No Time to Debate: Ranking Daniel Craig’s James Bond Films

Daniel Craig had an unenviable task in 2006 when he first donned the tuxedo and took the mantle of 007. Pierce Brosnan’s 6-year stint had ended in the critically mauled 2002 film Die Another Day and many were asking if Bond was relevant in the 21st Century, with Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne films reinventing the modern action franchise in the interim.  With Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, No Time to Die, now coming in November following several lengthy delays, it seems an apt time to reassess his fluctuating fortunes in the iconic franchise to date.

4. Quantum of Solace.

This film had enormous pressure on its shoulders following on from Casino Royale, which brought James Bond into the 21st Century, ditching many of the hallmarks of the franchise and offering some brutal action. Casino Royale was so well received by audiences and critics it was an almost impossible task for Quantum of Solace to succeed. It has a whole host of problems, was the title too confusing? It kept the grittier tone of its predecessor but seems devoid of fun for large chunks, with Bond on a revenge mission.  The editing for the action sequences could certainly be smoother, though this was likely an effort to tap into the success of the shaky-cam action of the Bourne films. However, it is not executed anywhere near as well as the Paul Greengrass Bourne flicks.

Quantum of Solace isn’t without its high points however and Daniel Craig is as ever a gripping presence on-screen and Judi Dench is once again a great foil as M. It’s a shame some of the performances are undone by some sloppy editing and a poorly executed story. This is a Bond film that tried to pack in far too much action and is a clear example of style over substance.

3. Spectre

This is perhaps the most frustrating of Craig’s run of Bond films. The longest Bond film in history, it does feel very bloated at times and does struggle to justify its considerable runtime.  Sam Mendes carried on in the director’s chair following the gargantuan success of Skyfall. In retrospect, Spectre almost plays more like the 50th film than its predecessor, with so many callbacks and variations on scenes particularly from the Connery and Moore films, with familiar costumes, vehicles, locations and adversaries.

It is incredibly frustrating as there are some spectacular sequences in amongst the bloat. The train fight sequence between Bond and Mr Hinx is a particular highlight, as is the one-track shot opening in Mexico City, which won considerable acclaim from critics and has been labelled one of the finest opening sequences for the franchise.

The retconning of Craig’s previous entries to try and emulate Marvel is one of the film’s biggest sins, so is the waste of Christoph Waltz, who of course was coming off the back of 2 Oscar-winning roles for Quentin Tarantino (Hopefully Waltz is used to better effect in No Time to Die). Spectre is by no means terrible, it is just not a patch on the top 2 entries in this list.

2. Skyfall

A tough call between the top 2 entries in this list. Skyfall brought Bond to new heights and was surprisingly the highest-grossing entry in the franchise, unadjusted for inflation taking over $1.1 Billion Dollars at the Box Office.  Skyfall really works well as a bridge between the earlier Craig films and the lighter, more humour-filled tone of the Connery and Moore Bond flicks. Javier Bardem makes Silva an instantly memorable Bond villain and the cinematography from the legendary Roger Deakins ensures this is by far one of the most stunning entries in the 50+ year franchise.

The humour can at times feel a tad forced but overall, this is such a blast and works really well in contrast to Craig’s first 2 turns as 007.  The storyline is more personal than any Bond film prior and this lends the film more stakes. The greater use of London and some truly stunning visuals make this a tremendous 50th-anniversary outing.

1. Casino Royale

Craig’s first outing as the superspy remains one of the greatest franchise reinventions, comparable really only to Christopher Nolan’s work on Batman Begins a year prior. It is such a far cry from the invisible cars and laser watches of previous entries.  This was a vital and fresh Bond.  From the brutal bathroom brawl as we see Bond earn 007 status to the climax, the pace barely lets up. There are some truly staggering action sequences, particularly the parkour-filled chase sequence in Madagascar.

This Bond felt more vulnerable without an assortment of gadgets. It hews far closer to the source material than any Bond adaptation previously and modernises it to incredible effect. Eva Green gives Vesper Lynd real depth and puts her at the forefront of Bond Girls and certainly the strongest of the Craig era. Mads Mikkelsen is incredibly menacing as Le Chiffre, endowing him with a sense of sympathy.

Hopefully, No Time to Die can return to the heights of Casino Royale and Skyfall. Director
Cary Joji Fukunaga has won considerable acclaim for his work on True Detective and Beasts of No Nation, so seems a great pair of hands for Craig’s final outing.  From the footage released it seems like Rami Malek will also make a great entry into the canon of Bond villains. No Time to Die may end up as one of the best or worst of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, but for now, we reckon this list is pretty definitive.

Words by Chris Connor

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