Casino Royale is a great film apart from that interminable stuff at an airport while you’re waiting for Eva Green to show up, although I’m not sure even its fans were asking for the entire James Bond series to operate in that film’s shadow for the next 15 years. I’m not sure that modernising male characters has to be about loading them up with The Strong Man’s Burdens either, but burdened strong men litter the landscape from Mission:Impossible to Rambo Last Blood to Sicario 2, a bulk cultural shorthand for all sorts of things that are more nuanced than the average blockbuster can contain. Bond has spent three whole films suppressing a mournful sigh of regret in every scene, even the ones where he’s relieving some Spectre schmuck of his spleen. In return for this he gets Vesper Lynd’s mausoleum exploding in his face at the start of No Time to Die, simultaneously as absurd a final insult as possible and the only thing left to happen in their relationship.
No Time to Die has been built in the workshop to have something for everyone, or at least everyone acclimatised to the way that the Bond films strike a serious pose and a goofy self-conscious smirk at the same time. So 007’s very serious emotional rescue takes place while ludicrous nanobots dissolve people’s faces and a henchman carries Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s bionic eye around on a plush little cushion like he’s bringing in the Ferrero Rocher. Hans Zimmer does the music and quotes not just John Barry directly but his own Batman Begins music too; compared to the moments of deep jazz brass in Thomas Newman’s last two scores, the music is just a rhythm track. The film’s dialogue is entirely made of polyester, but Daniel Craig spins some of it into gold. I’ve forgotten who the villain is already. M should get the sack. The luxury brand tie-ins roll on as if the world wasn’t sinking beneath the waters, should anyone fancy Moneypenny’s white MKC x 007 Bond Bancroft handbag for £1,350.
And Bond meets a couple of competent female co-workers, one of whom in particular was apparently built to the original blueprint after a few decades of social change and geopolitical shift. He gets on with her so famously that it probably counts as self-love; one look at her and he knows the game is up, nothing left but the weeping string synth patches of the Hans Zimmer keyboard. This and several other things about No Time to Die reviewed for Critic’s Notebook.
See also: Skyfall in which the bad guy plays a John Lee Hooker song for no earthly reason and Spectre in which the master criminal prints out pictures of other characters from the MGM website and sticks them up with Blu Tack.