Total Recall

Total Recall: Daniel Craig's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Skyfall star.

by | November 8, 2012 | Comments

Daniel Craig

There aren’t many actors who have the depth and sensitivity to carry indie fare and enough charisma to lead a blockbuster franchise, but with one foot in the art house and the other firmly planted at the multiplex, Daniel Craig is one star who can have his Layer Cake and eat it too. With his third Bond outing, Skyfall, arriving in theaters this weekend, we decided now would be the perfect time to take another look at some of his critical highlights, Total Recall style!

Before we begin, it bears mentioning that Craig’s filmography is dotted with a handful of brief appearances and cameo roles — including parts in 2005’s Fateless (92 percent) and 1998’s Elizabeth (81 percent), both of which are well worth checking out, but were left off our list in an effort to focus on more Craig-centric pictures. So now let’s see what did make the cut…


10. Enduring Love

Given its minuscule theatrical tally and middling reviews, it wouldn’t be surprising if you’d never heard of Enduring Love, but it came with a terrific cast and a stellar literary pedigree. Adapted by screenwriter Joe Penhall from the 1997 novel by Ian McEwan and led by performances from Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton, and Bill Nighy, the big-screen Love looked like an awards season contender on paper. Ultimately, however, most viewers ignored it — and most critics felt the book’s slowly unraveling mystery was ill-served by director Roger Michell (the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey said he didn’t adapt it so much as “eviscerate it and wave its entrails before the audience”). But it was a favorite of scribes such as Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post, who praised it as “the best kind of movie: so alive in its storytelling that only in retrospect do you realize that the ideas represent a metaphysical inquiry.”


9. Quantum of Solace

After Casino Royale breathed new life into the Bond franchise, expectations were high for the follow-up, 2008’s Quantum of Solace — especially considering that its story picked up immediately where Royale left off. Quantum never really reached its predecessor’s heights — critically or commercially — but it’s still a solid entry in the venerable series, and it found Craig really growing into the role, as pointed out by Ben Lyons of At the Movies: “While charm and a quick wit made Connery the best of the Bonds, it’s Craig’s brute force and Jackie Chan-style stunts that will come to define this latest reincarnation.”


8. Infamous

A year after Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his work in Capote, writer/director Douglas McGrath brought his own Truman Capote biopic to the big screen — and while it certainly suffered in comparison to its critically lauded predecessor, Infamous had plenty to offer in its own right, including the charged chemistry between Toby Jones (who played Capote) and Daniel Craig (playing Perry Smith, the convicted murderer who developed a complicated relationship with Capote). As Colin Covert put it for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Far from vanishing in its predecessor’s wake, Infamous demonstrates how a potent story can inspire distinctly different interpretations.”


7. The Adventures of Tintin

Craig reunited with his Munich director, Steven Spielberg, for The Adventures of Tintin, the first installment in a planned trilogy of 3D motion capture computer-animated adaptations of the iconic comic series by famed Belgian artist Hergé. Playing the villainous Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (as well as his ancestor, Red Rackham), Craig joined an ensemble cast that included Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Jamie Bell, and — of course — Andy Serkis. Tintin faced an uphill climb with American audiences unfamiliar with the comics, but it scored a solid hit with critics like Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who urged readers to “Think of The Adventures of Tintin as a song of innocence and experience, able to combine a sweet sense of childlike wonder and pureness of heart with the most worldly and sophisticated of modern technology.”


6. The Mother

One of the more unusual — and lesser-known — entries in Craig’s filmography, 2003’s The Mother is the story of a British grandmother (played by Anne Reid) who finds her life turned upside down after her husband suddenly passes away — and copes with it by starting an affair with a handyman (played by Craig) who also happens to be her son’s best friend and her daughter’s boyfriend. Though it never made much of a commercial splash beyond its limited release run, The Mother gave Craig an opportunity to play a decidedly different character, and it impressed critics like Philip Wuntch of the Dallas Morning News, who wrote, “It neither reassures nor insults its audience. These days, a film that doesn’t insult your intelligence is absolutely refreshing.”


