Why James Bond Must Die
You don’t actually need to see the trailer for No Time To Die to know some of the things that will happen in Daniel Craig’s fifth outing as James Bond and the franchise’s 25th installment.
There will be ‘modern’ touches to keep things progressive—an electric car, some female characters with possibly funny lines, a crafty nod or two to Craig’s impending retirement. (Will Bond have awkward leaving drinks in the upstairs of a pub near the office?)
Some sunny backdrops, some snowy ones. Some chases in cars and some on foot. Daniel Craig clenching his teeth and inexplicably not slipping over while sprinting in his leather-soled derbies.
There will be much analysis of this trailer in order to speculate on what it might mean for the film itself, released next April.
But we certainly won’t find out from this carefully presented two and a half minute showreel whether the filmmakers have been brave enough to do the one thing they need to do in the 2020 edition—kill James Bond off.
When the film’s title—No Time To Die—was announced it seemed an oddly jaded jumble of words, like the producers had turned to a random Bond title generator or stumbled across the minutes of a brainstorm from the Roger Moore era. Had another trick been missed to move things on a bit?
In hindsight, we can instead hope that the title is an ironic red herring from the Bond puppet masters because they too must know that for various reasons right now is precisely the time for 007 to meet his maker.
After Bond 25’s original director Danny Boyle left the project in August 2018 due to “creative differences” with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson there were rumors Boyle and his long-time screenwriting collaborator John Hodge had wanted to do just this, though Boyle has only gone as far as to say the producers had wanted to go with a different screenwriter so he had walked too.
But this was contradicted by another report that it was actually Broccoli and Craig that had wanted Bond to die and that Boyle didn’t want to be the guy who killed him off.
Whichever story may be true, the option has clearly been discussed. And rightly so.
Craig has been in the job for 13 years. Bond for nearly 60. While the Craig era managed to mark a genuine change in approach from the puff and smirks of the Brosnan era, producing some occasionally stellar set-pieces and at least marking a new high in how a James Bond can look thanks to the skills of cinematographer Roger Deakins, it still carried a somewhat tired and earnest air, the mark of a main character undergoing palliative care. As we reach No Time To Die, it feels more like his death throes.
The jibes have been there throughout Craig’s tenure, with Bond depicted as an out of touch dinosaur, mocked for his cold heart, old-fashioned approach and even his failing eyesight.
The political and cultural landscape has clearly changed somewhat since he first came on to our screens—and even since the halcyon pre-referendum days of Spectre; surely so has the tolerance to men who slip into the shower of a sex trafficking victim uninvited as he did in Skyfall and later smirk when she is shot dead with a glass of whisky on her head, muttering “waste of a good scotch”. Incredibly, these are scenes from a film released just seven years ago.
Given that Boyle’s replacement as director Cary Fukimawa has been described as a “total tree-hugger” it’s hard to imagine him continuing to celebrate a character who has made such behavior his trademark.
Yet trying to modernize his habits would surely be too much of a cringe. It’s hard to imagine Bond checking if the casino menu is locally-sourced.
The public interest in the stories around Idris Elba or a female actor taking over the role must also have been sent a message to producers that an alcoholic, womanizing post-empire spy figure might not be the perfect poster boy for the coming generation. As his core fans continue to age, producers will surely have one eye on how to pull in the under 30s before it’s too late.
Far from being commercial suicide, it could reinvigorate interest in how the character could evolve. Given that the 007 moniker can be passed to another agent, there is the opportunity to carry on the franchise with a brand new person in the job.
Creatively it makes sense too. What better way to keep things interesting than throwing off the baggage that Bond carries around like an elderly hotel porter.
And as far as this film is concerned, killing off Bond would also represent a chance for a genuine blow-out finale that could go down in cinema history. The moment one of film’s most famous characters met his maker and a timely change from the previous two lo-fi endings. Skyfall’s Scottish highlands shoot-out looked like a post-apocalyptic episode of a Sunday night sitcom As Time Goes By with Judi Dench getting her shoes muddy and Albert Finney lurking in the cupboard under the stairs. The only jeopardy was whether they’d be able to get the dents out of the Aston Martin.
Spectre meanwhile ended with a scene on Westminster Bridge that could have been taken straight off the DVD extras of Line Of Duty—yellow police tape, trench-coated men and moody shots of dark puddles.
Even Craig himself famously said he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again. Was he perhaps persuaded to change his mind when the producers promised he’d be the last man ever to play Bond if he did one more? Ok, a reported £50m paycheck might have helped too but it’s a tempting theory.
No Time To Die has the opportunity to be something that a Bond film hasn’t managed to be in recent memory—original and interesting. Let’s hope they don’t fluff the chance.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.