WHY I LOVE NO TIME TO DIE
"We have all the time in the world."
Daniel Craig is my Bond. I grew up watching James Bond pictures from a very early age; I'd say I was well aware of the character by the time I was four or five. I had preferences from that point to now. Sean Connery was in a league of his own. Then there was charming Roger Moore, dark and brooding Timothy Dalton and outsider, George Lazenby. I have seen every Bond picture, each several times (at least). And I can honestly say to you all now, that *no-one* has come as close to perfection in the role as Daniel Craig has in his five year tenure as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. And no film has done what No Time To Die has done for the character and the series as a whole.
No Time To Die takes a lot of chances. It upsets the status quo, and gives us for the first time, an ending for the character. The five films which comprise Daniel Craig's run, are all given a glorious new context, especially Spectre, which takes on a weight and meaning that it did not necessarily possess before No Time To Die. Madeleine Swann becomes as important as Vesper, Christoph Waltz's Blofeld becomes even more sinister and powerful, and the shadow of SPECTRE retroactively reaches the heights of the 1960s Sean Connery pictures.
The key to Daniel Craig's Bond for me, has always been that he was interested in showing the human, emotional side of the character, far more than any actor before him. From Casino Royale, and the first woman he ever truly loved, to having a real family in No Time To Die, there is an arc to the character that just wasn't there before, even in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which was an outlier in the series. Many have gotten angry at the thought of Bond not just being a chauvinist womanizer, and instead someone who had the capacity for real caring and love. To me, this has *always* been buried in the character, right there in Ian Fleming's novels. Yes, he says "The Bitch is dead," at the end of Casino Royale. But there is a world of hurt underneath those words. He is fooling himself that he didn't just lose the first woman he truly loved.
Life is temporary. To acknowledge this truism is remarkably rare in James Bond pictures. Yes, people are dying left, right and center, but they are rarely of any importance. They don't impact the character or his world, and they certainly don't impact the viewer. The exception in all of this is On Her Majesty's Secret Service, starring George Lazenby, the first attempt to move away from Sean Connery. The reasons that so many praise this film are ironically very close to the reasons why some are attacking No Time To Die. That is: that the world of James Bond isn't an infinitely repeating set of double entendres, meaningless sex, violence and intrigue, but a story with a beginning and an ending, with characters who are subject to mortality and impermanence. If we always have something, its value is almost always reduced. The meaning in all four movies that preceded No Time To Die is greatly enhanced by the very fact that the story of this James Bond has a clear arc.
Stand up straight, do your duty, for Queen and country, but most of all for those you love. To see James sacrifice himself, and to "stand it like a man" (Al Swearengen, Deadwood) is ironically a better definition of masculinity, than any of the less "woke" Bond moments down through the years. I object to the "woke" tag in all of its forms, because it posits that it is somehow shameful to strive for gender equality, for racial equality, to try your best to be inclusive, *not* at the detriment to the art of the thing, but to its advantage. No Time To Die isn't "woke", it is modern. It is a work of art that is the product of an ever more closely connected world, where other cultures are no longer feared as "the other" but as represented through individuals talking to each other, and finding common ground.
James Bond need not be a role model, but to argue that his not hating women, gay people or other races is somehow against the very nature of the character is foolish in the extreme. These are superficial details that are a sign of their time, and not of the power and complexity of James Bond. We should avoid making changes because of mob pressure, yes, absolutely. But we should equally be vigilant that these remnants of a time gone by are not fetishized or a sign of a "simpler time" or whatever odious, hateful euphemisms are favoured.
Skyfall was my favourite Bond picture since I saw it in 2012, but No Time To Die has surpassed it and is now my vote for the greatest Bond ever made. It has superb set-pieces from start to finish. No off notes or flawed execution, a *very* strong villain and a story that gets to the heart of why we love James Bond. The opening of Saffin at Madeleine's house, and the subsequent shattering of hers and James' life together, is an exquisite and bombastic cold open, that rivals Goldeneye's sabotage and desperate escape by plane, or Casino Royale's hard hitting, B&W manifesto. From there, step by step, Cary Joji Fukunaga deftly steers the ship towards a finished work that has no bum notes, that takes more chances than any other Bond picture in the history of the series, and has an ending that stirs emotions that many Bond fans thought were never in play.
No Time To Die is a masterpiece. It is sharply written, with an elite tier appreciation of action set-pieces that match or surpass all previous examples in the series, with a truly emotional and powerful performance by Daniel Craig, who by all rights should be nominated for an Oscar. This is a Bond many never knew they wanted. There are bound to be some disagreement here, as a Bond movie has never, ever taken chances like this one has. We should not be caught up in those phony arguments, of how Bond has been emasculated or neutered. We should instead stand tall, like the man himself, and sing praise to the audacious and brilliant quality of this movie.