No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I can imagine a younger, dumber version of myself being upset about how this movie ends. "You can't kill James Bond! That's blasphemy!" I would have said. But I'm old and wise now, and I understand that it truly does not matter. So there's a James Bond movie where James Bond dies now? That's cool. Twenty years from now I'll remember this as "the one where James Bond dies" just as I remember other movies as "the one where he gets married" or "the one where he goes to space."

Watching the whole James Bond series during the pandemic has made me very zen about the James Bond series. I now fully understand that this franchise is always responding to the trends and zeitgeists of the moment, and if you don't like the current movie then you can rest assured that the pendulum will swing in another direction soon enough. This one is still running on the fumes of the Christopher Nolan-influenced Skyfall - much like how The World is Not Enough was still in the GoldenEye mould - but it now has traces of Denis Villeneuve influence that may rise or fall depending on how the next few years go. I think this one is still a little too solemn and slow-paced. I personally like it when James Bond movies have rocket packs and space lasers. I'm also tired of this serialization gimmick, and having to remember whateverthefuck Christoph Waltz did in the previous movie six years ago to understand what's happening now. However, I will say that this does a better job of being a Bond movie than certain of the other Craig entries. We get a big Ken Adam-like villain's lair on an island, and we get some puns, and we get a hammy supervillain with a weird accent and fucked-up face, and the Hans Zimmer score has some Easter eggs for Bond-heads. Also, Daniel Craig is still a goddamn great James Bond. The best, probably. None of the other Bonds have hit every single beat: suave, funny, good at "acting," and looks like he can both give and take a punch. Sorry, Pierce - I still love you and you'll always be my sentimental fave.

As I said, these movies are always responding and adapting to the current zeitgeists. No Time to Die shows that the series has definitively changed in some ways, and in other ways has been stubbornly resistant to change. On one hand, the overt sexism of the Connery and Moore eras has been pretty much removed. Bond has become a monogamist and the women around him are all smart and competent. What hasn't changed, of course, is the series' faith in James Bond, MI6, and everything they represent - because, let's face it, you can take sexism out of a James Bond movie, but you can't take James Bond out. Now, the Broccoli family has seen what you've been posting on Twitter. They're aware that you think James Bond is irrelevant, and that the shadowy extrajudicial agency he works for is bad for society, and that if he must continue to exist then he should at least be played by someone who isn't a straight white male. Well, they're not going to cede to your demands, but they are going to acknowledge them. They're going to give you scenes of M or Felix Leiter lamenting that in our modern world we can't tell the heroes from the villains anymore. They're also going to give you a black woman as 007! She's not James Bond, though - she's the agent who became 007 after he retired, ha ha! Take that, patriarchy! Now James Bond has to grimace every time he's reminded that a black woman now has his famous number! But y'know what? He's an ageing man now and maybe he has a thing or two he can learn from her. And y'know what? She's young and inexperienced - maybe she has a thing or two she can learn from this old dinosaur. Heck, she has a lot she can learn from him. So much so that by the end of the movie she'll ask M to give him Bond his famous number back, and fully accept her Junior Partner status. So let that be a lesson to you, folks. You got your black woman 007 and you had your fun, but at the end of the day, "nobody does it better" than James Bond, and don't you forget it.

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