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A review of the new James Bond film that I thoroughly agree with – SPOILER ALERT

Well, at last the new James Bond film has hit cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic. There may be countries where it is not yet on release, but it’s been out long enough I think for a commentary that contains spoilers to be published. If you don’t want to see this before seeing the film, then don’t linger here. Repeat: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

I recall back in 2006 when Casino Royale came out, and here was my review back then, all 15 (gulp) years ago. I watched the film along with a few other conspirators, such as Perry de Havilland, if I recall. I generally liked it – I think Daniel Craig did a great job, and elements of the original novel were kept in, while added to for a modern audience. The subsequent films never quite lived up to the first one, in my view, although I read a lot about how great Skyfall was, but I disagree (I think the whole sentiment of the film was gloomier than the glummest John Le Carre story, but without the caustic LC wit.) But even so, Daniel Craig has, so I read, delivered Bond to a “new generation”. And the franchise of Eon-produced Bond films is almost 60 years old. Even if you don’t equate longevity with greatness, that’s pretty damned impressive.

I have seen a lot of commentary from those who claim No Time to Die is somehow a great film, but a few are very upset, even angry. I have very mixed views on it, but the more I think about it, the more I think this is a bad film, made my people who have fallen prey to shitty ideas, and who make the crucial error of conflating moral seriousness with being miserable. In fact, this error is not remarked about enough. You can be a baddass super-hero, and take what you do very seriously, while having a smile on your face and enjoy life at the same time. Think Zorro, think the Scarlet Pimpernel, etc. Everything now has to be full of angst, of “self-loathing” and be “gritty” (one of the most tediously over-used epithets in culture today).

Let’s start with one of the biggest initial reasons people got wary about this film. The Nomi character, the “new 007”, as played by Lashana Lynch, is every bit as passive-aggressive at first as the trailers suggested, but in fact the “wokeness” of the film, and of her part in it, isn’t nearly as bad as I feared. She comes across as one-dimensional; there is no real development of her character. You cannot warm to her and want to take her side. In a way, this is what happens when film-makers try to make films more supposedly progressive but in fact let themselves down. A pity.

The action scenes in general are very well done. Say whatever one likes about these films, but the production quality remains outstandingly good. Some of the fight scenes are great. The locations are generally good and we get a bit more time in this film to sample the atmosphere (Jamaica, Cuba, etc) than in earlier Craig efforts. The early Connery films were so good is that you felt you were really travelling with him to places such as the Caribbean or Turkey, or in the case of the George Lazenby film (which is arguably one of the best ever), Switzerland.

There is a little bit more humour here, even though Craig remains the Grumpy Bond. The rapport he has with Jeffrey Wright, playing Felix Leiter, is nice. Supporting cast members such as Ralph Fiennes as M are good as well. The chap playing Q has quite a lot to do; he has a nice, sharp sense of humour as well.

But the central features of this film in terms of plot and how the film ends, mean that NTTD represents something very bad, and I fear that Barbara Broccoli and the others may have taken the series off a cliff, and I am queasy about what comes next. I have tagged this post under “culture wars”, because I cannot help but see NTTD as yet another instance of what might be called the Cancel Culture. Bond, as baddass Alpha male, suave and in control, dispenser of smart-alec quips as he crushes the evil guys, is dead.

Anyway, here is an example of how cheesed off people are. I saw this on Facebook. The article is written by a chap called “Charles”. I have taken out a few paragraphs, but here goes:

Bond films got popular being FUN movies celebrating triumph — not being deep serious heavy tragedies evoking misery. For decades, JB film fans went for thrilling entertainment which leaves them feeling good — not for painful adult psychological realism which leaves them feeling bad. [Yes, I know about OHMSS: one movie, 52 years ago.] After decades of this continuity, the fans naturally expect a Bond film to be exciting optimistic escapism.

It seems to me that the whole team responsible for the NTTD story doesn’t understand the core reasons why Bond films have been so popular for 59 years (or perhaps they presume to push the fans to change their preferences).

