007 - Who Does it Best?
APOLOGIES FOR ANY SPOILERS
With the 25th and much delayed James Bond film coming out in cinemas later this year I thought there would be no greater time than a global pandemic to sit from start to finish and watch all of the Bond films.
After my flatmate bought the Blu-ray boxset on a drunken whim, that truly gave us both the impetus to sit down and watch one of Britain’s most iconic characters.
I had vague memories of some of the older bond films including images in my head of Sean Connery driving mountainous roads in a luxurious sports car clad in a freshly pressed tailored suit, however large parts of the Bond filmography had previously passed me by. Roger Moore in his entirety seemed new to me when watching and I also had no real memory of Pierce Brosnan in the role despite him donning the tux for a brief while in my lifetime.
Having now seen the series again and having the films (somewhat) fresh in my mind I have decided to outline the highs and lows of each Bond, to find out who does 007 best.
Sean Connery left all future bonds with huge shoes to fill. He executed his job as Bond with almost perfection. I would consider him to be a Bond allrounder, one who undertook every aspect of Bond with genuine ease, a quick witted, smooth talking Brit who also managed to sell himself as a believable master of espionage. I personally feel he delivered all of his one liners better than all other Bonds and his presence and popularity as Bond certainly came back to the forefront of the media following Connery’s sad death last year at the age of 90.
He kicked the franchise off with the relatively low budget but wonderfully executed Dr No which managed the perfect amount of campiness alongside gripping and tense spy thriller. His pedigree grew further with the following releases of Diamonds are Forever and the near perfect Goldfinger which matches the perfect villain with exactly the right Bond in a way that holds up to this day. He did end on a real low though, Diamonds are Forever being a real lowlight and one of the worst bonds in the series, however, given the quality of his earlier releases, I am willing to let him off.
It has been reported that Sean Connery saw George Lazenby in a restaurant having seen Lazenby’s performance as Bond and said, “You were good.” And for me, good is as far as it goes.
George Lazenby is a tough one for me much in the same way he divides opinion for Bond fanatics. Having only starred as Bond once before leaving in acrimonious fashion after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service it is tough to really get your teeth into him as a character and he forever leaves the afterthought of what could have been?
Though his film did contain recording techniques which were influential, they were largely unmastered and thus felt sloppy, including fast cuts during fight scenes which I feel were agonisingly bad.
He did however have some incredibly garish outfits which I adored. A particularly exuberant kilt being a highlight, leaving me and my housemate overjoyed. He also had an incredible scene sliding chest first across a curling rink whilst shooting at a foe, now that’s Bond!
He was also the only Bond to get married, leading to some great emotional depth which I will forever admire Lazenby for. Ultimately, his lack of adoration and conviction in the character led to him quitting and we will thus always look on him with a sense of what could have been.
Roger Moore is many peoples favourite and often considered the ultimate British icon. I however don’t quite have the same glowing adoration for him though I am still keen on a lot of aspects of his performance. In his defence, he is riddled with some quite poor films – Moonraker and A View to a Kill both blowing a good cast and premise with the end results being lacklustre at best. He does have a few highlights though, Live and Let Die being one of Bonds greatest films with Moore giving his finest performance with his first attempt, buoyed by one of the best Bond songs performed by Paul McCartney.
I always felt that he was never the greatest in fight scenes which I feel holds him back somewhat, always coming across as a bit wooden, and – I hate to say it – at times far too old.
However, he was perhaps the most natural conversationist though and thrives in any situation requiring a white suit at a country club. He oozes charisma and charm, never struggling to attract a woman far younger than he, and always found a way to wangle his way out of the toughest situation, often with a comedic level of campiness.
I now have a bit of a soft spot for Timothy Dalton. I feel he’s the first to bring any sort of ruggedness and roughness around the edges. He was divisive at the time with some feeling he sapped the usual humour from Bond in the hunt for a more serious and truthful tone.
He attempts to take the franchise in a darker direction which I feel he does very effectively, helping to take the film back into a more realistic direction which had been lost in some of Roger Moore’s portrays, notably Moonraker where Moore led a force of operatives into space in order to allow Bond to follow in the footsteps of the recently released Star Wars film saga.
It’s a shame that he was only given two films before a long-lasting dispute between the studios meant he lost his drive for the role, as I feel that given longer, he could’ve made the role his and cemented his figure into people’s memories.
I feel Pierce Brosnan is an underappreciated Bond. He brings a lot of charm and undeniable good looks to the role and I think he steers Bond perfectly into the 21st century at a time when the studios had been in multiple disputes with producers.
Having been pushed to one side when Dalton was hired due to commitments filming a TV show, he never let this dampen his efforts. A phenomenal start to his tenure came in the way of Goldeneye set just following the end of the Soviet Union and acted as the perfect way to modernise the franchise with new cameras and techniques.
He acted solidly throughout, another that I would consider a Bond allrounder who excels in being a smooth talker, and even though many dislike his final outing, Die Another Day, I feel it is a solid send off, even if many of the gadgets and effects are a little overblown.
When Daniel Craig was revealed as the 6th iteration of Bond, he was an unpopular choice. Deemed not good looking enough, lacking the tall, dark and handsome look that all previous Bonds possessed in abundance - he would not let this hold him back.
Now, having soldiered my way through the entire Bond saga, I am going to have to crown Craig with the title of best Bond actor. Whilst it is a close call due to consistent casting throughout, the emotional depth and dark turns that he brings to the role cement his status as the pinnacle of 007.
His emotional depth comes largely through the losses he faces throughout his tenure and the affect this has on him as a character and the acts of retribution he takes in response. Starting with Casino Royale (the best Bond film) he finds love with Vesper Lynd before she betrays him and is eventually killed having been plagued by guilt. The effects of this run through entirety of Quantum of Solace in a sometimes lacklustre but often gripping revenge film. The anger portrayed by Craig makes it his portrayal all the more enticing.
This is followed by his close, if fractious, relationship with M – portrayed by Judi Dench – and the maternal relationship she has with him. After she dies, we see Craig on the verge of tears before cutting to a scene where she has gifted him her deplorable nodding dog in her will – a comical but tear-jerking act that cements the relationship between them.
He is also undoubtedly and absolute hunk of a man. He was even reported to have cut down on the amount of heavy weight training he did in the lead up to Quantum of Solace so that he would look less bulky and instead be more fit. This helps considerably in getting the better of some of the saga’s finest villains; Le Chiffre (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen) and Raoul Silva (portrayed by Javier Bardem) being the two standouts.
Also, who doesn’t love a fight scene involving a Komodo dragon?