glory, and during the Shanghai sequences, Deakins’ flare for visual splendor is on full display.
When Bond gets down to business and pursues Patrice (Ola Rapace), the Deakins aesthetic meets its equal with a stunningly well-choreographed and exciting fight. Acrophobics beware. Shot among reflecting glass doors at a jarringly high altitude, the Shanghai fight showcases the overall technical brilliance Skyfall delivered. Highlighting Daniel Craig’s brutal pugilism while introducing his next Bond girl, Severine (Berenice Marlohe), these scenes are economical in both storytelling and time. No wonder Skyfall crossed the billion dollar box office mark and had the producers scrambling to reunite the dream team of Mendes, Deakins, and Craig for Spectre.
When Bond returns home, he brings his whole life full circle. Reconciling his uncommon career path, his battles with Silva (Javier Bardem), and his long abandoned past, Bond is humbled when he returns home to Skyfall. While Thomas Newman proved an unconventional choice to score the Bond films, his signature minor key music perfectly depicts the emotion of James’ homecoming. In concert with Deakins’ JMW Turner-like landscape photography, the welcome party for James Bond is altogether bleak and haunting.
To lift Bond’s spirits and provide a sense of family, Kincade (the eminently lovable Albert Finney) emerges from the antiquated manor. He may be toting a double-barrel shotgun, but that’s his protective duty as caretaker of the Bond estate. James’ reunion with the old property and its ward gives us a rare glimpse into his past. With only a few magazines for the pistol, a couple sticks of dynamite, and some clever traps, M, Bond, and Kincade unite to ward off Silva and his henchmen. The battle for manor Skyfall is thrilling from beginning to end.
3. Saving Parliament
The Queen herself may be absent from the proceedings, but with M and other MI6 officials at the Parliament deposition, this is the closest Bond movies get to protecting Her Majesty. Often referred to as the “Tennyson” scene (including Thomas Newman’s original score), the protection of Parliament features Judi Dench’s powerful interpretation of Lord Alfred’s poem,”Ulysses,” as Bond hustles through the Westminster streets of London to save the day.
In tandem with her defense to the judiciary committee, M’s presentation is highly relevant to modern national security threats: “Before you declare [MI6] irrelevant, ask yourselves: how safe do you feel?” Moments after posing the question, Silva bursts through the hearing door and lights up the room until Bond finally arrives. This is a hallmark moment in the Bond franchise that goes beyond caricatures of the super spy, honoring his fictional role as a caretaker of Britain and the world at large.
2. Meeting Q
Thanks to Desmond Llewelyn who originated the role of Q, Bond films always had a guaranteed dose of levity. From RPG-boomboxes to exploding pens, Llewelyn offered every Bond but Daniel Craig a cache of world class weapons and gadgetry. When John Cleese replaced him towards the tail end of Pierce Brosnan’s run, things started getting out of hand. Namely, the presence of the invisible Aston Martin drove all tact out of Q’s role and veered straight into the ridiculous.
Enter Ben Whishaw as Q. Young and testy, his iteration of Q returns the character back to its maiden days. When he sits beside 007, he makes the agent quite uncomfortable, then offers him a small gadget gift with a custom-made micro dermal Walther PPK. To top things off, he hands Bond a “standard issue” radio transmitter. 007 is not impressed, grimacing, “It’s not exactly Christmas, is it?”
Finally, we arrive at what very well may prove to be Daniel Craig’s Bond swan song. With the return of Sam Mendes and the tailwind Skyfall provided, Spectre was positioned to vault the 007 franchise to new heights. While the film made a hefty dent in the global box office, it only recaptured a portion of the magic fans hoped it would achieve. Then again, following up Skyfall would be a herculean feat for any filmmaker.
With a truly blockbuster budget of over $300 million (including prints and advertising), Spectre skipped frugality and put on a fireworks display of endless pomp and circumstance. The opening sequence itself cost a fortune, requiring the producers to shut down major parts of Mexico City, hire hundreds of extras, and reimburse countless shops across the city for impacting their business. Fortunately, the ends justified the means. The opening high-wire helicopter battle encapsulates Daniel Craig’s role as Bond as it sends him off into the sunset with style.
What are your favorite Daniel Craig Bond moments? Tell us in the comments section!