In the end, it was a romance all along.

I don’t strictly mean a love story, although love — or at least sex — has been an integral part of the James Bond formula since the year dot. I mean in the literary sense, the legendary sense, almost the medieval sense: Commander Bond as knight errant and loyal servant of the crown, slaying dragons (or at least monstrous villains — the deformed visages of Bond’s rogues gallery puts them on par with the ogres and goblins of myth) for Queen and country. Bond’s adventures, especially on the screen, have existed on the other end of a spectrum on which John le Carré’s works have been the counterbalance. 007’s exploits are heightened, operatic, grand, and measured in emotion rather than that most useless of cinematic yardsticks, realism (imagine a “realistic” James Bond film). Bond might turn a double agent, expose a mole, or indulge in any number of other lowkey bits of tradecraft, but only as an element of a greater goal: get the girl, kill the baddie (preferably in his volcanic or aquatic lair), and save the world.

In No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as James Bond, our hero gets to do all that and more. He gets to do everything James Bond should do, and he gets to do things no James Bond has ever done before. It’s a remarkable bit of business. Everyone involved — director Cary Joji Fukunaga; screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge; the exceptional cast, cinematographer Linus Sandgren; all the way down to craft services, for all that I know — understood the assignment.

Craig’s tenure has weathered accusations of unevenness, but to my eyes, the output hasn’t been any shakier, film for film and pound for pound, than any prior Bond. I’m actually out of step with the critical consensus on it, anyway; loved Casino Royale (2006), didn’t mind either Quantum of Solace (2008) or Spectre (2015), didn’t rate Skyfall (2012) at all. For that latter opinion, my issue was that, to me, the stakes in a Bond flick should never be personal, or at least only secondarily so. He’s an instrument of the state, completely bound to his duty, and his great strength as a hero has always been that dedication. Indeed, many of his better villains have been villainous because they failed in their duty. “For England, James.” As Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) once said. Skyfall, with its indebtedness to Bond’s personal history, its climax at Bond’s ancestral home, contravened that. So too did Spectre, with its insistence on giving arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) a personal grudge against Bond, but that bothered me less at the time.

o Die (2021)

Date: November 10, 2021Author: Mr. Movie1 Comment

No Time to Die (2021)

The mission that changes everything begins …

In the end, it was a romance all along.

I don’t strictly mean a love story, although love — or at least sex — has been an integral part of the James Bond formula since the year dot. I mean in the literary sense, the legendary sense, almost the medieval sense: Commander Bond as knight errant and loyal servant of the crown, slaying dragons (or at least monstrous villains — the deformed visages of Bond’s rogues gallery puts them on par with the ogres and goblins of myth) for Queen and country. Bond’s adventures, especially on the screen, have existed on the other end of a spectrum on which John le Carré’s works have been the counterbalance. 007’s exploits are heightened, operatic, grand, and measured in emotion rather than that most useless of cinematic yardsticks, realism (imagine a “realistic” James Bond film). Bond might turn a double agent, expose a mole, or indulge in any number of other lowkey bits of tradecraft, but only as an element of a greater goal: get the girl, kill the baddie (preferably in his volcanic or aquatic lair), and save the world.

The past isn’t dead.

In No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as James Bond, our hero gets to do all that and more. He gets to do everything James Bond should do, and he gets to do things no James Bond has ever done before. It’s a remarkable bit of business. Everyone involved — director Cary Joji Fukunaga; screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge; the exceptional cast, cinematographer Linus Sandgren; all the way down to craft services, for all that I know — understood the assignment.

Craig’s tenure has weathered accusations of unevenness, but to my eyes, the output hasn’t been any shakier, film for film and pound for pound, than any prior Bond. I’m actually out of step with the critical consensus on it, anyway; loved Casino Royale (2006), didn’t mind either Quantum of Solace (2008) or Spectre (2015), didn’t rate Skyfall (2012) at all. For that latter opinion, my issue was that, to me, the stakes in a Bond flick should never be personal, or at least only secondarily so. He’s an instrument of the state, completely bound to his duty, and his great strength as a hero has always been that dedication. Indeed, many of his better villains have been villainous because they failed in their duty. “For England, James.” As Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) once said. Skyfall, with its indebtedness to Bond’s personal history, its climax at Bond’s ancestral home, contravened that. So too did Spectre, with its insistence on giving arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) a personal grudge against Bond, but that bothered me less at the time.

We’ve been expecting you …

Now, No Time to Die reveals that making it personal was the point all along, so more fool me. No Time to Die contextualizes what has gone before, revealing that it’s the first time that a single Bond actor’s films have been a complete arc with a satisfying resolution. The Bond movies have largely operated free of continuity except for the occasional Easter egg for fans and to fuel the insane ramblings of the “James Bond is a code name” crowd. We were with Craig’s Bond when he made his 00 bones at the beginning of Casino Royale a full fifteen years ago, and we now follow him through to …

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