Don’t get me started about the experts who say the critics are wrong for feeling wronged by Quantum of Solace. The reasoning goes that since Quantum delivered the biggest opening of a James Bond movie ever — that’s $70.4 million compared to $47.7 million for the previous record holder, 2002’s Die Another Day (the one where Halle Berry joined Pierce Brosnan) — it must be the best. That kind of thinking suggests Beverly Hills Chihuahua has a good shot at a Best Picture Oscar. My theory is that audiences flocked to see Daniel Craig as 007 in Quantum because they were totally pumped by Craig’s debut in 2006’s Casino Royale, one of the very best Bond movies. I’m thinking their disappointment will be reflected in next week’s box office. And even if I’m wrong, there’s no way in hell Quantum matches Casino Royale on any level. So let Quantum take the title as best ever Bond debut and, at $200 million, the most expensive Bond movie ever to produce. I’m interested in something more lasting. Like what’s the best Bond ever in terms of quality? Of the 22 Bond films, here are my three favorites.
1. Goldfinger (1964) The third Bond movie is the one that established Sean Connery as James Bond for the ages. I don’t care about those of you who have good words for Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or one-shot George Lazenby. Connery is the man. And this Bond movie is the keeper. Great theme song. Great villain in Gert Frobe’s Goldfinger. “Do you expect me to talk?” Bond asks his nemesis. “No, Mr. Bond,” says Goldfinger. “I expect you to die.” Delicious.
2. Casino Royale (2006) Yes, I think Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery, the most hard-edged and compelling. And the movie, inventively directed by Martin Campbell, becomes a Bond origin story that rivets attention from start to finish.
3. From Russia With Love (1963) What, you thought I’d skip Connery again? No chance. The Great Scot’s second turn as Bond falls just short of Goldfinger and Dr. No. But Lotte Lenya’s Kleb, with that dagger in her shoe, is the toughest female 007 that ever went for Bond’s crotch. And that fight scene on a train with Connery and Robert Shaw is one for the time capsule.
OK, you’ve heard my picks and my arguments. Now let’s hear yours.