Of the 28 James Bond films – including the 1954 Peter Lorre first Casino Royale, the 1967 David Niven Casino Royale which did give us the classic, Academy-Award nominee for 1968 song “The Look of Love,” and 1983’s Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery – no matter how good or bad, each made some kind of an imprint on the consciousness. The Thunder Ball remake, Never Say Never Again, is easily included in the “legitimate” Bond catalog – with MGM assuming the rights in 1997.
So why do the Daniel Craig films just go through this critic like a blur?
Live and Let Die, Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day, No Time to Die, A View to a Kill, License to Kill, the James Bond legacy should be more than 007’s permission to eradicate.
The Billie Eilish Oct 1, 2020 theme song, on YouTube with over forty-four million views, is exquisite. The best Bond theme in a while despite the rain in Spain falls mainly on the “we were a pair, but I saw you there, too much to bear…” Oh well…
The opening sequence to NTTD seems longer than the usual bait and switch routines from previous Bond films, and it drags the way a 1950s science fiction movie would irritate its young audience waiting for giant ants, giant people, or dinosaurs. As stated above, Billie Eilish’s stylish “No Time to Die” theme works beautifully, but you knew it would. Just as you knew the cinematography would be top-notch. Bond films are always eye candy, and I am talking about the scenery and the spectacular depth that are the trademark of Michael J. Wilson (whose father was the first Batman on screen, Lewis Wilson, born in Massachusetts. I reserve the right to continue the trivia in all my film reviews.)
Craig was never my favorite Bond, and the convincing intrigue of the original On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and License to Kill has been lost to the ages. We had the science fiction Roger Moore sagas, the Pierce Brosnan cool Remington Steele moments, and then Daniel Craig kind of went Mickey Spillane on us, more blood and violence than we bargained for.
As an older man, Craig actually fits the role now better than his previous outings. Can you really remember elements of Spectre (2015,) Quantum of Solace(2008,) Casino Royale (2006,) Skyfall (2012.) Like string theory, they all blend together. Heck, Sean Connery only had 9 years as bond (well, 21, if you include Never, Say Never Again,) twelve for Roger Moore, seven for Pierce Brosnan giving Craig the only actor with fifteen years of Bond in a row. Despite the pandemic pushing this new film, Die Another Day back a year.
That the film reflects the vicious COVID-19 having been made before the plague hit in 2020 (development began in 2016,) it is art reflecting life – through the George Lazenby classic 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service had the same villain, the Telly Savalas Blofeld, doing the same thing, germ warfare. That a model, Lazenby, with Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas playing cat and mouse, made such a spectacular film is its own model of how the Bond films should have proceeded. With Lazenby.
No Time To Die harkens back to the 1969 film with Craig’s Bond telling his love interest Madeline Swaan (Léa Hélène Seydoux-Fornier de Clausonne ) that they have “All the time in the world.” Lazenby’s Bond told that to Diana Rigg and we know what happened in that regard. I don’t mind that this outing is close to three hours, in fact, I believe this to be the best of the five Craig appearances as Bond. Yes, it will easily bring in the billion dollars now required, but we, the audience, want to grow old with Bond. An older Sean Connery or Roger Moore would have made for a more intriguing storyline than just another 75,000 bullets flying through the air or into bodies. That Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby and Pierce Brosnan are still around, as is Daniel Craig, makes the idea of an older, wiser secret agent all the more compelling.
Timothy Dalton’s License to Kill was the Bond on a revenge mission. It, and the Telly Savalas/George Lazenby On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, are that spy vs spy drama, the exciting mental chess match with the snow skis, or the elegant mansion that made for a great storyline.
That super producer Michael G. Wilson had to complete the script to License to Kill on his own (due to a writer’s strike in 1989, according to Wikipedia) and that Dalton was scheduled for a third film (disrupted by yet more legality,) denied the world another great pairing. As Wikipedia notes: Dalton’s portrayal of Bond was darker and more serious. Dalton pushed for a renewed emphasis on the gritty realism of Ian Fleming’s novels instead of fantasy plots and humor.
So here, in 2021, an older Daniel Craig delivers a Dalton-ish Bond. I would still rather the older Lazenby, Brosnan, and/or Dalton to fill the role, and the performance in No Time To Die kinda proves my point. Craig is Mr. Cool, and the subtext of no one to trust, everyone is suspected of being a double agent and/or traitor, works well here. Bond suffers two concussions in this film, one from Blofeld, the other from a weak villain, Safin, played by Freddie Mercury actor himself Rami Said Malek. Safin is drab, unconvincing, and forgettable. Just another megalomaniac carrying a grudge. If Dr. Evil had Mini-Me as his watered-down doppelganger, so too Blofeld with Safin. The spoiler is already out there I’m sure, everything blows up, everyone dies, over a billion dollars will flow to Eon Productions and James Bond will Return. But will 007’s name be James?