No Time to Die (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2021)
I confess I’ve lost track of which Bond films I’ve seen — they were Christmas and Easter and Bank Holiday films and ITV had a phase of showing them on a Sunday afternoon. They followed a familiar pattern, a precredit sequence full of stunts, Bond being sent on a mission by M and being geared up by Q, a car chase that graduated to a lot of cars chasing, to helicoptors chasing, the entire Russian army chasing on skis, seemingly unable to shoot one man. And thence to a volcano base, and a final confrontation and a big bang. And along the way, one liners and a several Martinis and a bit of the old in-out with a girl thirty or forty years his junior.
And then Daniel Craig came along, with a new grittiness and, if not political correctness, then perhaps more caution. There was a female M and (apparently) a gay Q and Bond was allowed to love. At some point there was someone called Vesper and he love her, yeah, yeah, yeah, but now she’s dead and a few movies later Bond is retired with another girl, Madelaine (Léa Seydoux), in a picturesque Italian village… but that is to get ahead of ourselves.
There’s sequence with a girl being terrified in Norway by Michael Myers — only she speaks French and can use a gun. Perhaps she’s not as helpless as we think. But, hei, det er Norge, and the Atreides family live just across the fjord and the Tenet crew are living backwards around the corner, and was it the Avengers? (The fake ones, not the ones with bowler hats one of whom looks like M who is now not a woman.)
Anyway, Bond falls out with Madelaine Swann, so he goes in search of lost time on a tropical island, refuses an offer from Felix Leiter (who died in an earlier film) and picks up a young woman who will later turn out to be 007 (Lashana Lynch). And thence to Cuba and a mission where lots of SPECTRE agents die and we finally find the real plot.
This seems to involve him being chased by someone on a motorcycle, then a car, then lots of cars and then helicoptors, and all of them must have been trained by stormtroopers and a showdown with Mr Big under a volcano. Mountain. Abandoned missile base.
Swann is back in town and can sometimes rescue herself, and has a moppet in tow and Bond is in lurve but…
…but early on, Bond has said they have all the time in the world, and Louis Armstrong is on the car stereo and you are transported back to On His Majesty’s Secret Service, the best of the Bond films.
So, we’re tying up lose ends from fiklms, some of which I’ve never seen, and we know that this is Craig’s last Bond film, so sooner or later he’s going to fall off a giant radio telescope into a cave of giant spiders. It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Sadly, we don’t get to see the regeneration scene.
The problem is, of course, this is a character who can’t exactly develop as he picks up the plot coupons. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been imported, and you suspect she has written all those feisty women who never quite get enough to do — notably a newbie Cuban agent (Ana de Armas) who risks walking away with the film. For that matter, so does 007, who seems to feel our exasperation but has to play second fiddle. In an earlier film, or in its trailer, Bond is called a relic, and there’s always going to be a tension between the knowledge that representation has come a long way in sixty years (the first four novels in the sequence have not dated well) and the plot by numbers requires something shallow.