No Time To Die: Long Awaited Bond
*Loads of spoilers ahead — basically don’t read it til you’ve seen the film*
I couldn’t wait for friends or for Bond any longer. Enough — 30th September I was there!
Battered Bond. Therapy Bond? COVID Bond? Blown up Bond? What the Heck Bond? Bond we’ve socially distanced long enough….
I waited a year and a half for this Bond — the trailers looked better and better and every time COVID and Lockdowns pushed this Bond further and further back. But now Bond is back…or is he? The cinematography is sumptuous. Having just learnt about different cinema shots, I’m keen to apply my knowledge. Loads of big, wide screen establishing shots. Camera is BIG in this film. The locations look wonderful. This Bond is less angsty and intelligent than previous recent Bonds — this is a return to the fun Bonds of Connery and Moore with a crazed villain in a strange and impossible lair threatening the entire world.
Bond is monogamous — suddenly a family guy, challenged by a female 007 (who is essentially him, but a black woman); M has had a conscience wobble; the women have the best fight scenes, even in a gravity defying dress and the best cars, and in some kind of strange feminist revenge movie, blow up Bond and the whole patriarchal world threatening system, cos Bond is poison, right? I won’t mention the mechanical eyeballs! or Blofeld’s strange of strange villain holding pens…(a whole new level here)…
It lacked the slickness of recent Bonds in terms of fight scenes — they tended to be throw everything at Bond (mostly Land Rovers — and occasionally a squashed villain) and the women definitely had better fight scenes; Bond had returned to Casino Royale style rough and ready mode. There were some tremendous stunts, and a wince inducing scene where a lovely DB5 is pumped full of lead, (though it has surprises of it own, being part car and well part Dalek), leading to a ’70s Aston (boxy and a bit nasty, which I learn is the V8 Vantage — it’s an ugly looking, flash thing as a non-coupe). The other 007 gets a better, faster Aston — super sleek Valhalla no less, and the cars do look good. Bond’s ‘wife’ with the best Aston…But there are generally less cars, more Land Rovers and motorbikes (Harleys?) and helicopters…not to mention sea planes! Thankfully Commander Bond has a spare current model DBS stashed away with Jack.
I’ve come away from this feeling cheated somewhat — I longed for a new Bond film, with well, more Bond, more set pieces, peril and bangs and whizzes and stylised fights, and instead they’ve blown him up! But this was the same kind of jolt and reaction that Skyfall gave me so we’ll see what a couple more watches do. It also is audacious — destroy your own franchise and makes Craig a completely memorable Bond — clever marketing move all round.
It was a bit like the best bits of Bond — long drive scenes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service along twisty roads; poison gardens from Dr No; Land Rover chases from all those 1980s and 1990s reboot Bonds; sea planes from 1970s Moore Bonds; the other 007 is also a bit Honor Blackman — flying her own super jet with Bond as passenger; and every base explosion ever (all those Connery movies). Only they didn’t let him stagger out of the dust and explosions to die another day — it was time to die. And I’m not sure if this is a woman’s revenge on the Bond franchise or truly a COVID Bond with all its secret labs spreading viruses which take out the population through relationship, touch or closeness. It also didn’t have a beautiful Thomas Newman score this time (Skyfall’s was pretty darn perfect); but Bondian plot with a Bond twist — the wife gets to live, whilst Bond dies. Live and let die? Hmmm…. And perhaps a prolific composer as Hans Zimmer just makes it all look too easy — this isn’t as slick as Skyfall and Spectre were, but references We Have All The Time In The World a lot. Clearly we don’t…
There was some truly atrocious dialogue; given that the script was written by a woman — Moneypenny was also shamefully wasted. I did like the Cuban trainee — who was not only nervous, but very impressive after three weeks training and an improbable dress. More could have been done with the other 007 character — after all the hype, she was essential a female Bond — just as letchy, admired and power driven and rule breaking. More could have been done here. Tanner, Q and M were also shamefully wasted — tho Bond, Moneypenny and Q did provide some light relief through Q’s spoiled dinner party plans!
Hugh Dennis grated as much as John Cleese did — but the science, labs and viruses were all a bit too close for comfort. Perhaps also Skyfall and Spectre were so iconic in their look, feel, characterisation, sound and take on Bond that they’re hard to beat. This is a much more fun Bond, but it also feels like a more hotch-potch Bond using all the best bits and lines from other Bonds (frozen lakes and twisty moor chases from Skyfall; music from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that twisty road drive; Italy from Casino Royale) — although it does have the beautiful art house look and very strange villains from Quantum of Solace. Also this was a movie made in and around COVID, so perhaps it’s a way of honouring the millions in that just as family and local heroes died, so does Bond.
Have just remembered that in one of the books, Bond is blown up and thought dead, only to rise again. Though poisoned, I’m sure the old dog has new tricks. I’d love to see diverse Bond — Dev Patel would be a really unique Bond, and diversity increasing in all places, including Oxbridge — a diverse Bond is possible. I’m not sure about the female 007 here — while she was a fun character, does making a woman sexist, lecherous and offensive equal empowerment? More work to do here. I’d like to see the Cuban rookie get her own franchise — she was lot of fun and not as marketing portrays her. Just as I can’t forgive them for dispatching Matthias, so here ditto with Felix Leiter. And poor old Vesper has suffered enough, with her tomb being blown up in this one. And a better score please — in a teaser, we (the audience) wait ages for the opening credits, which are a bit odd (even in Bond terms).