Wanting Bond movies to be just enjoyable entertainment — showing the thrill of surviving danger, loving the joy of living in the moment, celebrating courageous victory over evil — is a perfectly respectable adult mentality. Not every adult movie has to induce the emotions of tragic misery. Let other movies (not Bond) do that.

Disliking the infliction of prolonged misery into a Bond movie doesn’t mean the unhappy fan is immature, or wants to see Bond be some offensive example of pathologies (contrary to sneering assumptions by some fans). If some fans object to seeing JB movies delivering a doom & gloom fest, that doesn’t mean they want JB movies to be an Austin Powers clown cartoon. Between these two extremes, there is a good middle zone of exciting adult stories which celebrate brave triumph.

Barbara Broccoli and M.G. Wilson are stewards of a global legacy of good will and inspiring imagination, enduring 59 years. As stewards of the Bond film legacy, they seem to be either indifferent or incompetent. It seems they let Daniel Craig make his last JB movie become whatever he wanted it to be, for his own personal gratification as an actor, disregarding how it violates reasonable expectations of the fans. DC’s agenda to make JB realistic, complex, deep, etc. was incompatible with the history of Bond movie popularity. [He says he’s “too serious” and “moody”.] They let him impose his sensibility (and serious artistic ambitions) onto NTTD so much that the story violates the abiding concept of the franchise.

In a recurring adventure series, killing off the hero shows that the storytellers have run out of good ideas or that they have lost their confidence that they can write an effective story in which the hero is victorious. Killing Bond in NTTD reminds me of the first Mission Impossible movie, in which the leader of the good guys (Jim Phelps) is a traitor who kills most of the team. That kind of plotting choice is a cheap stunt — hoping to stun the betrayed viewer into thinking that the plotting was impressively daring or inventive. Nope, it’s just a violation of the covenant between the storytelling team and the fans of those characters.

Bond’s death in NTTD was so contrived. The story could’ve been easily rewritten for him to survive and triumph again. For those who say ‘But he had to die, because of X’ — That ‘X’ part could’ve been easily rewritten otherwise.
Bond didn’t just die; he seemed to quit trying to survive; choosing a kind of passive suicide. That’s one reason why his death felt so demoralizing to some viewers.

Now I see that the warning for how this movie would go wrong was in the selection of the most recent two theme songs (for SPECTRE & NTTD). The previous song portrayed Bond as a fragile needy crybaby, and the new song conveys total emotional defeat and surrender — both songs utterly wrong for Bond films, which celebrate victory, joy, survival, pleasure, etc.

18 comments to A review of the new James Bond film that I thoroughly agree with – SPOILER ALERT

  • Sam Duncan

    15 (gulp) years ago

    It’s strange to realise that there’s as much time between Casino Royale and this new one as there was between Dr. No and The Spy Who Loved Me. (And that, inflation-adjusted, the budget for NTTD would cover that for the first seven movies combined. I’ve never been one for all the Connery-worship, but I know which I’d rather have. Not least because it also includes Lazenby’s excellent contribution.)

    You can be a baddass super-hero, and take what you do very seriously, while having a smile on your face and enjoy life at the same time. Think Zorro, think the Scarlet Pimpernel, etc.

    Or, indeed, James Bond. I accepted the grumpiness in Casino Royale because it was presented as an origin story. I thought they were setting up for a development of the character from the downtrodden grunt we see in the black-and-white opening sequence into the suave, life-loving Bond we know (the first time Craig ever says, “Bond. James Bond.” being the last line of that film – in glorious mediterranean sunshine, to boot – was a nice touch, and seemed to confirm my suspicion). That would have been a great story. But they didn’t bother, and now he’s not just miserable; he’s dead.

    It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. I’d like to think they’ll just resurrect the character with a new actor and pretend none of it ever happened. (I’d really like to think they’ll do what I thought they should have when Eon finally got hold of the rights to Casino Royale and start from scratch filming all the books dead straight as period pieces, but that’ll never happen.) Until the Craig films, they never did bother much about continuity (even “lampshading” Lazenby’s appearance with his line to camera about “the other fella”). But they’ve set that precedent now. It’s a “franchise“ and a “universe”, and all that nonsense. So I shudder to think.

