IS DANIEL CRAIG RIGHT TO COME BACK AS JAMES BOND?

The ac­tor is of­fi­cially re­turn­ing for Bond 25, but should we be glad he’s tak­ing that li­cence to kill for one last spin?

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS DAVID MA­HONEY

SO, THE WORST-KEPT se­cret in movies is out. Daniel Craig is back as Bond for a fifth and, it seems, fi­nal time with Bond 25 (a name I’d be de­lighted if they kept, if only to imag­ine Adele singing, “Bond Twenty-fi­i­i­i­i­i­i­i­ive!” at the Os­cars).

From pro­duc­tion com­pany Eon’s point of view, keep­ing Craig on the team makes sense. As with Sky­fall and the 50th an­niver­sary, the 25th Bond will be kind of a big deal, and break­ing in a new 007 might be more has­sle than it’s worth.

There could be any num­ber of rea­sons be­hind Craig’s de­ci­sion to stick around. It might be the no­tion of be­com­ing the long­est-serv­ing Bond when the film is re­leased in 2019, pip­ping Sir Roger Moore by days. And he doubt­less re­ceived an of­fer with lots of ze­roes (and, I hope, a 007 af­ter the dec­i­mal point). But the rea­son he’s given is the same rea­son I’m happy — ex­cited, even — to see him re­turn. “I want to go out on a high note,” he said, an ac­knowl­edge­ment that

Spec­tre wasn’t the vic­tory march he’d hoped for. It starts strongly, but the se­cond Christoph Waltz shows up, it mono­logues it­self into a coma.

And that’s just it. No Bond ac­tor has re­ceived the glo­ri­ous ride into the sun­set they de­serve. Sean Con­nery’s last film was Di­a­monds Are

For­ever, a per­for­mance so phoned-in Cubby Broc­coli should have re­fused to ac­cept the charges. Many love On Her Majesty’s Se­cret

Ser­vice, but it’s Ge­orge Lazenby’s only Bond film. Roger Moore went out creak­ing with A View To

A Kill. Pierce Bros­nan fin­ished with Die Another Day, the worst of all Bonds. Only Ti­mothy Dal­ton passes the qual­ity test with the un­der­rated

Li­cence To Kill, and he didn’t re­ceive a send-off as no­body knew it would be his last.

So Craig de­serves one last chance to en­sure fu­ture con­ver­sa­tions about the best Bond don’t be­come, “Daniel Craig was good, but…” His hit rate as Bond is 50 per cent, with two crack­ers and two stinkers. Bond 25 could make it 60 per cent, com­mend­able for any fran­chise, and a high note wor­thy of Adele. But to do so, Craig — like Dal­ton, an Ac­tor first, Movie Star se­cond, who has high­fa­lutin ideas about turn­ing Bond into an ac­tual char­ac­ter — needs to for­get all that, and have fun. Good, old-fash­ioned, keep­ing-thebri­tish-end-up fun. If his Bond goes out with a smile, there’s a chance the rest of us will fol­low. THE MOST BAF­FLING el­e­ment of Daniel Craig’s an­nounce­ment on Stephen Col­bert’s The Late Show — that he will be re­turn­ing as Bond — wasn’t that it had taken so long com­ing, or why

he’d changed his mind af­ter he’d pre­vi­ously said he’d rather slash his wrists than play 007 again — it was the whoops and cheers from the stu­dio au­di­ence. Is this re­ally good news?

It’s un­der­stand­able that Craig would want to re­turn (and it’s not for the vast sums of money). He said it him­self: he’d like to “go out on a high”. With the ben­e­fit of dis­tance, it’s eas­ier to see Spec­tre for what it was — the weak­est film of the Craig era, a bit like Quan­tum

Of So­lace, only an hour longer. And de­spite the fi­nale seem­ing like it was writ­ten with a view to killing off that it­er­a­tion of the char­ac­ter, you can un­der­stand why he sud­denly wants another crack at it.

But when Craig took on the role, part of the ap­peal was his youth. We hadn’t had a Bond un­der 40 years old since Ge­orge Lazenby, and his phys­i­cal­ity en­abled him to take the char­ac­ter where no pre­vi­ous Bond could go. Watch the open­ing of Casino Royale again and imag­ine even Sean Con­nery pulling it off. But Craig will be 51 by the time the movie comes out, as­sum­ing a 2019 re­lease. In the Eon films, only Roger Moore was older when he played Bond. Craig will surely do his train­ing regime and look mighty fine should he be re­quired to smoul­der in a pair of blue trunks, but 13 years on, that same raw ath­leti­cism won’t be there. And those crane chases can be hellish on the knees.

Much of Casino Royale’s suc­cess came from how fresh and ex­cit­ing it was, a Bond re­birth. Craig has been a fine 007 but it can’t last for­ever, and with Spec­tre it felt like his time had come to a nat­u­ral end. Ex­cept, now it hasn’t. Com­pare it with Doc­tor Who, another long-run­ning se­ries that reg­u­larly re­casts it main char­ac­ter. Peter Ca­paldi is a pop­u­lar Doc­tor — dark but comedic, with an un­pre­dictable streak — but he de­cided not to out­stay his wel­come. Just look at the ex­cite­ment gen­er­ated by the news that Jodie Whit­taker would be tak­ing over the part.

That could be Bond right now. We could be de­bat­ing what a new ac­tor would bring to the role, and in what di­rec­tion their cast­ing sug­gested the fran­chise was be­ing taken. In­stead, that will have to wait. Daniel Craig will re­turn in Bond 25. A safe bet, but hardly a thrilling one. It re­ally was time to say, “Never again.”

JO NATHAN PILE

NO

CHRIS HE­WITT

YES

Daniel Craig raised the roof in Sky­fall.

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