Raimi Malek was a terrific and terrifying villain and frankly deserved more screen time than he got. So much to be written on fathers from this movie — good and bad fathers, true and false ones and what family is! The opening parts of this movie are both terrific and terrifying. I am concerned about the childhood memories Mathilde Bond is going to live with, and also the snotty crying Lea Seydoux had to do. But in a reverse sexist twist, it’s Bond’s body all over the place, whilst Bond women are mostly covered and clothed, and again, is this more empowering or better? Tho ‘nough respect to Bond’s pecs! and yet another Ursula Andress Bond moment. Nice to see Bond’s battered china bulldog back (hello Jack!) and although there were some jokes, better dialogue please and frankly back to the stylised fight scenes please — though the Italian chase was a lot of fun — (Bond is no respecter of Italian religious festivals). Just given how long this movie was — more could have been done with it, and why was Raimi not getting away as we saw — what was his character even doing hanging around there? There are jokes such as Bond asking Madeleine if she’s going to reveal another child? (that’s not his…or is it?) and this is a much more light hearted Bond. London looks fantastic. The ending is Skyfall all over again with more poetry and clinking of glasses, but lacks the pathos and gravitas of the first time — it feels a bit rushed really, and we end with the story beginning. But surely poisoned Bond has a future?
Clearly I’ve become some kind of Bond purist now so I am off to watch the Bond back catalogue and revel in the Bond that was…and still wondering what the heck did I just watch? And I guess that’s part of it — Bond is escapist, anti-reality fun — it’s all come down to earth with a big COVID bump and blowing up toxic masculinity. On a positive, the Billie Eilish title song is a cracker.
Thoughts on Bond on a second viewing. There are more set pieces and fights than I thought there were, but most of it is brutalist Casino Royale/ Quantum style grappling/strangling. The grenades up and down the staircase are funny. Very Dr No in its island lair base, worker family and poison garden; also Casino/Quantum homages in many staircase shoot/fight offs. As locations — Italy, Cuba, Norway and Jamaica look amazing. Some of the rugby scrum fights are dull. But Skyfall and Spectre were super stylised and epic — this is a different kind of Bond. The camera loves channelling Sean Connery through Craig.
M has still had a complete character transformation; he is a bit wasted in this one and seems to have lost all his conscience and sensitivity from previous movies. Why did Q forget to give Bond body armour, instead just a jumper? He’s always managed before….
Given this is pre-COVID — falling statues, messy British Empire unfinished business and plagues through touch/breathing and albeit DNA….
Boxy Vantage is still ugly — but from the front, mostly. Back view is much better. Craig does best donut ever (but in a lovely DB5!)
More jokes. Moneypenny still shamefully wasted.
007 as a woman needs more work as a character cos mostly annoying, though the sniping between the two 007s is fun…Still some slushy dialogue that the cast bash through. M vs Bond and Blofeld vs Bond are almost Shakespearean. Raimi Malek is a terrific villain, but really needed more scenes — what was his masterplan, grudge all about and why was he hanging about at the end having seemingly already left? Did he forget to pack the Monets? Why does he want to parent Madeleine’s child so much, apart from pure spite? What is his hold over Madeleine apart from having saved her life?
Craig saves the world, his err and Dou Dou. He deals with the many hilarious villains with aplomb!
My issue is with the Range Rover/Land Rover and a helicopter chase off. Like Skyfall without finesse til they get out of the darn things — more Astons please! Just slow — better when Bond starts tripping people up in the mist and squashing them.
They still blow up Bond, and kill off Felix Leiter😞 and I’m really struggling to deal with the ending. It’s very unsatisfying for a Bond movie.
It’s quite an alternative sexist movie — women are pretty darn perfect, make good choices and rule the world; men — flawed, damaged, damagers, better dead. Quite a worrying message. Exceptions are Madeleine Swann and Q.
Tanner still says his ridiculous lines with a straight face — the fact that he manages is a wonder; and also doing this whilst the Q, Tanner, Monneypenny dynamic is wasted, is something…
Also Q — flawless!
Overall hope this is feminisation of Bond as Doctor Who was… more staged fights and blowing up things please and surviving implausible situations! I am possibly spoilt by Fast and Furious movies which are so epic in their staging that nothing can compete.
Hans Zimmer’s score is more supporting than standalone as Thomas Newmans were — but it does have it moments, such as the 007 theme tune when he opens the door and stands framed in a circle.
Cinematography is amazing — wonderful light and shadow in each scene; Madeleine is always enveloped in golden light pretty much! Can’t remember why Blofeld hates Bond so much… Sack Q for not providing any protective kit! Dou Dou lives! White top in a green forest — come on Bond?!!!! Also Bond’s terrible RP heavy Italian — he’d be fluent as a master spy, not a clunky Brit abroad. Cannot cannot forgive the ending….Plus far too many Land Rovers….