Unfortunately for those responsible, No time to die it’s much more than Daniel Craig’s latest James Bond movie. After the actor agreed to reprise him after stating that I was sick of the character, his new adventure soon made headlines for the most undesirable reasons: the exit Danny Boyle as director, Craig’s injury that led to the suspension of filming, rumors of constant rewrites of the script and, finally, the pandemic. No time to die was the first Hollywood release to be postponed, kicking off a succession of delays that has bankrupted the MGM studio and, ultimately, to its absorption at the hands of Amazon.
James Bond returns with a crisis that is not only industrial, but also one of conception and affiliation to the present. Since 2015, year of release of Specter, the public sphere has been shaken by sensitivities capable of questioning the expression of masculinity of the character created by Ian Fleming more fiercely than ever, while Brexit places its British identity in a new and difficult context. But the franchise has something going for it to face all this: a Bond who is no longer a mere action figure, but a character of a certain complexity, vulnerable, given to introspection, capable of sustaining a dramatic arc through his iterations.
The Bond that Daniel Craig has been playing since Royal Casino has benefited for the first time in this veteran franchise from a solid narrative common to each of the films. Through her the character has evolved and detached himself from the univocal image that Fleming drew and that each of the interpreters – from Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan – tried to qualify in their own way, running into the test in their 25th adventure of fire. This is, with the end of a saga within a saga, the demonstration that everything raised had a single possible outcome. Has fulfilled No time to die, finally directed by Cary Fukunaga, with these expectations? And, if you did, have you needed to turn your back on a filmic past of almost 60 years?
The Chameleon Agent
Last year, in the midst of a series of delays in No time to die, Eduardo Valls Oyarzun published James Bond vs. Dr. Brexit (Guillermo Escolar Editor) wanting to extract all the cultural meanings of the spy from contemporaneity. With this gesture I subscribed some statements by Neal Purvis – writer of the series since The world is never enough– on the difficulty of making a Bond film today. “With people like Trump, the classic villain of 007 has come true, so it will be interesting to manage that the world has become a fantasy in itself. In each film you have to say something about Bond’s place in the world, which is Britain’s place in the world. ”
Purvis was commenting on it a couple of years after the premiere of Specter, when “Britain’s place in the world” was already marked by Brexit. A reality that had not reflected in any way the Sam Mendes film, but that connected with certain elements of the character. “Brexit was proposed as a recovery of British greatness, which would have been lost after the United Kingdom was placed under the tutelage of the European Union,” says Oyarzun in his invaluable essay, “and called for uniting self-denial efforts to reestablish the position dominance that once allowed the empire to win the Napoleonic wars or the Second World War “. A bombastic reassessment of British identity that is inseparable from the birth of James Bond in the 1950s.
The first novels of the character arose in the context of the confiscation of the British Empire, on the eve of the Suez crisis and against the background of the Cold War. Very specific circumstances, which however would not prevent James Bond from adapting to later scenarios, as the cultural critic Elisa McCausland explains. “The configuration of the character corresponds to the technocratic and glamorous masculinity that is imposed as imaginary in the West after World War II. It could therefore be thought that it is outdated, but it is enough to observe the current advertising directed at the wealthy classes to have clear that the imaginary Bond continues in force “, assures McCausland. “In the power centers of the financial and political world, the ghost of Bond continues to float as a legitimation of a masculinity in a suit, stale perfume and a gold watch.”
Oyarzun, for his part, traces this codification of masculinity to a hundred years earlier, when he aligned himself with the Victorian period of the British Empire (1837-1901) and we located that golden era to which Fleming wanted to go back to constitute his hero. The epic of great men, theorized by Thomas Carlyle, he breathed through Bond before he even leapt into the movies and became an international success, delighting the world with his escapist adventures while channeling the patriotic aspirations of his fellow citizens. “The geopolitical fiction of James Bond is nothing more than the fantasy that Britain’s ability to shape the world, rather than disappear, has been transformed,” writes Oyarzun. “According to this postulate the empire, with its load of great illusions and masculine impetus, has not been suppressed but repressed: it has become ‘secret'”.
