By now, you must be living under a rock if you don’t know that the ‘Bond hype’ is real and it’s growing fast before No Time to Die finally hits the big screens on October 8th, after seeing its worldwide release pushed three times due to COVID-19. The 25th entry in the official James Bond franchise is special for a few reasons: we went through the longest time gap in between movies since the first movie, Dr. No, was released in 1962, it is the longest entry in the franchise for its 2 hours and 43 minutes runtime, and finally…it is unfortunately Daniel Craig’s final appearance as the famous MI6 agent.
Of course, this marks the end of a chapter for us Bond fans who grew up with Craig as 007. I was in high school when Casino Royale (2006) was first released, and James Bond (and Texas Hold’ Em poker for that matter) became hot stuff again. This is a hard goodbye to the reinvention of Bond for the 21st century, which proved to be highly successful.
In order to pay one last hommage to the man himself, Daniel Craig, the short documentary Being James Bond by Baillie Walsh was released on Apple TV, giving us a behind the scenes journey with Craig during his 15-year run as Bond.
Walking back memory lane, back in 2006, it’s almost crazy to remember that the choice of Daniel Craig to replace Pierce Brosnan as the world’s greatest secret agent was poorly received. The newspapers went wild, simply calling Craig ‘the blond Bond’ and mocking his first appearance during the press conference, where he appeared to be stressed and rude to reporters.
Hell, when Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell, finally came out, wow…did he prove everyone wrong. To this day, among fans and non-fans alike, the first Daniel Craig entry remains easily one of the absolute best Bond movies ever, competing with Sean Connery’s classics like From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964). Although it was based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond book, Casino Royale was both fresh and traditional at the same time, offering us a more realistic and human Bond that can fall in love, bleed and feel sadness and anger. On the other end, the movie was quite pure, as it went back to the source material, exploring the character even before he got his license to kill as a 00 agent. In other words, it anchored the indestructible 007 in reality for us young boys who want to be as cool as him. Needless to say it was a homerun. He had to come back for more, and he did!
Unfortunately, the writers’ strike in 2007 and 2008 made Craig’s comeback difficult, as his next entry, Quantum of Solace (2008) directed by Marc Forster, greatly suffered from a story perspective, but also from a cinematic standpoint. A popular opinion, this one still remains the stain in Craig’s legacy. Although he worked as hard as ever, injuring himself physically during the stunt-work, it was near impossible to replicate the success of Casino Royale. The movie was shorter, poorly edited and the script lacked so much depth. That being said, this movie showed us that Craig is a very ‘physical’ actor and was able to go to another level in his stunt work.
In 2012, Director Sam Mendes and the Eon producers gave us my personal favourite James Bond EVER: Skyfall. I know many eternal 007 fans must be hating me and throwing me imaginary tomatoes for saying this, but this entry remains the most thoughtful and complete exploration of Bond. Beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins, more personal stakes for Bond, a deeper exploration of his relationship with Judy Dench’s M and a fantastic villain in Javier Bardem’s Silva, this is the one for the ages. Daniel Craig was able to re-explore that more sensitive side that we first saw in Casino and show us that he can be deeply wounded and hurt, which I do like. Skyfall gave James Bond another proper send-off in popular culture, recording great Box Office numbers and making Bond cool again.
That lead’s us to Spectre (2015), also directed by Sam Mendes, which marked a second disappointment during the Craig-era. Although the action sequences and the overall setting of the movie were great, there were some major plot twists that were not quite popular with fans. Reintroducing the criminal organization Spectre, classic villains dating back from the Ian Fleming books and the Sean Connery movies, and Bond’s worst nemesis, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), was not such a wise decision.
We learned in the documentary that it was during the production of Spectre that Craig injured his leg in a very bad way, making the shoot extremely difficult for him. Knowing him as a real professional, he completed the film without complaining, but it’s not difficult to understand why he ‘preferred slashing his wrists‘ than coming back for one more film. You don’t wan to run a second marathon right after completing the first one hours prior, right?
Well, a few years later, it’s fair to say that he was not yet completely satisfied with the legacy he left behind as 007, so he agreed to come back for one final run, in a movie that should close all the loose ends left behind by the other four entries. From what we understood from the trailers, the official podcast and the earlier discussions with the cast and crew, the stakes will be VERY high in his fifth and final film.
Now, we finally have No Time to Die. Eon Production, represented by famous producers Barbara Broccoli and Micheal G. Wilson, did excellent work keeping the story a top secret for so long, as we only know that James Bond starts where he left off in Spectre. Five years later, James Bond retired with his new life companion, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in Europe. A lethal force from the past of Madeleine will bring them back into action, and they will have to face a new villain: a mysterious scientist simply known as Safin (Rami Malek). All his old colleagues will be back, namely his good friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), as well as a new 00 agent (Lashana Lynch).
Being James Bond gave us limited behind the scenes footage from the set of No Time to Die, including the wrap of Craig’s very last scene as Bond. A quite emotional Daniel Craig thanked the whole crew for this adventure during 15 years of his life, cyring after an outstanding performance. So long Daniel! Thanks for giving me the James Bond of my young adult years. You taught me how to dress and how to remain sensitive as a man. You’ll be missed, good sir!
As George Lazenby famously said in the opening of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), “this never happened to the other fella…” or, in this case, “this will never happen to the NEXT fella”.