I guess tomorrow never comes after all.
As you’re probably already aware: the latest martini-fuelled, Aston Martin-driven joy ride of an adventure in the James Bond series, No Time To Die, was originally intended to grace the silver screen this month. Before a life-form, one billionth of our size, started really putting the frighteners on our species and movies are now, literally, nowhere to be seen. Plenty of time to die now, isn’t there? Yes, November of this year will now be the Quantum for the film to solace, and we can all salute farewell to Daniel Craig in his final outing as everyone’s favourite alcoholic misogynist, who gets a pass from the law because, you know, her majesty’s secret service and all that.
Well, anyway, since I was very much looking forward to No Time To Die (before the Corona virus said Dr. NO to that happening any time soon), I now have a case of double-o-withdrawal. I find myself in the mood for Bond, so I hereby pass the time by putting together a little ranking of Daniel Craig’s James Bond filmography, in order from my favourite, down to my least favourite. Fingers crossed for a quick planetary recovery, for all those affected to hang in there and get well soon – and for an apocalypse that doesn’t resemble The Shining, more than it does a Mad Max film.
My favourite of the Craig era, Casino Royale does not concern itself with being a Bond movie, so much as just getting on with being a movie in general. Aside from the action sequences being as sure-handed as Le Chiffre’s torture methods, the film flogs you in the balls with its well developed villain, Bond-girl, and even Bond himself. The poker sequence marks a moment of true cinema for 007, and while there are appropriate tropes that we expect to accompany James on his adventures, Casino Royale never relies on them, never chugs them like fuel, it contains them: because it can afford to, because it wants to and doesn’t need to. It’s a tough-as-nails action film about literal high stakes poker; that happens to star James Bond.
While not as fresh as Casino Royale (and its plot sometimes feels derivative of The Dark Knight for some reason), Skyfall deals in realistic subject matter the series should have tackled years ago. Following the dark and mature footsteps that first film left in its wake, Bond is getting older, rustier, and drinking more than usual. M’s relevance is amplified by her connection to Javier Bardem’s entertainingly eccentric, yet tragic villain; their strange relationship providing a good portion of backbone (and his introductory monologue being of particular brilliance). The cinematography is typical Roger Deakins grandiose, Sam Mendes brings a handsome artistry to the surface and when it comes to building character – the film is anything but forgettable. A high tier effort, that honours the tone established by Casino Royale.
A much stranger sort, Spectre is a perfectly functional film with equally decent performances, action and overall craftsmanship, but without much of an identity. Every previous Craig film has a personality of its own, they can each be set apart and recognised independently as their own movie. I will even admit that I actually enjoy Spectre for all things previously mentioned, but it has a single glaring error holding it back – the franchise checklist. The action set pieces feel perfunctory, a car/helicopter/plane chase: only there because the boxes need to be ticked, and without much to differentiate them from, not just other Bond movies, but other movies in general. I appreciated the nostalgia the first time around, but on repeat viewings, the film began to feel tired with itself, as though Sam Mendes, and the writing team, had built the monster but were missing the lightning strike. Even moments that define characters feel awkwardly pulled from other works, and we’re left with a film that is completely watchable, well produced and acted with intent, but after its predecessors had subverted the franchise tropes so well; Spectre only just makes it by comparison.
Quantum Of Solace
And now for the runt of the litter. While Craig himself is still excellent in the role, Olga Kurylenko’s Bond girl has an interesting backstory and the action scenes are not badly produced at all, this one is just an incomprehensible mess. The first act is plagued with action that almost completely bullies the plot out of the entire picture; the set pieces go on and on, one after the other, leaving barely any trace for the audience to follow in the hopes of understanding what the hell is going on. It opens with a car chase, and just as it looks like the plot is about to commence; bam, a foot chase! Then a knife fight, then a motorcycle chase, then a boat chase, then something weird at an opera, then a… hello, are you there? The villain is so weak I didn’t even realise he was the main baddie until it was too late to not be embarrassing, and when the action finally slows down and the plot is given time to exist, by that time: I’m just burned out. The ending scene is rather good, Bond, at his most violent, decides to spare the man he has the strongest reason to kill, but if I had to choose between reciting the plot or taking a bullet, it wouldn’t be a choice, at least I would know where the bullet starts.
And that’s it, hopefully that’ll provide some much needed Bond fixture in this strange and worrisome time we live in. I’m now off to marathon the lot, all 24 of them; that should keep me occupied and fend off the cabin fever. So stay home, stay safe, mind your health, get well soon, and have a very merry quarantine.
- Casino Royale
- Quantum of Solace
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