  • Flubber

    I think the most profound observation to me is the sheer ruthlessness and pettiness of the cultural Marxists.

    Yes they have shit all over James Bond. But they’ve done the same to Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and so on.

    Its cost them billions of dollars.

    Next up is the Lord of the Rings on Amazon. Another billion or two spent on trashing culture.

  • Paul Marks

    The character of James Bond had to die, because the character is the opposite of all the “Woke” Collectivists of Hollywood (and so on) believe in.

    However, they killed him without humiliating and degrading him first – and I thought they would humiliate and degrade the character first. So we must be thankful for that at least.

    Flubber – the Lord of the Rings series is, I am told, to have black hobbits. Led by Sir Leonard Henry.

    There were no black hobbits in Tolkien’s work – but that is not the point, the Amazon series is set in the 2nd Age (not the 3rd Age) so there really should not be any halfling characters in it at all.

    It would not make much work to make the series a bit “Woke” without doing urinating all over the work of Tolkien – just play up Galadriel as the central good character (a female – and one can make a sort-of argument that that Galadriel is the most important good character of the 2nd Age) and play up the arrogant racism of the Kingsmen.

    It would be wrong, as it was the Faithful (not the Kingsmen) who had reservations about working with the non-white men of the south (not because of their being nonwhite – but because of their cultural traditions of human sacrifice and so on). But one could say that the Faithful wanted to protect the peoples of Middle Earth from being enslaved by the nasty Kingsmen.

    I could write them a script that would be fairly “Woke” whilst being sort-of faithful to the texts. But they would not go for it – they must have their black hobbits and so on. Fair enough, at least we know what we are going to NOT pay to watch.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    I think it might be possible to resurrect James Bond if it becomes a title given to the spy who does best in all areas, and his old identity is overshadowed by the new name. Who would be believed if he claimed to be ‘Bond, James Bond’? So wouldn’t that be a great cover?

  • Paul Marks

    Nicholas – I hope they do NOT “resurrect” James Bond, after all (as they are Frankfurt School Marxist types – the opposite of Sir Ian Fleming) they would only bring back the character to humiliate and degrade him, so best to leave James Bond dead. As for Hollywood – it, and California generally, has made its choice (the vote may have been rigged, but the evidence for the rigging of the recall vote is much LESS clear than the evidence for the rigging of the 2020 Presidential Election – which was blatantly rigged), California (including Hollywood) is going to decline into a Third World society – it is unfortunate, but there is nothing any of us can do about it.

    It is ironic that State of “Silicon Valley”, which we were all told was going to produce a wonderful hi tech future – is fast becoming a land of human excrement on the streets, whilst thieves rob the remaining stores without real punishment (especially in San Francisco – the “Star Trek” city beloved by those who told us that California was creating a wonderful new world for humanity, and the site of the first meeting of the United Nations).

    A third of the independent small business enterprises did not reopen when the lockdown ended in California – they had been destroyed, and they are not coming back. The other two thirds of small business enterprises will join them – apart from drug sales and prostitution (they will flourish under the New Order, drug dealers have their own ways of dealing with thieves).

    The rich in California are “Woke” – they support “Social Justice”, because they think they are safe from it (behind the walls of their gated communities – and with goods delivered to them, so they do not have to worry about looted stores). They will find they have made an error – and when (and it is when – not if) the “masses” come for them, they will wish they had not driven out the “Rednecks” who used to protect them. California owns its existence as an American State to the classic “Redneck” – Kit Carson. But I doubt there are many statues to him left.

    It is hard to care – after all their wealth (the wealth of people of people such as Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom) came from government subsidies and crooked (corrupt) deals. Perhaps that is why the “Woke” rich, and their Corporations, hate capitalism – their version of it is despicable, so (partly to continue to feel good about themselves) they say-to-themselves “all people in business are as corrupt as I am”. One reason they are “Woke”.

    By the way – it is Sir Lenwood Henry, not Sir Leonard Henry, my apologies.

  • I don’t know if they meant it, but they killed the franchise along with all the villains and the hero. I think it was a mostly good movie and it allows the series to go out in a blaze of glory. True not totally optimistic, but we do know that Bond is not an evolutionary dead end, which in these years of low population growth is a good thing.

