Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Kudos to Daniel Craig: No Time To Die Lives Up to the Hype

Last night I went to The West here in Duluth to see my first movie in a theater since pre-pandemic. It was just what the doctor ordered, an escape. 

There is much to like about this latest Bond film. First, I still think Daniel Craig makes a great Bond, even if he doesn't toss around twinkle-in-the-eye wit with the flair of a Sean Connery. Daniel Craig is a different kind of Bond, a serious-minded Bond, so the screenwriters give many of those one line zingers to others.

The budget was purportedly a quarter of a billion dollars or more. That's quite a contrast to Dr. No, the first Bond send-up in 1962, which cost the studio barely a million. 

As usual, James Bond has been called on to the save the world. This time a villain named Lyutsifer has stolen a lethal DNA-modified bio-tech product that has been in development by "the good guys" for reasons M will explain later. Echoes of 12 Monkeys and our current pandemic seem to have morphed into a new storyline. 

In addition to Bond being back, so is his remarkable car which is impervious to the most lethal arsenal of automatic weapons ever arrayed against a car window. Why they didn't just blow out his tires is beyond me.

One of the things that makes fiction work is a mind game called "suspension of disbelief." If our critical self is constantly intruding by saying, "Oh that would never happen," then it diminishes our ability to get lost in the story dream. There are often a few of these moments in many films, but we override the critic and go with the flow. Afterwards, though, some of these scenes re-play and one has to laugh.

For example, in that early scene with the Bond supercar, you would think that maybe there might be people on balconies in the background holding up their cell phones so they could show all this drama on Twitter. The same could be said of any public scene with action, drama or violence these days. This is just a heads up to screenwriters. 

No Time To Die begins rather quietly. Bond is retired. As usual, we find ourselves in exotic locations. The quiet opening quickly turns dramatic, the first of many impossible escapes. He soon returns to the life of danger he once lived only at the request of his friend Felix from the CIA.  

Here are some other observations from my seat in the peanut gallery:

The new 007?
--All the usual characters are in this Bond film: M, Q and Moneypenny. Then there's a new 007 introduced, played by Lashana Lynch. Is this the future of the franchise? We shall see. 

--One of the themes in this film is secrets. Everybody has them, including M.  

--I wasn't sure if I'd want to watch a 2 hour and 45 minute film, for fear that it would drag, but it never did. At no point did I feel like I was going to be bored. The pacing carried me along like a good roller coaster ride that is over before you know it. 

--Daniel Craig's existential stance at the end brought to mind Jon Voigt in Runaway Train, or perhaps some legendary gods of Norse or Roman mythology. 

--This was Daniel Craig's fifth and last performance in the Bond role. According to one source his base salary plus bonuses will likely add up to $110 million dollars when all is said and done. Critics may call him the "Grumpy Bond" but he's helped sell a lot of tickets at the box office, so I'm sure he's smiling when he looks at his bank account.

--I personally liked the casting of Lea Seydoux as a more modest "Bond girl." I was happy to see the eye candy being downplayed in favor of the story. 

--The opening credits on a Bond film have always been awash in spectacle, and this one was no less so. How many millions were spent on the credits? I wouldn't mind seeing a whole film that did nothing more than have the opening credits and Bond song from first to last. Has anyone assembled this yet? I say go for it. 

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Related Links

Daniel Craig, License To Kill

Devil May Care, a new Bond novel released on the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming's birthday. (A review.)

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