No time for tonic: Daniel Craig shows Bonds just wanna have fun in Taika Waititi vodka advert

If you have seen the new Taika Waititi-directed commercial for Belvedere Vodka, you will have almost certainly been struck by one profound, core-shaking question; is Daniel Craig actually having fun?

It certainly looks that way, doesn’t it? Although it begins as you would expect anything starring Daniel Craig to begin – there’s brooding, there’s black and white, there’s a tuxedo – it quickly bursts into life. Suddenly he’s in a leather jacket and sunglasses, sucking in his cheeks like Bet Lynch at the Rovers. He struts. He spins. He thrusts his crotch around with total impunity. He’s like Christopher Walken in the Weapon of Choice video, if Christopher Walken had been dressed like a member of Bros.

It’s a confusing thing to witness at first because, for the last decade and a half, Daniel Craig seems to have gone out of his way to present himself as Mr Intensity. He took James Bond – a film franchise full of space lasers and fake nipples and invisible cars – and turned it into a series about a monosyllabic nightclub bouncer. And this attitude persisted offscreen too; in perhaps the most famous interview of his career, Craig mournfully announced that he would rather slash his own wrists than appear as Bond again.

For the most part, the other films he made during his 007 stint didn’t try to convince us of hidden layers, either. In The Golden Compass he was flat and stoic. In Cowboys and Aliens he was flat and stoic. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo he was very flat and incredibly stoic. In fairness to the man, in all these projects he was flat and stoic in the best possible way, but he didn’t strike you as someone who would necessarily make a booze advert where he had to dry hump the interior of a hotel lift.

That is, unless you looked a little closer. Some have said that the Belvedere ad is a deliberate focus-grouped attempt to reframe Daniel Craig’s public persona. After all, he has a Knives Out sequel out imminently, and his Benoit Blanc is a much lighter character than James Bond, so this could be seen as a way to clear the decks. His Knives Out co-star Dave Bautista has been underlining this point in interviews, telling Entertainment Weekly that Craig “was really put through it on Bond. You could feel that he was under a lot of pressure. He didn’t seem like the happiest person,” whereas he was chattiness personified on the set of Knives Out. And in the commercial itself, Waititi himself pops up at the end to tell Craig to “Just be yourself”; a clunker of a line designed to reinforce the point that Daniel Craig is fun now, guys.

But I’m not sure this is quite the 180 that this view would have you believe. If you could see past the tuxedo and the glare, Daniel Craig has always had big comedy potential. This isn’t just thanks to his choice of project – although in Logan Lucky he did seem to be busting a gut to show the world that he was a wild and crazy guy – but in the decisions he made in the more serious roles he took.

Looking back at his time as Bond, you really notice what a gifted physical performer Craig is. His films, in particular the last three, were studded with moments of delicate grace. The way he tugged at his cuffs after leaping on to a train, the half-skip as he hopped off a ledge, the look of total bewilderment on his face halfway through his first big No Time to Die setpiece. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a silent-era comedy. He was really, really very good at it. And, it’s worth pointing out, he was also the funniest stormtrooper in Star Wars history.

So this vodka advert might not be the dramatic pivot that some have claimed. But it is a sign that Daniel Craig is finally enjoying himself again. Long may it last.