Daniel Craig Is Now The Longest-Serving Bond of Them All. These Are His Greatest 007 Moments
Congratulations to Daniel Craig: this week he overtakes Sir Roger Moore to become the longest-serving James Bond actor of them all. If you're counting from 16 November 2006, the day Casino Royale came out, it's now 4,528 days since he filled out his new starter forms at MI6.
On Craig's watch Bond has become a cinematic juggernaut that dwarfs the previous Bond eras—Craig's four Bond films have grossed more than $3.5 billion altogether according to Forbes. That's as much as the previous seven films combined, going back through Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and to the tail-end of the Moore era.
But more importantly, he's made this product of the Cold War vital and bold again. He's completely rejuvenated the character, making Bond a emotionally complex figure who still has a lot to say about Britain and how we see ourselves while still also convincingly beating people up, throwing supercars around Alpine hairpins. These are five of his best moments so far.
That brutal stairwell punch-up
Casino Royale let you know from its noir-ish opening scenes that there would be no paragliding on cannibalized rocket cars with this Bond, and in this visceral pummelling, Bond seemed actually frightening for the first time in years. Seen through Vesper's eyes, this Bond isn't a man to be cheered on as he backflips away from pursuers on skis; he's a dead-eyed assassin capable of horrific deeds. The internal battle that Bond has dealt with over Craig's run—between the job he knows and excels at, and the wreckage that he leaves behind him—starts here.
Oh sweet Jesus, not the Aston
Skyfall's gummy villain Raoul Silva has tracked Bond back to his ancestral home, the Skyfall estate in the Scottish Highlands. Having strafed the house from a helicopter gunship, Silva takes malicious delight in destroying Bond's Aston Martin DB5. Look at the barely controlled rage and vengeance etched on Craig's face as his car—the car—explodes. You know Silva's gone too far. There's about 40 years' worth of subconsciously transferred love and companionship in that Aston.
M's death in the chapel
Wounded by Silva, Bond holds Judi Dench's M in his arms as Kincade (the much-missed Albert Finney) looks on sadly in the Skyfall estate's chapel. The look that flashes across Craig's face when M murmurs, "I suppose it's too late to make a run for it," pulls together all the threads about Bond's childhood as an orphan and his complex relationship with M almost on its own. He realizes he's losing his mentor and the closest thing he's had to a mother figure since his own died. "Well I'm game if you are," he says, with so much underplayed warmth and pain and intimacy. Then, as M slips away, there's a flood of panic and shock. It's beautifully done.
The psychological test
Labored witticisms are, thankfully, very few and very far between in Bond these days. But Craig is extremely adept with the sardonic repartee. Bond gets put through psych tests semi-regularly these days - there's the above in Spectre, plus Skyfall's word association game—and this one is laced with both dry wit ("Do you find your job stressful?"; "...sometimes") and a genuinely revealing defensiveness. The strangled noise in Bond's throat after he tells Dr Swann he was raised by "someone else" after his parents died isn't just a set-up for the later pay-off about his relationship with Franz Oberhauser. It shows that there's a torrent of complicated but suppressed feelings just bubbling under the surface. Suddenly Bond didn't feel like a character who strolled out of the womb at about 35 years old anymore - no, the James Bond Jr cartoon series is not canon—but a man fencing with a traumatic childhood he'd rather forget ever happened.
"The name's Bond. James Bond"
It's taken as read now that Casino Royale was the gritty, Bourne-influenced reboot that Bond needed after losing its thread and drifting into the realms of the daft. But try to remember how much of a new beginning this felt like at the time. You had to wait and wait and wait for it, and then when Craig finally got to deliver that line—the last of the whole film, holding an assault rifle and staring down at Mr. White having just popped him one in the leg—he'd really earned it.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.