Total Recall: Daniel Craig's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Cowboys and Aliens star.
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 a slew of films on the horizon -- including Dream House, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Bond 23, and this weekend's Cowboys and Aliens -- Craig is busier than ever, so we decided now would be the perfect time to take a 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...
With striking, mostly black-and-white imagery and unique motion-capture animation, Renaissance hit screens as a sort of cross between Sin City and Richard Linklater's Waking Life -- only instead of noir action or metaphysical drama, it offered viewers the twisted sci-fi tale of a cop (voiced by Daniel Craig in the English-language version) who finds himself embroiled in the mysterious disappearance of a scientist (Romola Garai). For most critics, the end result wasn't as interesting as its premise, but Renaissance drew praise from writers such as Maitland McDonaugh of TV Guide, who offered a qualified recommendation: "The script's fusion of B-movie crime cliches and dystopian futurism, if not exactly original, is nonetheless vigorously engaging, and the English-language voice cast is good enough to make the existential noodling seem like real dialogue."
We've seen dozens and dozens of movies about World War II, and yet there are amazing (and reality-based) stories that remain untold for years. Case in point: 2008's Defiance, the first film to focus on the underground Jewish army known as the Bielski partisans. Living in underground forest bunkers and operating with little to no outside help, this group eventually helped save over a thousand Jews during the war -- an amazing story and one that should have made for a powerful, deeply moving film. Alas, it was not to be; instead, Defiance was greeted with a surprising number of critical shrugs (the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle quipped that "It's difficult, perhaps impossible, to make a gripping 137-minute epic about people standing around under the trees") and a paltry $55 million gross. Still, it wasn't without its fans -- like Mike Scott of the Times-Picayune, who wrote, "In addition to blowing bunker-sized holes in the concept of Jewish timidity during the Holocaust, it's also a darn good bit of period storytelling."
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."
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."
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."