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'No Time To Die': The Final Insult


I never condoned what CraigNotBond did and, while seeing Pierce Brosnan leaving the series was a hard hit, I gave Daniel Craig the benefit of the doubt. After all, I loved reading CASINO ROYALE and all the mystery surrounding the attempts to make an official adaptation out of it. I wanted to see the beginning of James Bond and the fact that Martin Campbell, the director of my favourite James Bond film GOLDENEYE was doing it, was enough to make me watch it and remain a Bond fan despite Pierce was asked to leave by producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Of course, Craig looked nothing like Fleming's Bond and his casting was a bit of a stretch, but... it was a reboot, and Campbell's a professional, and, well, it's CASINO ROYALE. How could I resist? There you go, I watched it and it is still among my most liked Bond films.

The Craig era continued by adapting paragraphs of the Fleming novels in the other films: QUANTUM OF SOLACE was a disappointment and challenged the Bond formula. SKYFALL pleased me a little bit more as they tried to remind us of the old Bond. And no false sentiment, I loved SPECTRE from day one. To me, that was the real ending of the Daniel Craig era, where our battered hero finally found what he was -emotionally- looking for.

Craig wanted to slash his wrists as soon as SPECTRE finished shooting and, unfortunately, Barbara Broccoli didn't let him, so he accepted to return for a final Bond film, to leave on "a high note". Seeing the other rumoured candidates that could have succeeded him in the role when he didn't confirm he would be back, before August 2017, made me wish for his return. Now that I finally watched his fifth Bond film, I really wish he had resigned and someone else got the role of James Bond: even if that was an actor I didn't like so that at least I could say: "I'll stop collecting after Craig".

Where to start? NO TIME TO DIE was released six years after SPECTRE, almost the same time separating LICENCE TO KILL from GOLDENEYE. And that gap constitutes an even bigger disappointment summed up to the fact that we won't probably have news about Bond 26 (Do I still care?) for many years, something that turns the Cary Joji Fukunaga film into the worst way the Daniel Craig era could be closed. "James Bond Will Return" appears on the end credits, but it honestly looks like a middle finger flip to those who really love James Bond - not the ones who simply love the films as an entertainment form and spend day and night to see what "didn't age" well by today's standards. I mean those who love the legacy of Ian Fleming's incredible creation, the one producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman turned into a cinematic sensation.

If I have to be objective, I would say that NO TIME TO DIE is not really a bad movie if we think in terms of an epic and dramatic action movie. Think Martin Campbell's productions of EDGE OF DARKNESS or other movies like GLADIATOR or TROY. Ana De Armas and David Dencik steal the show and Daniel Craig gives the most natural of his performances. The action scenes are well choreographed. The plot is a bit complicated but at least gets you pumping. And the cinematography is beautiful, with a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro that evokes the days of David Arnold.

The problem with NO TIME TO DIE is that it is, in fact, the 25th official James Bond film. And if you don't pretend the leading character is Inspector Jacques Clouseau, Johnny English, Clifton Sleigh or D'Artagnan, you are likely to be disappointed to the point of considering the 1954 TV adaptation of CASINO ROYALE and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN as two official James Bond films (as of today, I placed the 1983 rogue film DVD between FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and OCTOPUSSY). In fact, NO TIME TO DIE is closer to the 1967 version of CASINO ROYALE than those two (with at least two tropes readapted from that film, and in that one you accept it because, you know, it's a spoof). It's literally the antichrist of James Bond, and if you didn't like QUANTUM OF SOLACE you may end up liking it. And if you weren't too keen on DIE ANOTHER DAY, you'd wish that was the last James Bond film ever made.

The insults begin with the worst gunbarrel sequence that has ever been imagined for a Bond film, worse than Bond's "let's shoot this quickly because I'm peeing" attitude at the end credits gunbarrel of QUANTUM OF SOLACE: it derivates from a white globe version of the Universal Pictures logo. We get the dots moving from left to right, and then, an icy-chrome barrel that looks as if it was a royalty-free stock image. Hurray, at least Bond is in a tux, but then, Craig ridiculously imitates Pierce Brosnan stylish pose from his gunbarrel and... nope, no blood, Bond blurs and we see the snow and Safin walking through it. Pedestrian, to say the least. And the courtesy extends to the main title sequence that makes you wonder if this was done by Daniel Kleinman, the man who has been on the job for 26 years: a bad imitation of the DR NO main titles that segue into a series of weird mythological images with CGI Aston Martin DB5 falling into sands and CGI Walther PPKs turning into ADN sequences. Musically speaking, there are other big insults: the inclusion of "We Have All The Time In The World" both embedded as an instrumental version in incidental music and the original 1969 Louis Armstrong recording is also there. For years, this was an exclusive theme song, something that instantly brought to mind the romance of James Bond and the Comtessa Teresa Di Vicenzo in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. Now, they give it a tarnished use in the pre-credit sequence and then a wicked, almost blaspheme use near the final minutes.

Talking too much about certain things could be considered major spoilers, but overall, there are also way too many characters for one to concentrate on and appreciate. The plot is understandable but also very difficult to follow as it has a lot of burdens, from the past and the present. Madeleine's past, Safin's past, and a little of Bond's recent past as well. Many situations taken from Ian Fleming's YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE novel, but just as an "in your face" trick to tell you: "Look literary Bond fans! This is not a Brosnan shitshow, this is a great Bond film because we are giving you FLEMING! Give us an Oscar now!!!" and it even insults the man by putting one of his most famous phrases in the mouth of Ralph Fiennes' M, who in this case is closer to Chief Attle from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION than the M we learnt to love and respect. Oh, I don't want to forget to mention how Logan Ash, played by Billy Magnussen, is just a bad copy of Barry (and "Other Barry") from the FX animated series ARCHER.

On a personal note, I could forgive many things of this movie and I get no joy in trashing a new Bond film as I always try to do an effort and see the positive side of every entry in the series, even those I don't like that much. But crossing the line the way they did is an abomination, an insult, and blasphemy. If I knew they were really plotting to do this, I would have advised the producers to sell the James Bond rights to someone who truly loves the character and is proud of its legacy and stays loyal to their regular audience, not outsiders who fantasize about seeing a Bond that looks every day less like Bond.

Back in early 1998, GOLDENEYE made me a James Bond fan. After watching that movie and TOMORROW NEVER DIES, I went on with the rest of the films, the other actors (Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton) and even embraced the novels. Why? Because that film many YouTubers consider "superfluous" was a tiny window to the marvellous world of Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. A door that NO TIME TO DIE has, regretfully and almost irreversibly, closed.

If you love James Bond as much as I do, I suggest you not watch this film. Or just do it once, just for curiosity, preferably on streaming when it comes out. Instead, dedicate all the time in the world to bust the dust off your Nintendo 64 and play GOLDENEYE 007 -there are still many records to beat. Or just rewatch the 1995 film on the biggest screen you have with your little brother, cousin or son. Explain to him that what he is about to see is a story riddled with action, glamour, exoticism, thrills, fun and romance with enough emotion that won't reach the annoyance of today's cheap soap opera drama.

Tell him that is one of the best chapters in the life of a man.

His name is Bond. James Bond

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