Saturday, November 27, 2021

Oh, Oh Seven

It's been a long time since I've seen a film in an actual cinema. The last movie I attended was 1917 (or was the last movie I attended in 1917?). That's when I first saw the trailer for the latest James Bond entry NO TIME TO DIE, which was due in April of 2020. Being a lifelong Bond aficionado, I promised myself it would be my next movie in a theater, having done so with each movie in the series with the exception of TOMORROW NEVER DIES, a blotch on my otherwise perfect record. Since this was also to be Daniel Crag's swan song as 007, there was no doubt in my mind I would be watching the antics of Ian Fleming's creation gallivanting across the big screen for my enjoyment. Then COVID struck and screwed the pooch for everyone around the world including the movie industry as the release of NO TIME TO DIE, along with a flock of film seagulls, was pushed back to Fall. Then Winter. Then 2021, but when? 

In the meantime the industry started premiering major releases straight to streaming, screwing theaters everywhere who had hoped to return one fine day. MGM was purchased by MGM and suddenly, it looked as though James Bond's latest adventure would debut on Prime. Taking in consideration the enormous budget behind NO TIME TO DIE (or NTTD for brevity's sake), it finally debuted in October and I was back in business again, ready, willing and able to step into a movie theater once again, sort of.

What with that nasty pandemic, sitting in an audience with actual people didn't seem that inviting and wearing a mask the entire time? Yeesh. But I thought I'd take the gamble anyway. Then real life (double yeesh) kept interfering since it became difficult to block out three frickin' hours (the long-ass running time of NTTD) for a movie excursion. This was something I wanted to do for myself so I pressed the issue and voila! Success! By this point, however, NTTD had already become available on pay-per-view and the only showtime open in my area was a matinee. So that's what I done did. 

Never mind all this crap. What about the goddamn movie?

Quite frankly, I'm kind of conflicted. While maintaining several elements from various films in the series, especially ON HER MAJETY'S SECRET SERVICE, this new movie in unlike any in the series, almost a re-invention in and of itself. While it isn't as subversive as director Danny Boyle's rumored take on the character that caused his departure, there is enough in this version by Cary Fukunaga, the first helmer to have a screenplay credit on a Bond film, to almost change the game. But it does come with a price, that being a mixed bag to be sure. While the highs outweigh the lows, too many cooks in the 007 kitchen made it a rather confusing meal.

The pre-title sequence set the tone for the whole film, unlike SPECTRE, the previous entry which the opening was better than the entire movie. The time around, the opening contains a lengthy flashback without Bond combined with a spectacular action sequence that makes it a direct sequel to the movie that preceded it, a real attempt to create a viable canon which barely existed in the pre-Craig years. Follow this with actual opening credits (how often do you see those anymore?) with a fairly adequate, though yet another somber theme song, this time by Billie Eilish and we're off to the races for next two and a half more hours (what is this-on Netflix or something?) Five years later, Bond is brought back to service, this time by mainstay CIA agent Felix Leiter, the always welcome Jeffrey Wright. Plot-wise, it's all over the map with SPECTRE returning, Bond at odds with M and M-I6 in general (the rascal) and a new villain plotting the end o' the world via nanobots and bio-warfare. The bad guy here is damn near secondary and underplayed rather frustratingly by Rami Malek, much the way Christoph Waltz did with Blofeld on the last pic. Waltz seemed to have embraced his role a little better this around, making Malek appear almost somnabulant. How about dialing down the near incoherent accent and beef up some personality there, Ram? I'm also not so keen on Lashana Lynch's inclusion as the most publicized new 007. I preferred Ana de Armas' asskicker, though actually would have chosen Naomie Harris' Moneypenny taking on the license to kill. (See SKYFALL) Quibbles aside, NTTD engaged me, juggling what we expect in a Bond film (action o'plenty), nostalgia here, there and everywhere and unexpected attempts to humanize the iconic character resulting in actual (and spoiler-free) touching moments that, by its end, put a definite punctuative mark to end the Daniel Craig era.  

I stayed in my seat through the end credits (A glutton for punishment? Present!) mainly to get to the final four words: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. The question is, will I? As good as NTTD had been (a tie for third in the Craig series with QUANTUM OF SOLACE behind SKYFALL and CASINO ROYALE), the ending hit home in a way I didn't expect mainly because that's what it felt like to me. The End. For almost 60 years of my life, James Bond has been part of my life as one of my cinematic heroes and now, for intents and purposes, the curtain has fallen. Another Bond is inevitable, probably yet another re-imagining to placate whatever is considered acceptable in society, a constantly revolving carousel that only makes everyone dizzy. My curiosity will be piqued enough to watch, but the old kiss kiss bang bang is now irrelevant and I'm afraid that so am I. While I'm not about to ignore the passage of time, a major theme in NTTD, coincidentally enough, I don't know if I can lose myself in that world again, maybe because I've finally moved along, albeit reluctantly.  This may be goodbye, James, since it looks like we really don't have all the time in the world. 

However, Mr. Bond, I will forever remain shaken, not stirred and most of all, eternally grateful for all the excitement, adventure and daring-doo you gave to this lifelong fan each time I entered a darkened cinema to forget the rest of the world as I willingly immersed myself in yours, emerging back into reality reinforced by the wonder of it all. Cheers to you, mate.

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