But the lavishly be frocked and black-tied throng at the Royal Albert Hall last night, as the glamorous international premiere of No Time To Die raised the curtain ahead of its public release tomorrow, might have chorused it.
Are such expectations, which have been heightened by four pandemic-caused postponements, fully met? Mr Bond, the answer is unequivocal yes.
The tremendous ovation that rocked the majestic old auditorium as the closing titles ran late yesterday night — with a conclusion that no one saw coming – was well-deserved.
No Time To Die is a triumph: an explosive, thrilling, adventurous, and, above all, a shocking adventure that challenges our assumptions about the world’s best secret agent and delves further into his personal life than ever before. It is expertly led by Daniel Craig’s Bond, even if he is as emotionally traumatised as his supremely sinister antagonist Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek).
It’s difficult to conceive what would succeed if this film didn’t succeed in its objective of reviving the Covid-crippled film industry.
The film’s lengthy runtime of 163 minutes makes it nearly an hour longer than the first in the renowned series, 1962’s Dr No. The breakneck pace, though, hardly slows, not even to allow for the touchy-feeliness that has become such an important element of Craig’s 007 packages.
On that note, if you’ll pardon a Bond-like double entendre, his virility remains as strong as ever, even if his promiscuity isn’t.
Was a Bond film ever made with fewer sexual conquests? Even during Timothy Dalton’s near-monogamous years, I can’t think of one. Needless to say, Craig’s Bond hasn’t been killing disfigured megalomaniacs for the past six years, but he’s done a fantastic job fighting the flab. Nonetheless, he was in his thirties when he first used his licence to kill; he’s now 53 and a touch crinkly around the eyes.
So it seems completely plausible that at the start of the film, following a riveting pre-credits sequence, he should be living in retirement in Jamaica, still mourning a perceived betrayal by his former love, gorgeous French psychiatrist Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). Meanwhile, in London, a lethal biological weapon has been taken from directly under MI6’s nose. Nomi (Lashana Lynch), a new 00 agent, is on the case, and soon so will Bond, who is persuaded away from his fishing rod by his old mucker Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright).
Surprisingly, the terrible genius behind the robbery is aiming for Spectre, the secretive organisation currently run from behind bars by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). However, the classic adage that your enemy’s enemy is your friend does not apply here.
Plenty of this is as difficult to understand at first as a weaponized Aston Martin, but the narrative fog clears and we are left with much that seems familiar about Bond movies, and some that don’t, as the action moves to the customary island lair.
Even if you dwell on an island hideaway, you’ll be aware that this is Craig’s final performance as Bond. It’s also Cary Fukunaga’s debut film, which is almost as significant as the fact that it’s his last.
When Britain’s Danny Boyle stepped down due to “creative issues,” the American director took over. You’ll figure out what those distinctions were once you’ve viewed No Time To Die. In a recent interview, Fukunaga rattled and stirred things up by implying that Sean Connery’s 007 was “essentially a rapist.”
The difficulty of the first Bond picture after the Me Too movement is to recreate Ian Fleming’s creation without the sexism, misogyny, and carnal voraciousness of the past.
Is there now a risk that the character would deviate too far from the cruel ladykiller of yesteryear, becoming 00-woke? There is, indeed. Not the least of this fascinating film’s accomplishments is that it feels progressive while remaining true to Bond’s character.
It also performs two things to him that we haven’t seen before. As a result, whoever plays 007 next will face a formidable challenge in carrying the role forward. Producer Barbara Broccoli has dismissed the notion that Craig’s replacement will be a woman (despite bookmakers putting Lynch at 6/1). She also denies that Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge was called in to give the script a feminine touch.
Perhaps, perhaps not. There are a few shards of wit that seem very Waller-Bridge, but overall, there are less laughs than I expected. This is a serious film that will leave you speechless.
No Time To Die will be released in theatres around the country tomorrow.