Layer Cake by Matthew Vaughn (2004)

Daniel Craig is an unnamed character at his most magnetic best. He plays a drug dealer on his last job before ‘retirement’. How many times have we seen this in cinema. One last bank robbery, one last deal, and then the protagonist will live happily ever after. How often does the last job go right? And how often does it go wrong? Exactly.

In agreement with the gangster movie genre, nothing goes right and everything goes wrong. As this scheme is the mainstream of the British cinema (I will hesitate to call it indie given the astronomic budget of £3m), Layer Cake gets served exceptionally fresh as compared to other films of the era.

The cinematography by Ben Davis is worth a special mention. It is not only phenomenally well put together – it is also creatively different and therefore a true feast to the eyes.

It was thanks to this role that Craig got into the competition for the next James Bond. And how accurately so. This film could work quite well as the prequel to Casino Royale, as the intro to who Bond could have been before he started to work for MI6, before he got his licence to kill.

Watching this film almost a decade after it has been made, after having seen Craig’s Bond in three episodes, it looks as if James Bond was his destiny. It is an incredibly fun thing to watch Craig as a character who hates guns, who does his first kill, who learns the tricks of outwitting his opponents. In a way he becomes a perfect gangster, who is smart enough to quit when he has mastered all there is to acquire in the business.

Costume designer (Stephanie Collie) did a huge favour to Daniel Craig. He should be grateful.

Yet again this is one more of the few (very few) films I have seen that has a voiceover I do not oppose against. I specifically like the last line of Craig’s character (XXXX – as per final credits) uttering what will later become the cult “My name’s Bond, James Bond.” At the end of the film he says: “My name? If you knew that, you’d be as clever as me.”

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