BY ANDREW MOODY
Ever since Casino Royale (2006), the first of five movies with Daniel Craig playing James Bond, there has been something progressive about his take on Ian Fleming’s legendary spy. Connery was smooth and savage, Roger Moore a comic gentleman with a twinkle in his eye, George Lazenby (in only one Bond movie) hamstrung with a diabolical script; Timothy Dalton irritated and out of his depth, Pierce Brosnan, handsome, if at little self-obsessed.
The 25th Bond film No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final turn as MI6 Agent James Bond 007, has been received with almost total critical and audience praise.
Craig’s Bond has had a different flavour from the outset. A trained stage performer, and a talented supporting actor in superior films like Road To Perdition (2002) and Steven Spielberg’s Mossad themed Munich (2005), he was not a pretty boy like Connery or Brosnan, but gave the appearance (with his gym sculpted body) of a genuine military operative, his butcher blue eyes almost always giving the impression of some serious emotional trauma.
After a turbulent few years developing No Time To Die, which saw the film’s release set back due to the Covid Pandemic, director Cary Joji Fukunaga told interviewers:
“The world’s changed. The rules of engagement aren’t what they used to be. The rules of espionage are darker in this era of asymmetric warfare.”
He compared the character of James Bond in the film to a “wounded animal.”
One of the film’s producers, Barbara Broccoli was asked by reporters about the Post-Weinstein #MeToo movement at the launch of Bond 25, where she maintained that the film would change with the times, and Bond’s legendary philandering would be a thing of the past. One of the four writers of the movie, Pheobe Waller-Bridge argued that Bond was still relevant and that “he needs to be true to this character“, and “the important thing is that the film treats the women properly“.
Much is refreshingly different about this movie, with Nomi (Lashana Lynch) a black, female 00 agent who has been given Bond’s 007 title and an openly gay Q (Ben Whislaw) who is interrupted before a night in with his boyfriend to help out Bond and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) with yet another mission to save the world. Harris was quoted as saying:
“Moneypenny has grown up somewhat. I think she still has her soft spot for Bond though, that’s never going to go. But she’s an independent woman with her own life.”
Even the (marvellous) title song, No Time To Die, was written and performed by Billie Eilish, a constantly outspoken proponent of female, trans and queer empowerment.
I hate most of the big Hollywood movies, typically some kind of badly written, CGI comic book adaptation with some ageing star staking their claim to a role in the Netflix spin off. Whenever the CGI set-pieces begin in these lousy movies, they are rarely key to the narrative arc of the characters. No Time To Die features refreshingly engaging action sequences, the director Cary Joji Fukunaga and cinematographer Linus Sandgren pushed for the use of 65mm IMAX film cameras over standard digital to enhance the look of the movie, and the emotionally satisfying action set pieces do push the story forward.
If you’re one of those people who always liked how Un-PC the James Bond movies have typically been, and all the strict adherence to identity politics sounds like a recipe for disaster, you needn’t worry. There are still the trademark Bondian set-pieces with luxury, souped-up, bullet-proof vehicles and dizzying motorcycle chases, state of the art mobile phones and watches, mesmerising combat sequences, but for once there is an active intelligence behind the filmmaking. No Time to Die is determined to subvert the Bond narrative for a politically correct audience, and with a current Box Office of over £600 million (and a litany of glowing reviews), the filmmakers have succeeded in making a truly affecting and original spin on the franchise.
As the Covid Pandemic has developed, it was clear from the (relatively large) audience I saw No Time To Die with that they, and I, thoroughly enjoyed it. Over the past few years of lockdown, booster jabs, face masks, quarantine and endless uncertainty, for British viewers at least (who still hold James Bond in great regard) the movie is evidently a welcome, early Christmas treat.