    It reprised almost all of the good bits of every previous Bond movie, the car chases, the exotic locales, the fights, the improbable tech and so on. It felt a bit like a retrospective in much the same way that the Star Wars reboot (Force Awakens) did but better handled. I don’t actually care if they release another one because I felt this one did an excellent job of tying up all the loose ends (and killing most of them). And yes I agree that I got absolutely no rapport with the new 007. If Nomi is the next “bond” then I will certainly be skipping it

  • bobby b

    Sort of like releasing a new version of the Bible where God dies at the end. They can mimic the language and the themes as much as they want, but there’s still a betrayal.

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b – yes.

  • Mr Ed

    I am told that the new Bond film is 2 hours 40 minutes long, and that is too much. I have more fundamental objections:

    1. James Bond is a bureaucrat hero, an ‘Eisenstein without the mass’ hero. He is an officer of the Royal Navy, which, apart from acting as a taxi to the Manchester Bomber and so being complicit (inadvertently) in mass murder, has recently decided that the actor Mr Craig should himself receive the honorary rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, presumably because the line between fantasy and reality is so thin these days that the Royal Navy thinks it alright to award an honour (that same rank as an honorary rank) for acting.

    2. Is not James Bond essentially the man Ian Fleming wanted to be? A philandering thug whose actions had no personal consequences. So are we treated to the fantasies of a man tormented by his own inadequacies, as if they represented a hero?

    3. British newspapers such as The Telegraph treat the James Bond franchise as a part of our culture, not the silly escapist nonsense that it is.

    4. The late, great Auberon Waugh (son of Evelyn) once described James Bond as the most repulsive character who ever lived, a man who thinks that he is above the law, entitled to kill for the State without any responsibility or check whatsoever, who had (at the time he wrote, I think the early 1980s) become a role model for every unpleasant official who thought it his mission to impose on others regardless of law or consequence, and that this mentality had infected the British State to an unpleasant degree. I concur.

    I have to say it again, I have not seen the latest film, but Skyfall was the worst film ever made, a combination of a bunch of arrogant entitled thugs seeing it their right to rampage through Istanbul regardless of others rights, and a ‘villian’ who was a whiny, psychobabbling cry-bully in the face of whom the disgusting British establishment (OK, they got that right) quivered.

  • Snorri Godhi

    British newspapers such as The Telegraph treat the James Bond franchise as a part of our culture, not the silly escapist nonsense that it is.

    All cultures include some silly escapism.

    In the case of James Bond, ‘silly’ seems an exaggeration, and ‘nonsense’ seems … well, nonsense.

    But i tend to agree that it is escapism. Which is not a problem for a movie, in my opinion. But i have read a few James Bond short stories, and have no desire to read any more.

  • Mr Ed

    Snorri,

    It appear to be your position that calling Bond films, such as Thunderball ‘nonsense’, is itself nonsense. And that this same film is not ‘silly’, and further that ‘culture’ includes ‘silly escapism’.

    You are generous.

  • Albion's Blue Front Door

    If the Bond series continues, I would imagine it labelled as ‘007’ which simply means anyone can have that designation. I suppose there were 007s before James Bond so there is a sort of logic that the job continues, and whoever is the flavour of the day in Hollyweird can take the role.

    My problem with the whole British deadly secret agent bit is that for some reason these sterling chaps can’t cross the channel and take out the wealthy people-smugglers. But then, I suppose a threat to destroy the world is far greater than a plot to destroy just the west, so that takes precedence. At least Bourne forgot who he once was, so he can be let off such a criticism.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    He is an officer of the Royal Navy, which, apart from acting as a taxi to the Manchester Bomber and so being complicit (inadvertently) in mass murder, has recently decided that the actor Mr Craig should himself receive the honorary rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, presumably because the line between fantasy and reality is so thin these days that the Royal Navy thinks it alright to award an honour (that same rank as an honorary rank) for acting.

