With 'No Time To Die' landing in cinemas this week, we're looking back over the six actors who played Bond - Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and George Lazenby - and making cases for and against them, as well as their best and worst movies.
In much the same way that 'Batman Begins' successfully recalibrated the 'Batman' franchise with audiences after the campy luridness of 'Batman & Robin', 'Casino Royale' and Daniel Craig was the recalibration from 'Die Another Day' and the rapidly increasing silliness. By this stage, the world was firmly engulfed in the War on Terror, the opaque nature of intelligence communities, and with that, the moral grey areas that they existed in.
From the opening scene of 'Casino Royale', we're introduced to this idea in the absence of colour that permeates Bond murdering two people in cold blood on the orders of his government. Even the way in which director Martin Campbell stages them is decidedly more violent than anything up to the franchise in that point. The nearest parallel would be something along the lines of Timothy Dalton's two-movie run, but even that kept MI6 and Britain at a remove and allowed for them to be righteous. In 'Quantum of Solace' and 'Skyfall', there's a feeling that everyone involved is much more slippery than we realise. 'Quantum of Solace' was essentially Bond dealing with a very personal betrayal, while 'Skyfall' was built out of M's own betrayal of a former agent, and in that, examining whether or not he himself was expendable.
Daniel Craig, prior to 'Casino Royale', had played characters with questionable morality with a certain amount of deftness. 'Layer Cake' saw him playing a top-flight drug dealer as a slick businessman, while 'Munich' saw him play an assassin for Mossad who unblinkingly kills suspected enemies of Israel. In 'Casino Royale', like a lot of post 9/11 movies, the main character acts in an unscrupulous and often ruthless manner, but their end justifies the means. In 'The Dark Knight', Batman performs illegal wiretapping on the entire city of Gotham. In 'Skyfall', a government inquiry into M's handling of MI6 gets interrupted by a shootout that effectively demonstrates their necessity in the first place.
Compared to other Bond entries, Craig's portrayal played down certain elements and heightened others. His sexuality was certainly more playful, seeing him stripped to his bare ass in 'Casino Royale' and then having his genitals beaten to a pulp, while 'Skyfall' saw him being sexually intimidated in a tense scene with Javier Bardem's villain. Compared to any of the other Bonds, however, that playfulness didn't extend to Craig himself. Indeed, his Bond was quite dour and sarcastic in comparison with Moore's quip-heavy humour or Brosnan's in-your-endo bravura.
Like literally all of the Bonds that preceded him, Craig spoke to his time and now that his time has ended, the question remains - what now, Mr. Bond?