Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rankings Never Die Tomorrow with a Golden Gun

Part Eins: Bond Actors

1. Sean Connery

Perfect blend of danger, suave and MAN in all caps. Connery defined Bond and set the standard for all who followed and the fact that he had five of the ten best flicks to his name did not hurt. Diamonds Are Forever never really happened...
  • Best Moment: The original utterance of "Bond, James Bond." in Dr No. In just three words he has the character nailed. He is James Bond.
  • Worst Moment: Clumsily fighting two gymnastic champion femme fetales in Diamonds Are Forever, entirety of Never Say Never Again not withstanding. He hasn't aged well here and the result is painful to watch.

Daniel Craig

Lacks the purr and a bit of the suave but gets the rest right. The only other Bond actor besides Connery to bring a real, tangible sense of danger to the room.
  • Best Moment: The torture scene in Casino Royale: "You're going to die scratching my balls." He maintains Bond's wit and personality throughout a scene that should theoretically be too gritty and disturbing for a Bond film, successfully selling a reimagining that could've easily gone awry.
  • Worst Moment: More the writers' fault than his own, but leaving Mathis in the dumpster during Quantum of Solace stands out as a moment I didn't buy.

. Pierce Brosnan
His attempts at icy smooth sometimes came across as bored and thus boring and he had lackluster material to work with more often than not. That said, Brosnan owned when he had a good scene and/or was on a role. Also probably looked the part better than anyone else.
  • Best Moment: The death of 006: "For England, James?" "No. For me." Brosnan's cool and collected execution of this badassery seals GoldenEye's spot as a truly great 90's action flick. It is also the best example of his style. Where Connery, Dalton and Craig might have growled the line with ferocity, Brosnan just lets it slip as if it were casual conversation and it works perfectly.
  • Worst Moment: Fencing with Madonna in Die Another Day.

4. Timothy Dalton
Like Brosnan, he's a talented performer who was just given utter crap to work with and made the best of it. The difference however is a simple one: he's not as well cast as Brosnan and his material was even worse. He was however quite a bit fiercer than his counterparts, bringing a welcome edge and seriousness to the franchise following two of Roger Moore's lowest points and deserves credit for that.
  • Best Moment: Reacting to MI6-Ally-of-the-Day's death by way of malfunctioning sliding doors in The Living Daylights. When he winces and crushes that balloon with his hands, Bond's anger pierces through the screen in a way not seen in at least nine movies.
  • Worst Moment: "I gave him the... boot!" Lame pun, Dalton knows it, is bad at one-liners to begin with and fails to sell this particularly bad one. The humorous side of Bond was always Dalton's weakest point.

5. George Lazenby

Oh George Lazenby, what shall we do with thee. Not a trained actor in the slightest, Lazenby was plucked from modelling in Australian clothing? commercials to replace fed-up Connery at a time when nobody had yet proven that Bond could survive Connery's departure. He's a MAJOR contributor of awkward in the otherwise well-crafted On Her Majesty's Secret Service but tries hard, effort coming across here and there. Being a professional martial artist he's also probably the most physical of the Bonds, giving the film's fist fights and ski chases an unusually visceral feel. With a few more films he might have become the best, but alas we have only the one to judge from.
  • Best Moment: The end of OHMSS. Lazenby's strong suit, despite his lack of acting training, is in selling the film's more sensitive tender moments and when that lone tear rolls down his cheek after the attack, we buy it.
  • Worst Moment: "Bond, James Bond." If you thought I was giving Connery too much credit for his ability to sell this line, like "oh, how hard can that be?" ... get a load of this. Instead of icy cool and badass it comes across as bubbly and cocky. I wanted to punch Lazenby when he said it, not root for him. Sigh. Dalton couldn't say it either.

6. Roger Moore
Smooth and witty but so flippant that he is impossible to take seriously, assuming he's even taking the role seriously. He's not particularly interesting to watch either - most apparent in the otherwise glorious The Spy Who Loved Me in which his lack of edge is a clear weak link. When he tries to be funny he usually isn't and when he tries to act dangerous or angry he just comes across as robotic.
  • Best Moment: Kicking the henchman's car off a seaside cliff in For Your Eyes Only. This is one of the only times where his edge seems real.
  • Worst Moment: Seducing Mayday in A View to a Kill. She's so young and beautiful. He's borderline geriatric. It's ridiculous. Honorable mention to the slapsticky firetruck chase in the same film.


  1. Great videos. Will OHMSS be getting a full post? You talk highly of it and that clip looked pretty incredible. Still haven't seen it. What makes it great if not the lead? It seems to me that most of these films seem to live or die on the strength of the Bond.

  2. Let me just say that the trailer for "The Living Daylights" looks unspeakably incredible. The film, on the other hand, is one of the more pedestrian bonds.

    I would say that Lazenby is more interesting as Bond than he is good, per se. Especially now that other Bonds have come and gone. I'd say the thing separating OHMSS is the emotional arc and the final, ringing note of despair that the film ends on. It's probably one of the most downbeat film endings in history, let alone a Bond film. It also has superior action sequences and lot and lots of women.

    There is a school of thought that Bond is only as good as his villains, but I think it mainly comes down to the director and the writer (somewhat). Brosnan's films got steadily worse as the helmers did, for example.

    What do you think, Charles? What separates OHMSS from the pack? And how much does Lazenby have to do with its success?

  3. I agree with Eric that the trailer for "The Living Daylights" looks amazing. Funny how you were able to find clips that showed each of the respective Bond actors at their best, with the exception of Roger Moore. God that that skiing action sequence was bad. And Moore does indeed look geriatric in the last shot in the clip -- where he's smiling at his witty escape-via-parachute.

    I look forward to the next Craig-driven Bond vehicle. There've been rumors spreading over the internet for the past 24 hours or so that Danny Boyle has been offered the directorial reigns... though he has denied them. We'll see.

  4. Danny Boyle is exactly the right director at exactly the right time for this moribund franchise. I can't believe how much damage Marc Forester reeked in the wake of the magnificent "Casino Royale." I'm already eager for a reboot! Boyle is one of the few auteurs today who could make a Bond film his own without "radically deconstructing" it. My god, the energy it would possess...