Review: 'Being James Bond: The Daniel Craig Story' (2021) Dir. Baillie Walsh
An honest reflection spanning 16 years of Daniel Craig's career as fictional British secret service agent James Bond, looking at the highs and lows of his iconic role and films that followed...
Actor Daniel Craig and EON Productions heads Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson discuss and chart Craig's time as James Bond from his controversial casting announcement in 2005 for his debut Bond Casino Royale, right up his final film in 2021 No Time to Die.
The group look at aspects from each of the four released films including Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre and how their journey was shaped by the media, the quest for rebooting Bond for a modern audience and staying faithful to the source material of Ian Fleming.
Box-office success can't mask the controversy however, and Craig reflects on the moments that pushed him to the edge whilst carrying out the role. But there is hope and positivity when the final film of his Bond career is teased and promised to be the culmination everyone wants...
The opening minutes of 'Being James Bond' are dark, worrying and quite shameful. It's a flurry of critical and public reaction to the casting of a new James Bond. Blond, James Blond. James Bland. The toxic CraigNotBond website that even fuelled newspaper headlines, focusing on negative aspects to the new 007 before footage had even been screened.
"Too many lines on his face."
"Miserable at the press conference."
"Doesn't look right."
"He's got blond hair."
"Wearing a lifejacket on a speedboat."
"Will he have what it takes?"
Just some of the comments we hear as we remember the controversy surrounding Daniel Craig being as the new James Bond following Pierce Brosnan's departure after 2002's Die Another Day. It's a stark reminder of how cold and ruthless the industry and fandom can be surrounding a beloved brand such as James Bond, and how callous the comments can be. Seeing how much initial backlash Craig got, it's a wonder he made it this far at all.
But this is his story. A success story.
We hear reflections on the stresses and strains of new found stardom, but on the flipside we see how overcoming doubt and uncertainty paved the way for newly generated respect and enthusiasm about Craig as an actor and Bond as a brand. This IS the Daniel Craig story after all, so there is 100% focus on him and he helps narrate moments in each film's production that stuck out for him as a key milestone of either learning about the character or deciding where to take him; what was a moment for him professionally and personally. It's wonderful as a Bond fan, and film fan in general, to hear these moments shared by the man himself.
An approximate breakdown of the focus is as follows for each stage of Craig's 007 career:
18mins covers casting and 'Casino Royale'
5mins covers 'Quantum Of Solace'
8mins covers 'Skyfall'
9mins covers 'SPECTRE'
7mins covers 'No Time To Die'
It must be said there are no spoilers regarding No Time To Die but we do get a fresh look at some footage of the opening chase sequence and behind the scenes shots including the very final sequence Craig completed on the film and his 00 career.
The run-time of 46mins goes by in a flash as you're so absorbed and focused on the conversation, and yes it's easy to want more. But director Baillie Walsh, who made his feature film directorial debut with 2008s Flashbacks of a Fool also starring Craig, is an expert in film production, editing and documentary making. There is no excessive padding and talking heads from cast and crew. There's analysis and breakdowns of what went into the story arc, the stunt work, the casting, the action - everything that was created around Craig's new interpretation of 007 is looked at here and what worked, and sometimes what didn't.
This isn't just a mutual back-slapping session for Daniel Craig; it's an open and honest analysis of what worked, what didn't work, what was good and what was bad in shaping his stamp on the franchise and the man himself.
It comes from three people who have been involved in the journey more than any other cast member or crew has, and who have been there every step of the way. It acts like a private audio commentary with them in the same room reflecting on the journey and talking over film clips, behind the scenes footage, promotional images and production B-roll. You can't ask for more when you appreciate it's just these three key players talking non-stop for the duration. The passion Wilson and Broccoli have for the franchise is evident here, and it's something
While some films are looked into more deeper than others (poor Quantum Of Solace), each film is respected and talked about with insight and passion from Craig, Wilson and Broccoli. It's insightful to hear the truth about many of the media headlines that surrounded each film, paving the way to mis-interpretation and judgement by critics and fans. Craig isn't afraid to talk about the injuries he sustained while filming and why he wanted to push himself harder each time to detract from the negatives of production. He also wonderfully honest about how he dealt with the criticism of his casting and the pressure of being a global superstar overnight, making the transition from low-budget arthouse films to major multi-million Hollywood blockbusters.
You learn how Craig had to transform mentally and physically to take on the role of James Bond in order to succeed in taking the series to bold, brave new heights and convince audiences he could be a gentleman spy but also a cold-blooded assassin.
Many viewers won't be ready for the final few emotional minutes of the documentary. As the beautiful "We Have All The Time In The World" instrumental fades in by the late John Barry, the emotion is triggered thanks to the connotations of that song in the Bond canon. But seeing Craig break down as he gives a small speech on set after wrapping No Time To Die reminds you this is a man who has dedicated sixteen years to James Bond and "loved every second of it"; of creating a character that can evolve and survive into the future. It's a future that Broccoli can't imagine without Craig, and after watching this it's easy to see why.
Before his swan-song 007 adventure is even here, this feels like a true farewell to the longest serving James Bond actor; a James Bond for the generations and who has set the bar so high on giving us real grounded action, adventure, intrigue and espionage.
Nobody did it better.
For what would make a perfect Blu-ray / DVD bonus feature, this mini-documentary is priceless for James Bond fans, and of Daniel Craig in general, to appreciate his 007 legacy and see just what heart and soul went into 16 years of his life being James Bond.
'Being James Bond: The Daniel Craig Story' is a co-production between MGM and EON Productions