After nearly two years of side-stepping the question of whether he’d return as James Bond, Daniel Craig finally confirmed on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” that he would don the tuxedo one last time for Bond 25. The news came after reports from The New York Times that Craig’s return was a “done deal,” but the actor hadn’t publicly confirmed his involvement until now.
So the news is out, and it’s business as usual for a franchise that has relied on the same face to define its iconic character for a decade. However, the headline has come out just days before the release of “Logan Lucky,” in which Craig delivers an exciting performance unlike anything we’ve seen him do before. That raises an essential question: We know Craig can play Bond in his sleep, but is that the best use of his skill?
Craig’s future in the Bond franchise had been up in the air ever since before the release of “Spectre” in November 2015. Shortly after production wrapped on the Sam Mendes-directed entry, an exhausted Craig told press he would no longer play Bond and that he would “rather break this glass and slash [his] wrists” than portray cinema’s most famous spy again.
“Instead of saying something with style and grace, I said something really stupid,” Craig told Colbert about his comments. “I think this is it. I just want to go out on a high note. I can’t wait.”
It would be foolish to characterize the move as a bad decision on Craig’s part, given how lucrative the franchise has become under his run and the healthy paychecks he has received as a result. Craig’s four Bond movies are the highest grossing entries in the long-running series, with “Skyfall” managing to crack the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office in 2012. “Spectre” was even able to gross $888 million worldwide despite being less favorable among critics and fans.
However, while another Bond movie isn’t a bad financial decision for Craig, it no longer seems to be the best creative choice for him.
Simply put, Craig’s Bond has become stagnant. When the actor made his debut in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” it was a Bond the movies had never really seen before. Craig successfully relaunched the character in the post-9/11 era, making him more psychologically complex and emotionally damaged (traits that were heightened tenfold following the death of Vesper Lynd). His grueling missions actually seemed to take a toll on his psyche; he was less enviable hero than broken soul.
Craig’s Bond was cut from the same cloth of troubled masculinity as Jason Bourne and Christopher Nolan’s Bruce Wayne. He couldn’t have been more different from the suave and dashing super spy audiences knew well from previous entries. Yet even as the radical character shift was refreshing in “Casino Royale,” by the time “Spectre” came around, it had become something of a one-note bore. With each edition of brooding Bond, the character lost some of his intrigue. Craig is still a great Bond, but the character stopped surprising us.
These qualms only become more clear in the wake of “Logan Lucky,” Steven Soderbergh’s delightful new heist comedy starring Craig opposite Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Riley Keough. A running bit in the film’s marketing has been the phrase, “and introducing Daniel Craig as Joe Bang,” which for a time just seemed to be a funny joke Soderbergh was playing. But after you see the movie, you realize just how appropriate that wording is.
Craig, with his gonzo southern drawl and half-creepy, half-charming demeanor, is so far and away removed from the troubled Bond he’s been playing for the last decade that watching him in “Logan Lucky” really feels like discovering the actor for the first time. He’s a freewheeling comic force, carefully walking the line between ex-con sleazeball and lovable goon (just wait until you see him make a homemade bomb with gummy bears). There’s no action set pieces to rely on or daring stunts to pull off. Craig only has Soderbergh’s lines and a twisted sense of the oddball character in his arsenal, and he absolutely delivers.
Joe Bang is the antithesis of all the dark and serious men Craig has been playing for over 10 years — from Bond to Mikael Blomkvist in “The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo” — and it finally gives him a chance to catch viewers off-guard, just like he did that first time as Bond in “Casino Royale.” It’s a reminder of a muscle he should exercise more often.
The good news is that Bond 25 will be Craig’s last go-around as 007. Not only does he now have one last chance to redefine the character, but once he’s done, he’ll finally have the opportunity to give us a lot more Joe Bangs.
Bond 25 hits theaters November 8, 2019. “Logan Lucky” opens nationwide this Friday, August 18.