First the good news. It’s good. The bad news? It’s nearly two and a half hours long. Take sandwiches.
Blockbuster movies survive on opening weekends. A week or two of saturation marketing, a few interview junkets, then boom! Cashola for a couple of days. No Time To Die has been loitering in the wings for two years: Internal squabbles, casting problems and the pandemic destroying one release date after another. Billie Eilish’s title song came out last year. It’s been an overlong, interminable tease. A bit too much hoo-ha over a slightly frayed, creaky old franchise.
There have been so many trailers I’d swear I consumed the entire movie as one huge chopped salad, incomprehensible and slightly too saucy.
After showing in UK cinemas and movie theatres worldwide, then a few Christmas outings, it’ll remain on life support on a digital channel near you, joining its 24 predecessors in the video mausoleum of bad taste: bikini clad women, flared trousers, gadgetry, chauvinism and invisible cars. (Let’s not mention invisible cars. Please.)
But wait. When Craig first burst into the frame in 2006, scrapping in a pub toilet in grainy black and white, it was pretty breathtaking. Hang on old chap, you’ve just drowned that fellow in the basin! Before Casino Royale’s titles came up he just had time to shoot someone else. Craig reinvented the screen character with studied malevolence, turning it on and off at will. According to the Financial Times “even the pull of his cuffs… are performed with menace”.
He can also act. And run. Sprinting towards yet another fight, sweaty, ripped, scowling. He has screen presence. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.
According to Barbara Broccoli (the Big Cheese/Vegetable), they started shooting without a script
Craig’s enjoyed two good ones, Casino Royale and Skyfall, and two not so good ones, Spectre and Quantum of Solace, whose confused tedium was blamed on a writer’s strike. According to Barbara Broccoli (the Big Cheese/Vegetable), they started shooting without a script. I always imagined they’d finished without one too.
The new one also has a ridiculous plot. That’s because all James Bond movies have ridiculous plots. They’re cartoons for adults, fantasies which don’t require the hero to don a cape or turn into a Marvel Monstrosity. The essentials are simple enough – entertainment and wit. Just get your hands on three hundred million dollars, find a girl for our hero, a baddie or two plus a ticking clock counting down to the world being blown to smithereens. The special effects guys at Pinewood Studios will do the rest.
If that’s all that was required, this sad little British dream of Empire-era heroism would be dead and buried in its tux long ago. There’s a third essential: relevance. Those constituent parts don’t stand up on their own, so this time Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been brought in to script polish, to make sure that – like her brilliant creation Fleabag – there are zingers to make you laugh, non sequiturs and ladlefuls of self-deprecation. Bond should never been taken seriously, and if everyone is in on the joke, including the about-to-retire Daniel Craig, then it all works. Screenwriter Paul Haggis saw to that in Casino Royale. “Vodka Martini. Shaken? Stirred? Do I look like a give a damn?”
Enjoy the ride (in a variety of Aston Matins, of course), as while there are elements which annoy, don’t work, and plotlines which may seem obvious, the humour, pace, speed and Craig’s chutzpah win in the end. Just like good guys always do. Don’t they? C