For about 20 years, Ray Keating wrote a weekly column - a short time with the New York City Tribune, more than 11 years with Newsday, another seven years with Long Island Business News, plus another year-and-a-half with As an economist, Keating also pens an assortment of analyses each week. With the Keating Files, he decided to expand his efforts with regular commentary touching on a broad range of issues, written by himself and an assortment of talented contributors and columnists. So, here goes...

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Daniel Craig’s First Four Bond Movies – “Casino Royale” to “Spectre”

 by Ray Keating

The Keating Files – October 7, 2021


Are you ready to watch No Time To Die, the fifth James Bond film starring Daniel Craig? Well, catching the first four Craig Bond movies would seem to be proper preparation.


I did so, and it was a joy to return to these films. Here’s my quick take on each.


Casino Royale (2006) – 5 stars out of 5


Casino Royale just might be the best James Bond film ever, including all of the movies by Craig’s predecessors Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan (oh yeah, and David Niven). Okay, yes, it’s the best.


Movie watchers have to strap in from the start, being treated to a brutal bathroom brawl, one of the best foot chases in movie history, an engrossing poker game amidst a whirlwind of intrigue and action, and a torture scene that makes every man squirm in his seat (by the way, that savage incident actually is in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale book published in 1953!)


Plus, those on screen with Craig excel, including Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, Judi Dench as M, Giancarlo Giannini as Rene Mathis, Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter (the best Leiter in Bond movie history), and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre.


For good measure, Craig brings a depth and complexity to Bond that was previously lacking on screen (and don’t get me wrong, I love Sean Connery’s Bond). Craig’s Bond is more ruthless and colder perhaps than any previous movie manifestation of the character, but also more vulnerable, humorous, and human. That’s a masterful achievement by director Martin Campbell, Daniel Craig, and everyone else involved in creating Casino Royale.

Quantum of Solace (2008) – 3 stars out of 5


Alright, it’s time to give Quantum of Solace some love. 


Two charges often are hurled at this movie. First, it’s referred to as the worst of the Daniel Craig Bond films. Second, it has been called the worst Bond film ever. It is guilty on the first charge, but definitely not on the second. Watch the Roger Moore movies, and there’s no way you can call Quantum of Solace the worst Bond movie ever.


However, calling Quantum of Solace the worst Craig Bond movie doesn’t make it a bad movie. Instead, it’s uneven, but interestingly, it works well where most people say it doesn’t and falters in an area that largely goes unmentioned.


Quantum of Solace often gets a bad rap for its story. But that’s simply not the case. The story told in Quantum actually is quite interesting, and unusual for a Bond movie. It’s a film mainly about two broken people – Craig’s Bond and Camille played by Olga Kurylenko – bent on vengeance, hoping that their own brand of justice will provide some kind of peace.


Once more, like in Casino Royale, Craig serves up a complex Bond – in this case, conflicted. His relationship with M (Judi Dench) is deepened, and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter and Giancarlo Giannini as Rene Mathis serve as beacons in clouds and murkiness. The main villain – Dominic Greene played by Mathieu Amalric – and his plot work fine, but turn out to be less interesting than the more personal aspects of the tale.


So, where does Quantum of Solace falter then? It’s in the action scenes. What arguably should have been the easiest part of this movie was completely botched by director Marc Foster with his use of, what I call, the “shaky cam” combined with ridiculous scene cuts. Potentially wonderful action sequences were turned into visual messes, with moviegoers often struggling to figure out the details of what was happening. 


So, don’t fault the writers of Quantum of Solace for coming up short. It’s about Foster’s ability to ruin what so many moviegoers love about the Bond films – the action. But overall, it’s still a respectable effort.


And by the way, the Jack White and Alicia Keys “Another Way to Die” rocks – it’s one of the best Bond songs.

Skyfall (2012) – 5 stars out of 5


The movie that gives Casino Royale a serious run for the top Bond film would be Skyfall. It hits the right Bond notes, while supplying much more.