    In the books, he was a shore-based RNVR officer, and the rank and service was little more than a title for a spy. The current RN likes to make celebs “honorary” this or that; a few years ago, the Royal Air Force made Iron Maiden front man and qualified civilian airline pilot Bruce Dickinson an honorary officer. I thought that was rather nice. We don’t have to worry that the next time a squadron of Typhoons flies over, that they will broadcast the sounds of “take your daughter to the slaughter” on a bombing raid. Maybe they should.

    “Is not James Bond essentially the man Ian Fleming wanted to be? A philandering thug whose actions had no personal consequences. So are we treated to the fantasies of a man tormented by his own inadequacies, as if they represented a hero?”

    No; the Bond of the novels tended to be someone who faced very direct consequences of his job (tortured, got beaten up, did not always get the girl, etc). And the “thug” took out the bad guys and thwarted their plans, as heroes in dramas tend to do. The more recent turn under Craig has been to try and undercut all this, speaking to the sort of angst-driven times we live in. Very tedious it is.

    British newspapers such as The Telegraph treat the James Bond franchise as a part of our culture, not the silly escapist nonsense that it is.

    A lot of culture and art forms are “escapist” in the sense of taking the viewer/listener out of their immediate experience and taking them somewhere else. Historical fiction, for instance, does that. Am I sensing a bit of highbrow disdain here?

    If Auberon Waugh (god bless his memory) thinks Bond was the most “repulsive character who ever lived”, then the chap must have lived a rather sheltered life in terms of his reading. I liked AWaugh, but he could write some rubbish when he was in the mind to do so. The Waughs, and the literary set around them, never liked Fleming. The sheer success of the Fleming books must have driven them around the proverbial bend with rage.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Perhaps i should not comment this late at night — but if i don’t, then would i do so tomorrow? No, better do it now.

    My point is that i have much less sympathy with the characters in the Iliad and Odyssey, than with (the movie versions of) James Bond.

    That is not to say that Homer is a lesser writer than Ian Fleming, of course …

  • Mr Ed

    JP,

    I wrote from memory as to what Auberon Waugh wrote, what I said is the gist of his words, it might not be the entire term. There may well have been some professional jealousy at play there. Auberon Waugh was a good man, I encountered him at a FOREST event in Belgravia in the late 1980s, he was a true libertarian, but he could write some vituperative nonsense from time to time. I think that his comment about the awfulness of the Bond character in terms of the rule of law holds true. Such behaviour is indicative of a rotting culture, which we see decaying all around us. Bond is a symptom, not a cause.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I think that his comment about the awfulness of the Bond character in terms of the rule of law holds true. Such behaviour is indicative of a rotting culture, which we see decaying all around us.

    The issue is that States have security forces, some secretive, others less so. As long as even genuine threats exist (such as the old KGB, or whoever) we need Kipling’s “rough men” (and yes, tough ladies) to handle the situation. When I got into the actual books, it was pretty clear that Bond is more than just an assassin in a nice suit. And remember in artistic fiction, where good vs evil themes come out, that the good guys don’t necessarily read their foe their “rights” first (we get quips instead). So that being the case, I am not really sure why Waugh, a clever man with a nose for humbug and not at all a prig, was so heated. (He was a delightful snob, just as Fleming was. I remember that Forest party, and I took a good bottle of red wine with me as recommended by my Dad, and “Bron” got his hands on it faster than Bond reaching for his Walther!!!)

    I was most sad when Waugh died. He was charming in person and brilliantly rude about a lot of people who deserved it. Poor Polly Toynbee never recovered.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Dear Bobby b., the joke is on you! God, a.k.a. Jesus, does die at the near end and comes back. Maybe you should read the Bible some time?

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray (October 23, 2021 at 8:50 am), Sherlock Holmes perished along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls – but came back to life again after sackloads of letters from fans bludgeoned Sir Conan Doyle into figuring out how Holmes could have survived his Reichenbach fall.

    So are you saying that the film’s portrayal of Bond’s death could be spun into allowing a similarly ingenious exit clause – or are you saying that only a miracle can resurrect the franchise now? 🙂

    (If the franchise’ view is that Bond is really permanently dead then I take bobby b’s point.)

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