Does this mean that James Bond is ideologically committed to Brexit? Oyarzun does not believe it, since he and McCausland coincide in pointing out a malleability inherent to the figure of 007, whoever its interpreter is: one that would conflict with the monolithic postulates that precipitated the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. “Diversity as a rational and integrating consequence, typical of the British, is part of the identity of James Bond”, concludes Oyarzun, while McCausland associates the nature of 007 as a liquid signifier with its adaptability. Whatever the historical moment, or the canonical manifestations of gender.
Each incarnation of Bond has supposed a sublimation of the imaginary ones of the masculinity of the moment and, in a certain way, also a critic to the previous ones, maintains McCausland. “George Lazenby’s Bond is a keen vision of the beta man, haunted by the presence of an alpha male he cannot impersonate; Roger Moore’s clown Bond reacts to second wave feminism; Pierce Brosnan’s Bond reaffirms his masculinity in the 90 like sparring of the typical strong women of the time … and as for Daniel Craig, he leads a reboot in the wake of Jason Bourne when, after the 9/11 attacks, it is impossible to believe an elegant super agent fighting sophisticated villains. “Craig is the Bond of our time, that is,” the archetype of a beast with a heart and without an identity, always on the run and trapped in a spectacular physique. “And his time is running out.
The most difficult mission
“No two Bond are ever the same, never have been, and the ability of these productions to adapt in a timely and opportunistic way to the zeitgeist is one of its great qualities. “In the long wait that has preceded the premiere of No time to dieEverything pointed to the fact that the ability to adapt that McCausland cites was limited to approaching the spy’s relationships with women in a different way, victims until now of manipulation, mistreatment or spite. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, recruited after the success of Fleabag as a screenwriter, he hastened to declare that this would not mean modifying the character of the character, and some months later it caused the controversy of rigor in social networks the decision to give the rank 007 to a black woman, played by Lashana Lynch.
Rather than speak of an artificial fit to dynamics that did not have so much influence less than five years ago, however, one must understand the ultimate nature of Craig’s stage, which as McCausland assures is eminently continuous. “Both Craig and Sean Connery, the first Bond, share a physical iconicity, a primacy of the purely muscular, which equates them as idols of social classes who do not find an adequate sublimation of themselves in the sophistication of technology, good food , brand clothing and language fluency. ” With this return to the visceral closeness of the beginnings it seems evident, on the other hand, that Craig has incorporated something unprecedented: an emotional vulnerability more typical of the version of George Lazenby whose only film, 007 on Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is insistently honored in No time to die.
It is not capricious. So much Skyfall What Specter They offered various retrospectives to the classic period of the saga – combining dirty post-9/11 realism with the other great trend in commercial cinema of this century, nostalgia – and seemed to do so according to the slow conversion of this reborn Bond into the Bond of forever. “The basic nature of the character is what it is”, reflects McCausland while discarding that it would make sense to replace Craig in the future with a woman or a racialized person, “and it is very difficult to change because it responds to a very specific archetype” . “The last stage is a good example of this: no matter how human she wants to be, she has not renounced the character’s nationalistic, technological and consumable signs of identity.” But the conversion has come to an end in No time to die, and surprisingly it has been one in which its character as a sequel to previous films seems to have weighed more than its status as a fireproof brand.
In fact, Craig’s latest adventure is not so much concerned with repositioning the United Kingdom in the Brexit coordinates as with transcending them when it comes to accentuating the particularities of the Bond that he presented. Royal Casino, and propel a heroism as current as linked to the prerogatives of Carlyle under the Victorian framework. A heroism “as a force alien to the flow of history that runs parallel to it, transcending time,” as quoted in James Bond vs. Dr. Brexit, and as has been replicated with religious zeal in No time to die. This new heroism is marked by the sentimental openness, the internalization of affections and the rejection of claustrophobic masculinity that Connery and Craig had wanted to pursue, running into the defining failure in this final installment.
That is why the film ends up being so emotional. Because Craig’s farewell is also the farewell to a Bond who has grown up with his viewers without having to change his face, preserving the scars of each mission and challenging, as is tradition in the saga, all the masculinity constructs that preceded him. It is possible that the direct way he has of making it violent to the most purist fans, but No time to die he never loses sight of his mission: to show that Bond has all the time in the world, his whole life ahead of him, to continue talking to his time, and to mutate accordingly.