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No Time to Die / Keine Zeit zu sterben

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga (UK, USA). Year of Release: 2021

Winter, a cottage in the middle of nowhere. A girl is trying to talk to her pissed mother, though the mother seems more interested in finishing her glass of wine. Irritated, she asks the girl if she knows what her father really does for a living. Of course, she says, “he’s a doctor, he heals people“. “No“, says the mother “he kills people“.

Suddenly, the cottage comes under attack. A masked gunman enters, and sprays gunfire, killing the mother. He corners the girl under the bed, but she finds a pistol, shoots back and runs across the frozen lake. The ice cracks beneath her feet and she plunges into the water, trapped beneath the ice. The masked intruder looks down on her, takes aim and fires.

Welcome to Bond 2021 (formerly known as Bond 2019 and Bond 2020). “Woke Bond“. The one that was co-written by posh feminist Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Moneypenny is now black and Q appears to be gay. Since they offed Judi Dench, M is a man again, but you can’t have everything. Besides you need to retain a little realism. It’s not as if the British Secret Services was ever an equal opportunities employer.

Bond 2021 allows its characters to occasionally show emotions. It even has some women who are dressed in more than a bikini. Two Women of Colour are allowed to join Bond in the shooting and driving fast cars and planes. Not in the big finale, of course, that’s just for the boys. But particularly Nomi, the Black woman who took over as 007 after Bond’s retirement, is allowed some action scenes of her own.

Not that Political Correctness has gone totally mad, of course. There are still women on hand to look scared and to almost literally hold the baby. What is Bond’s motivation if it isn’t to protect members of the fairer sex? The result is a strange mixture. A glorification of guns and fast cars which is trying its best to show that some women can be nearly as good as men if only they try hard enough.

Many of the Baddies also have physical deformations and most of them have generic Rooshian accents so that we know that they’re bad. Not that all foreigners are evil, oh no. Bond’s love interest Madeleine is played by Léa Seydoux, but the Boys Book of National Stereotypes reassures us that even if you can’t trust French women fully, they’re not scary in the same way the Eastern European men are.

It would be wrong to make too much of criticisms of misogyny and the glorification of violence. I mean, if you were looking for a deep analysis of the human condition, you wouldn’t have gone to a Bond film. And – whisper this – sometimes people go to the cinema just to have fun. So while I think that reports that Bond has gone full progressive go too far, that’s not a problem of itself.

Yes, Bond is based on books written by the right winger Ian Fleming, but so was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and no-one seems to have a problem with that. Yes we have the usual problem of spy films that all “our” spies are virtuous, and “theirs“ are inexplicably evil. Yes even “woke Bond“ thanks the army, air force and navy in the end credits, but its not as if there aren’t perfectly good films and tv series about spies, the army and the police.

The problem lies more in the limitations of the genre. There’s only so many car chases and shootouts that can maintain your interest, particularly in a film that lasts nearly 3 hours. No Time To Die’s partial solution to this problem is to mix the action scenes with those of Bond and Madeleine making gooey eyes at each other, which gives the strange impression of a mash-up of two films which have very little to do with each other.

There are also the inevitable limitations of Plot. Elaborate schemes are made to kill Bond when he’s at a large party, when it would have been much more easy to shoot him in the back. And the villain spends long periods talking to Bond and other hostages long after they’ve become useful to him, and it would have been much easier just to kill them.

Having said all this, the film does have a certain amount of panache, and there is certainly lots of pretty scenery – in Italy, in the Caribbean, in Cuba and in an island in disputed waters somewhere near Japan. In fact, there are so many scenes of car chases set to a tropical background, that its almost a surprize not to see Roger Moore passing by in a safari suit.

No Time To Die is a superior Bond film, which is to say that it’s good at what it does, even if what it does isn’t anything special. If you like Bond films, you should enjoy this one. If you don’t, this is hardly the one to change your mind.

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