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FRIDAY MATINEE: No Time To Die (🍺🍺🍺)




The first James Bond movie, Dr. No, appeared in theaters two weeks after I was born, but my first recollection of 007 was hearing my older brother mention the character Pussy Galore from the movie "Goldfinger" sometime around 1968 or 1969. At that age, I didn't quite understand the joke, but I got that it was pretty hilarious and a little bit naughty. I am fairly certain I saw some of "From Russia with Love" on TV in the early '70s, but the first Bond film I saw all the way through was "Live and Let Die," on television, sometime around '78 or '79. Suddenly, I got the joke and spent the next several years searching out other Bond films on the small screen. During my HBO years in college, I added a few more titles, including the horrible "Moonraker," which turned me off to the whole affair for several years. 

The first James Bond movie I saw on the big screen was "Skyfall," and that experience convinced me to tune back in to the franchise. I watched the Dalton (meh) and Brosnan (huh) outings, as well as the first two Craig installments on Netflix,  then saw SPECTRE in the theater. All that to say I came into "No Time to Die" with a little background and a little baggage. Stop now if you don't want to see spoilers.

I like the idea of the five Craig films having an overarching character and narrative arc, but the downside is that situations, characters, and concepts carried over from the previous four films are dropped into "No Time" with little to no explanation. I vaguely recall Madelaine Snow from SPECTRE, but while the characters might have been picking up right where they left off, it's been five years for the rest of us, and the old memory isn't quite as good as it once was.

The movie starts out with what I will call a "wedge" scene, a flashback that introduces a new and previously unmentioned character into the existing timeline. It's not an especially elegant cinematic trick, but it works. From there, we flash forward to the timeline immediately following the events of SPECTRE, and the collapse of Bond's nascent relationship with Madelaine. Zoom forward to now, and we see him living a quiet life in "retirement" until his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter asks him to help find a kidnapped scientist and recover a stolen bioweapon. And then we are off to the races. 

Much of the criticism of "No Time" revolves around its formulaic and unrealistic plot. I wouldn't necessarily argue against that point of view, but I think we do need to remember this is a Bond film, and the previous 24 installments haven't exactly been Shakespeare in the Round. You come into a Bond movie with certain expectations; exotic locales, a one-dimensional cartoonish villain, a beautiful woman or two, a good car chase or two, cartoon gunplay, and some sort of plot to take over/destroy the world. Yes, the Craig films have generally been a little more grounded than their predecessors, but at the end of the day, James Bond is effectively a superhero, and that's really the movie's closest peer group. "No Time" checks all the boxes and manages to squeeze in some unique elements of its own. 

This is undoubtedly the most substantial cast of female characters in any Bond outing, with Lea Seydoux's Madelaine Snow, Lashana Lynch's Nomi, and Ana de Armas's Paloma representing intelligent, capable women who are, at the very least, Bond's equals. The franchise has come a long way from the misogyny and racism of the early films. De Armas, in particular, makes the most of her 10 minutes of screen time, creating a charismatic, badass character in CIA agent Paloma. Her quip about 3 weeks of training "more or less" was very Bond-like.

The big baddie of this film is Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek. Safin is the lone survivor of the family of a scientist who ran afoul of SPECTRE. In that wedge scene I mentioned earlier, he arrives at the home of a young Madelaine seeking revenge, killing her mother. After chasing Madelaine out onto an ice-covered lake, he takes pity (or maybe falls for her) and lets her live. He recruits a Russian scientist who has developed a formidable bioweapon and together they double-cross SPECTRE, effectively wiping out the evil organization. Okay, so he has his revenge. I doubt that either the CIA or MI6 are going to waste a lot of effort bringing him to justice for killing off the evil empire. He could simply return the scientist to the authorities and go about his merry little life. Heck, he might get a medal. But, this is a Bond movie and that's not the way they work. Instead, he decides to sell his biotechnology to the highest bidder, potentially starting WWIII. 

Let's talk a little bit about that bioweapon. It was originally created through a secret British government project called Heracles. The idea was to create a "programmable" infectious agent, a poison that could target an individual, a family, or an entire race, based on their genetic code. You can see how that would be very useful. You can see how that would end the world. As a McGuffin, it's pretty effective, but I think they botched the execution slightly. One scene shows the mad scientist plugging a vial of it into the USB port of a laptop and downloading the DNA sequences into it. Now, I'm no molecular biologist, but I seriously doubt that's the way something like that would work. Similarly, at the lab where the weapon is being produced, workers in bright red biohazard suits stir a shallow pool of goo with paddles, illuminated by white light sticks rising from muck. Like the salt speeder scene on Crait in "The Last Jedi," it's a wonderful visual effect but makes absolutely no sense.  

Much has been said, both pro and con, about the movie's ending. I am good with it. The Craig movies had an arc and with the death of Blofeld and the destruction of SPECTRE that arc was complete. Bond sacrificing himself to save the world and the family he loved is a good way to end this chapter and let the next film start fresh. The question is, what is that film going to look like? There has been some chatter that the next films in the franchise will be throwback period pieces set during the Cold War. That really makes sense, but it would be very, very difficult to pull off. How would you make a film set in 1960 that conveys the sensibilities of the modern world? Staying tuned.

🍺🍺🍺

I was originally a Radio/Television Communication major at Ohio University before switching to Business Administration. One of the core RTVC classes was "Interpretation of Film," which I took Fall Quarter of my sophomore year. It remains my favorite class of all time. Every Friday at 2:00, we would gather in the theater at Baker Center and watch a classic movie, then discuss it on Monday and Wednesday of the next week. A few of us from the class would go out for a beer or two before the screening and that became known as our "Friday Matinee." Fittingly, I award movies mugs of beer as follows:

🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺 -  A modern classic. Entertaining, with no significant flaws.

🍺🍺🍺🍺 - A great viewing experience, with just a few minor issues.

🍺🍺🍺 - Well worth watching, but some significant quibbles.

🍺🍺 - Watchable, but not worth your time unless a fan of the director, actors, or source material.

🍺- Save your money.


 

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