I have just watched the latest James Bond film – “No Time To Die”.
I confess a near lifelong fascination with James Bond, ever since I came across him at Senior School and the film, “Goldfinger” had just come out. Me and my peers were captivated with so much of it. Not only with the gadgets, the audacity of the hero and ingenuity of the plots and the fascinating characters, especially the villains. I was fascinated with the villain, Odd Job, and his boss, Goldfinger, who was one of the more credible in a long line villains, and I rather liked villainess turned good gal, Pussy Galore. But I was especially drawn to James Bond the man. I was attracted by his bravery, coolness, resourcefulness, self-assurance and because these were areas I was having trouble with, him standing up to bullies and his way with the girls. James Bond was the man I wanted to be! I liked the idea of him being the one to save the world from the dastardly designs of the bad guys, and while I saw in him character flaws (e.g. I saw his relation to gratuitous sex and violence as wrong), I loved the guy!
Around that time, I landed a job as school librarian. One of my jobs was to order books for the new library and introduce them into the library system. I ensured that we ordered all the Ian Fleming James Bond books and, moreover, during my time I read all of them, and in later years could reflect in which ways the books differed or not from the films. Also, over the years, I got to see all of the James Bond films, some more than once, and yesterday I saw the latest, “No Time To Die”. It had been long anticipated, with the delay in its release being due to Corona lockdown and the film makers no doubt wanting to maximize their profits. I rarely go to the cinema these days, but decided this was an exception – noting another example of technology taking over, e.g. buy tickets online and no ticket office.
My verdict was that while the film had its moments (I liked linking with the past and raising moral dilemmas such as secrecy around weapons of mass destruction) but overall it was a disappointment. One put off was three times the Lord’s name was taken in vain, a first (I think) for Bond films. I think I understood the early plots e.g. the first three: Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger but No Time To Die was beyond me. I still think Sean Connery made a lot more convincing Bond than Daniel Craig. If I were to rate the actors who played Bond, Sean Connery would be at the top, followed by Piers Bronson, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby. I would have to think further when it comes to rating films, but Goldfinger would be near, maybe at, the top and No Time To Die toward the bottom. As for Daniel Craig’s five Bond films, I put Skyfall at the top, followed by For Your Eyes Only, Spectre, No Time To Die and Quantum Of Solace. But of course times have changed over sixty years, like the more assertive role of women in society (an interesting foil to the early Bond and his author’s male chauvinism) and the advance of gay rights, with the hint Q might be gay, and huge changes in societal attitudes, the world scene and massive advances in technology for films to latch onto. Interestingly and pertinently in the light of the “pandemic”, the method the bad guy used this time for his dastardly designs was a bio weapon that went after the victims’ DNA and, just like villains before him, it was meant to be used to help him take over the world.
I was unconvinced and felt several aspects of the story rather lame, including the way various characters met their end. But there were moments, like the reading of profound poetry at the end, which reminded me of another Bond movie and one that I quite liked – Skyfall. Violence was there in abundance, as one might expect, but not much sex was seen in this film and, as for gadgets, these were underwhelming. But it was the unconvincing story line and the wooden like characterisation that I found to be most off putting. In fairness, characters who were there from the beginning of Bond films, i.e. M, Q and Moneypenny, while much different to how I once perceived them to be, did put in credible performances – sad about Bond’s pal, Felix, though and the way he met his end, but like Bond bowed out as a hero! Along with the villains and two female secret agents, I felt characters were undeveloped due to cramming too much into the film, and making the plot over complicated, for paradoxically the film was on the long side. But I did like the stunts!
While I am glad to get it out of my system, compared with many of the Bond movies from the past, No Time To Die was decidedly not one of the better ones, and am happy to say goodbye to Daniel Craig, wondering who will replace him, mindful that the public are still interested in Bond and for the film makers – money to be milked!