If the new Belvedere Vodka commercial, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Taika Waititi, was a scene outside of Craig’s latest movie, it would be the best scene in the movie, or at least everyone’s talking about. Then again, no one would mistake it for a movie scene. The commercial has a viral, postmodern aesthetic—it’s two minutes of bliss frozen in time. As Craig dances and dances in a luxury hotel in Paris, he becomes the rare commercial in which a movie star is not used to selling a product as much as he uses advertising to sell a makeover in his own image. Yes, the extended niche is selling vodka, and perhaps Craig earned a salary that leaves most movie stars’ salaries in the dust. However, this is all off topic. Advertising is Craig’s way of announcing who he is, or may be, now that he’s done with the role of James Bond.
Of course, Craig has a movie about to come out, so you could say “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Sequel,” in which he returns as noble Southern detective Benoit Blanc, is all the picture-up he needs. Over the past 16 years, Craig has never done that Just It was James Bond. In addition to Blank, he has played Mikael Blomqvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a safe cracker game on Broadway’s “Logan Lucky” and Iago. However, the Bond brand is so legendary, and Craig has bonded so strongly with it, because he’s such a wonderful actor, that it can feel like it’s the only role he’s ever played. When an actor is sealed in the series, a question hovers over his future stardom: can he escape an image of Bond even now tangled in his DNA?
Sean Connery, the greatest actor to have played Bond before Craig, took a long time to find his footing after leaving 007 behind. When you look at the actor Connery has finally come to (in films as diverse as “The Man Who Would Be King,” “The Russian House,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and “The Rock”) the hilarious, violent magnetism is unleashed by a post-Bundian Elan. I suspect Craig would do a version of the same thing; He would build his post-Bond career on the identity that Bond forged from his innate courage. This is the moment when he first serves that identity with a touch, a shake, and maybe even a move.
Here’s a great fun about Belvedere commercial. Craig plays “himself” as he wanders around the hotel in a funky, hot and interesting dance club fashion. Not James Bond, but the joke is that it looks like Bond is doing it. Craig replaces Bond’s strict masculinity with a different kind of masculinity, a more sexually fluid kind. However, if you look at his worn granite face, it is the same as the King’s strong man. In the advertisement, his face tells a story and his body tells another. The story the ad tells is about the dialogue between the two.
In opening moments, the camera approaches Craig from behind as he stands on a bridge staring at the Seine, dressed in a white suit and open white shirt. Why white? Because this comes after No Time to Die, where Bond died and (presumably) went to heaven. As the ad’s adorable original song, composed by Rita Ora and Griggs, bursts into ecstasy, the camera rolls around Craig, letting us drink in the intensity of his features, split off by a quick smile that lets you know he’s just playing.
Hitting an army of paparazzi (in other words: still James Bond), he slips into the back of a Rolls-Royce and then out the other side, now wearing a black tank top, silver hip-hop chain, sunglasses, and a black leather jacket that looks like he’s made for a copy. New to Kenneth Unger from George Michael’s “Faith” video. As he walked along the cobbled bridge, the message was that Craig had been reborn – as the roughest piece of rough trade I had ever seen. But sometimes, even rough trading just wants to have fun. As he throws the sunglasses away, he extends his arms and shakes a little, feels the rhythm, then struts forward, feels it a little more, grabs a handkerchief from the hotel concierge and smirks at his face in sweat. I’m way too sexy.
Waititi, the talented director of “Thor: Ragnarok” and its sequel “Thor: Love and Thunder,” is a passionate and devious director all at once. Apparently he envisioned the Belvedere commercial as a tribute to Spike Jonze’s adorable 2001 video of Fatboy Slim and Bootsy Collins’ “Weapon of Choice”—in which Christopher Walken featured his unusual dance moves as he swayed and shimmered his way through an empty luxury hotel. Walken was 58 years old when he starred in this video; Although he has a background in singing and dancing, not many people knew about it. The video played out the contrast between his slick, middle-aged features (and everything Walken-as-robotic-hardass that’s already starting to parody) and the incredible agility of his movements.
The Belvedere commercial does a different version of the same thing. Craig, now 54, has a wrinkled aura that was part of his charm like Bond. The malicious comedy of advertising is that a guy who looks like this isn’t supposed to dance like that. Craig still looks like he’s about to kill someone, but in the commercial, he taps his fingers, pushes his hips, struts, dances, dances, removes layers of clothing, and walks on water. He’s Bond, that perfect twentieth-century creature, resurrected and reborn as the aging (and possibly ageless) boy of twenty-first-century parties. In the end, the commercial brought him back to where he started (sipping an iced vodka and saying “finally,” as if those dance moves were the work he had to work his way up to earn that drink). But Waititi tops it all off with an inspiring kicker, letting us know that Daniel Craig, with a quick flash of a gangster grin—that’s not really—a grin, will always be too cool for the room.
What this portends for Craig’s future is anyone’s guess. Can he do a musical? why not? Will he play characters more beautiful than Bond? The world, at this point, has oysters served with chilled vodka. But the real point is that Daniel Craig has happy demons inside of him that he no longer needs to keep. When he lets them out, they can become a part of his character as an actor. What he tells us, with a wink, “You think you only know me.” And that no one does it better.
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