5. Munich

Blending sure-handed direction from one of the greats with reality-based high-stakes action, Steven Spielberg’s Munich dramatizes the dreadful aftermath of the 1972 Olympic massacre that left 11 members of the Israeli delegation dead — and prompted Israel’s government to hire Mossad agent Avner Kaufman (played by Eric Bana) to lead a squad of assassins in retribution. Starring Craig in a supporting role as one of Kaufman’s men (alongside Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Amalric, and others), Munich used elements of historical fiction to pose some thought-provoking questions while delivering white-knuckle thrills — and while some critics felt it ultimately didn’t do a good enough job of answering those questions, most agreed with the Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore, who wrote “this isn’t a Middle Eastern tale that offers much hope. It’s just bloodstained history. And if we don’t remember that history, Spielberg says, we learn nothing.”


4. Layer Cake

It sounds sweet, but Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake is anything but — it’s actually a pitch-black morality play about the efforts of a successful drug dealer (played by Craig) to retire from the business without tipping off his powerful supplier (Kenneth Cranham). It’s all for naught, of course, and he soon finds himself needing to stay one step ahead from a growing list of enemies intent on doing him in before he can walk away from the business. “Vaughn’s film falls short of Goodfellas,” argued Kyle Smith of the New York Post, “but thanks to his ability to organize a complex story and bold, color-drenched photography by Ben Davis, Layer Cake is a cocked fist of a movie, impossible to ignore.”


3. Road to Perdition

For an actor, assuming the mantle of the Bond series means forever being associated with good-guy roles, but Craig is also pretty good at portraying unhinged evil — and his performance in 2002’s Road to Perdition, as the unpredictably violent mob scion Connor Rooney, is a case in point. Though Perdition is ultimately about the love between another mob enforcer (Tom Hanks) and his son (Tyler Hoechlin), the story is driven by another father-son bond — specifically, the duty felt by the gang’s boss, John Rooney (Paul Newman), to protect Connor, no matter how horrible his actions. As Carrie Rickey wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The evolving dynamic between the two sets of fathers and sons is as compelling as the kindred stories of parents and estranged children in American Beauty.”


2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hollywood’s fondness for remaking foreign hits is an ongoing target of derision, but if you’re going to film an American adaptation of an international bestseller that has already spawned a hit trilogy overseas, you might as well get yourself a talented director and a terrific cast — and that’s just what Sony did for its Stateside version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2011, hiring David Fincher to direct Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the leads. Even with $232 million in worldwide grosses, Tattoo was somehow regarded as a bit of a commercial disappointment, but it scored with critics like James Berardinelli of ReelViews, who argued, “This is what a movie adaptation should be: a film whose base narrative has its roots in the source material but whose soul can be identified through the images that unfold on screen.”


1. Casino Royale

By the time Die Another Day was released in 2002, the Bond film franchise seemed a little haggard — it had produced 20 movies in 40 years, and more than a few people wondered if maybe the adventures of 007 had run their course. When Pierce Brosnan was relieved of his license to kill and swapped out for Daniel Craig, there was plenty of disbelief and even a little outrage, but few seemed to think he’d make a good fit for the character — until they saw Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale. Taking Bond back to the beginning of his story and portraying him less as a suave quipster and more as a troubled instrument of destruction, Royale breathed new life into a series that had grown rote and repetitive. Audiences responded, rewarding it with nearly $600 million in worldwide grosses — the franchise’s highest numbers to date — and so did critics like Roger Ebert, who said it “has the answers to all my complaints about the 45-year-old James Bond series, and some I hadn’t even thought of.”

In case you were wondering, here are Craig’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. Casino Royale — 87%
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — 87%
3. Layer Cake — 83%
4. The Road to Perdition — 81%
5. Munich — 78%
6. The Adventures of Tintin — 75%
7. Defiance — 73%
8. The Jacket — 70%
9. Quantum of Solace — 62%
10. Lara Croft – Tomb Raider — 60%

Take a look through Craig’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Skyfall.

Finally, here’s Mr. Craig and a fellow celebrity in a little skit that ran before a big sporting even recently: