Spoiler alert: in the course of this brief reflection on the latest Bond movie No Time To Die, I shall be discussing some aspects of aging that bright-eyed young optimists might not yet have experienced themselves.
If you would rather these moments come as a complete surprise to you when they happen in your life then read no further. Although let’s face it, there won’t be any young people reading this by now.
I will also be discussing the Bond movie freely and without shame because I am 53 and Daniel Craig, the outgoing Bond, is also 53 and that is probably the most like James Bond I will ever be in my life.
Some things happen in this film that make it feel like more than just the end of another run of Bond movies.
A black female 007 has replaced Bond (brilliantly not a big deal in the film but obviously a big deal considering there was still a British Empire when the character was created). A lot of Bond’s friends and enemies are permanently eliminated. Bond is apparently vaporised by missile strikes at the end but perhaps most sobering of all, he is revealed to have a daughter.
Bond’s world is destroyed in every conceivable way but it is the impossibility of him as a dad that really sends the mushroom cloud up.
It felt like a bubble had been burst that contained the whole of the franchise until now. An oily film of toxic masculine tropes that people were prepared to buy into to enjoy the ongoing pantomime of Bond vanished with a pop.
The prospect of Bond failing as a dad, as he surely would have, was the coups de gras.
This version of Bond, arguably the most gritty and real and in many ways closer to the coldhearted hero of the books, just had to go.
In a way the film reminds me of a non-fried Full English Breakfast: you still get all the goodies but the full fat sleaze has been replaced with a crisp grilling. There are still incredibly glamorous women, eye-popping stunts, gadgets that you forgot about, shiny cars getting smashed up and a general ludicrous lack of secrecy considering – you know – they are meant to be spies. But the modern Bond movie now weaves all this together with olive oil not chip fat.
I wonder if this sensibility was the value added by calling in Phoebe Waller-Bridge to look over the script.
Cleverly a film that could so easily have been out of its time has made itself very much of its time as we follow Bond in his final spiral to a hero’s death. This act of suicidally brave redemption for Bond wraps up an ending where he gets the girl and doesn’t get the girl, he wins on his own terms but that victory turns out to be brief and hollow.
So much for white middle-aged men and their flawed dreams. You must never let us get our way. We want stupid things. We do even stupider things to get them.
Of course the really interesting question is what next?
Barbara Broccoli, who owns the franchise, said she would wait a year before even thinking about it.
I guess if they want they can do what they have always done: pick an actor and start with a clean slate.
However we live in the age of online box sets and binge watching streaming service dramas. Disney has shown how spin-off television can work alongside cinema showpieces.
There is space in the entertainment universe for a lady 007, a retro Bond, or even a camp comedy elderly Bond trying to keep tabs on his tearaway daughter but would these things be possible if a proper line hadn’t been drawn underneath the era of the hot thug Bond who always got his way?
Who knows, perhaps by dying now Bond is ensuring he will be back after all.