At the very start, we get to enjoy a spectacular motorcycle chase scene, which then morphs into Bond doing combat on a train – meaning literally on top of a train. 


The stakes are high – a stolen list of all NATO agents embedded inside terrorist organizations – but also lend some real-world sense of true danger.


Judi Dench as M plays an even more central role than usual, and when her fate plays out, it carries an emotional wallop.


As for Bond, we delve more deeply into his past than ever before, including the climactic fight with the antagonist, Mr. Silver (played with verve by Javier Bardem), happening at his family’s long-dilapidated home, Skyfall. But as the walls literally are burning down around him, we still get the Bond we have come to know, as he declares, “I always hated this place.” Little room seems to exist in James Bond’s world for sentiment or emotion – well, that is, until the death of M.


As for the rest of us, though, we get to enjoy being a little sentimental, or get to reminisce, as Skyfall offers some tips of the hat to early Bond films, including a glorious Aston Martin DB5, even with an ejector seat, as well as a new, old-style M office. Director Sam Mendes excelled at making an unmistakable Daniel Craig Bond film, but with wonderful references to the character’s long cinematic past.


For good measure, Naomie Harris ranks as a delight as Moneypenny, who also plays a more important role in Skyfall than did any of the character’s previous renditions.


Finally, I must mention that Bond’s hand-to-hand combat scene in a Shanghai skyscraper amidst glass and light rates as a visual feast. Yes, indeed, Skyfall hits all the right Bond notes and more.

Spectre (2015) – 4 stars out of 5


Skyfall was a tough act to follow, as they say, and while Spectre is a good movie, it inevitably feels like it comes up short.


Perhaps most striking from a movie decision-making perspective, while Skyfall referenced previous Bond movies, Spectre goes deeper on this, to the point that it has the feel of a Sean Connery Bond vehicle, but with Daniel Craig as James Bond. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is different. Also, along the way, occasional glossing over of some details occurs.


At the same time, there is much here to relish. Judi Dench’s M reaching out with one last mission for Bond from beyond the grave sets the story well. The Day of the Dead opening is gripping, especially the brutal fight in a helicopter over a crowded square. In fact, the ferocity of the fight scenes in this movie warrant recognition, including the fight between Bond and Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx, inside a train. I couldn’t help but compare it to the classic train-car fisticuffs in Sean Connery’s From Russia with Love.


And watching this movie once more, Christoff Waltz’s Blofeld has grown on me. He is entertainingly crazy and evil.


Once again, Harris is top notch as Miss Moneypenny. But I also must mention two additions who came on in Skyfall, and appear in Spectre as well – Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as the new M. These are iconic Bond roles, and each actor excels. I particularly find Q’s interactions with Bond splendid – as was the case with past Qs and Bonds.


Alas, though, I admit to finding Lea Seydoux as Madeleine uninspiring. For all of the women who have entered and exited the Bond universe, that it would be this rather dull character who would become James Bond’s key love interest is unconvincing at best and ultimately disappointing. Contrast this character with Vesper from Casino Royale, and you’ll see my point.

However, after mentioning these other players, we must return to Daniel Craig as Bond. As evidenced once more in Spectre, he brings a depth and range to the role of James Bond that none of the previous Bonds had achieved. And as a result, after enjoying the first four Bond films starring Daniel Craig, I am looking forward to Craig’s final Bond outing in No Time To Die with great anticipation.




Ray Keating is a columnist, novelist, economist, podcaster and entrepreneur.  Keating has three new books out. Vatican Shadows: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel is the 13th thriller/mystery in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Get the paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon, or signed books at www.raykeatingonline.comPast Lives: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story is the 14th book in the series. Get the paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon, or signed book at www.raykeatingonline.comAnd order the 15th book in the series What’s Lost? A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story.


The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?


You also can order his book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York  from Amazon or signed books  at His other recent nonfiction book is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know


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