10 Spoiler-Free Thoughts About James Bond: No Time To Die
I'm just out of seeing the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, at the Empire Cineworld IMAX screen in Leicester Square. So what are my first ten thoughts?
1. A Braver Bond
There are going to be a lot of spoilers to avoid for this movie. That's not usually the case with a Bond film, but this takes a couple of twists that others have avoided. The kind of stories that James Bond movies are not supposed to tell, for fear they may break the franchise, but this takes on both, it's the bravest Bond since On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It will most definitely divide opinion, generate all manner of clickbait headlines, and dominate social media. Honestly, if you are living in a territory that doesn't get No Time To Die for a couple of weeks, I would get off the internet now. I'm not going to do any significant spoilerage in this, but others will not be so reticent. And, of course, you may always be able to read between the lines below. But yes, he says the thing about his name, the thing about martinis, and he wears a tux. They even recreate the gun barrel scene during the action…
2. Mary Whitehouse's James Bond Experience
James Bond does like to throw in a British pop culture figure for a brief role. In this case, Hugh Dennis – real name Pete Dennis – is happy to pop up. Star of The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Punt And Dennis, The Now Show, My Hero, and most significantly for the new cinema-going audience, Outnumbered, Hugh Dennis is also one of the most ubiquitous voiceovers in the land, from PC World and Curry's to Sainsbury's to Fairy Liquid. But it's not washing up detergent he is piecing together in the lab, but Herakles, the biological weapon at the heart of No Time To Die.
3. Where Are The Bond Women?
Without Judi Dench as Bond's boss, Bond films rarely pass the Bechdel Test. No Time To Die does so in spades, without ever keeping Bond off-screen and still having everyone playing their role in reaction to him. There is a definite Phoebe Waller-Bridge mark, whether in lines from the new 007 to James Bond, "I'll shoot you in the knee. The one that still works," or announcing "I'll bring my gloves" before getting closer to Blofeld that anyone would like. But wider. We have women and men agents acting in equity, without disregarding their individual physical attributes. A lot will be written about Lashana Lynch as the new 007, but Ana de Armas and the returning Léa Seydoux and Naomie Harris are just as gripping on the screen, even if it's always James Bond who will be left with the final bullet. Everyone gets saved, gets a chance to save, or dies trying. Definitely Bond Women, but only insomuch as Daniel Craig is a Bond Man.
4. SPECTRE Gets A SPECTRE
There's always one good way in popular fiction to rapidly establish the threat credentials of a new bad guy, and that's how they deal with the old bad guy. SPECTRE has a history of placing people in key organisations to turn them to the greater cause at a moment's notice. Well, what if someone placed someone else in SPECTRE to do the same to them? Wouldn't that make them threat numero uno?
5. Revenge Is A Dish Best Served On The Rocks
An eye for an eye, and the whole world is blind. Take revenge on one person, and you place a target on your head from their family and a target on their head from your extended family. And so it grows. This movie begins in the snow, reminiscent of both The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldeneye for very different reasons; it ends in the sunshine, but there is a lot of slush to get through. And nothing churns it up like someone else's unresolved pain, taking it out on the whole world. Rami Malek is the Phantom Of The Opera as Bond villain, full of performance but soulful and introspective. However, it is all serving a cause, and he always remains a step ahead of his foe – or foes.
6. An Extended Family For James
However, revenge for the dead is just one aspect of family matters that obsess this film. Those we share genes with, those we share lives with, whether through our DNA (excellent opening sequence with guns forming the stems of chromosomes) or through shared experience, family is the most crucial theme in this film, so much so that it is specifically weaponised by the bad guys and designed to hurt. James Bond is a character meant to be devoid of pressure points, Daniel Craig's Bond has never been that, and in No Time To Die, those points are squeezed harder than ever. Because, yes, James Bond did have a brother, and more…
7. A Very British Scandal
Especially when it's the sins of the parents revisited upon the sons as far as MI6 is concerned. Actions taken by the secret services away from prying eyes that come back to bite. The sun never set on the British Empire; it just went underground, into the sewers with all the other shit. And where crocodiles are waiting to take a bite. This is Britain's mess and Britain's job to clean up, whatever the price.
8. James Bond: Endgame
Not everyone gets to do a "five years later." Endgame did, and so does No Time To Die. I have to say everyone looks relatively fit and healthy still for it. And while the sun may be setting on the empire, it is not on Daniel Craig's hairline. And the film continues the kind of expansive landscapes that, I must confess, do look better on an IMAX screen. If that sun must set, it's best to go as big as possible. And always good to look at London through the eyes of James Bond, even when that's the Hammersmith Bridge rather than Vauxhall.
9. Anyone Seen Q's Profile On Grindr?
It may be notable that Ben Wishaw's Q is dating and dating men, but he remains the man who glues the whole team together. Loyal to friends and to the firm, at every stage, he remains the main man. The gadgets may be outlandish, but they all seem achievable, are all used, and serve a point; everything but the crockery. It is also notable that, underline other franchises trying to hit the modern world, Bond's tech remains relatively dated. I don't mean a couple of years ago when it was made but over a decade. Phones are for phoning, or receiving messages. Cars are for driving, and maybe knocking other care with. And while there are eyes on the diplomatic nature of actions taken by Bond, no one is concerned about how it's going over on social media.
10. James Bond Will… What, Again?
I mentioned what Alan Moore said about James Bond in his introduction to Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. But he also talked more generally about the concept of the constantly regenerating pop culture figures through history, and the problem with Batman. It could also be the problem with James Bond. He wrote "All of our best and oldest legends recognize that time passes and that people grow old and die. The legend of Robin Hood would not be complete without the final blind arrow shot to determine the site of his grave. The Norse Legends would lose much of their power were it not for the knowledge of an eventual Ragnarok, as would the story of Davy Crockett without the existence of an Alamo… With Dark Knight, time has come to the Batman and the capstone that makes legends what they are, has finally been fitted." There is no post-credit scene. But those who know how The Dark Knight Returns ended will be hanging on for those final post-credit words, so familiar but now given such greater emphasis. "James Bond Will Return." You'll want to stay for them, now more than ever. After all, as Louis Armstrong sings at the beginning and end, there may be no time to die, but we have all the time in the world to think about what happens next…,