Film Week: 007’s Endgame
You feel treated by the whole enterprise.
October sees the start of the season for those interested in the arts (and if you’re not, what are you doing here?). BAFTA begins its screening schedule, art exhibitions and new plays all appear after the summer doldrums and apparently the opera season roughly corresponds to the football, so there’s something for everyone.
What Pete and I need is a night out at the pictures, I thought, ideally on a free ticket. What’s on at the local? How about the world premiere of the new James Bond? Chuck and Camilla will be there, and Wills and Kate, and Daniel Craig will be making his own clothes. We schlepped over to the Royal Albert Hall and managed to be late.
What’s the film like? Well, if you put all the Daniel Craig-era Bonds into a blender and turned it on you’d get ‘No Time To Die’ and the colour of Daniel’s jacket. It’s a greatest hits fan package, and its smartest move is to draw links with the entire 25-film canon. The callbacks come thick and fast, while the soundtrack manages to include references to Bonds before Craig’s time, so if we were really looking at continuity 007 would be about *taps calculator’ 120 years old. Or Roger Moore’s age in ‘Octopussy’.
As for the nods to new feminism, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s much-vaunted script input is not much in evidence – lip service only, but you always knew it was only going to be that. Miss Moneypenny might by 45 in reality but she’s gorgeous and slim and there are no older women in sight, while there are plenty of older males blathering on about nanobots.
The plot: Several seem to be going on at once so take your pick. Any one of them would have filled a whole film and none make much sense. There are plenty of nice globetrotting locations and not one but two supervillains toting several planetsworth of WMDs. There’s also a nice nod to the late set designer Ken Adam – mmm, sliding steel doors whooshing shut in concrete walls.
The whole thing is ersatz, a sidestep from reality where nothing anyone says or does is remotely real. Some dialogue proves literally unspeakable – one line runs something like, ‘We should be able to detonate it from Blofeld’s eyeball.’ Craig is unable to summon up a single witty remark, his Easter Island face never quite unclenching itself. Is he recalling a life ruined by service to his country or merely suffering from trapped wind? It’s hard to tell. No-one would deny Bond the closure he seeks for recent tragedy but only the hardest heart would fail to laugh.
And yet. Here’s the thing; there’s something so charmingly retro about the whole enterprise, like being allowed to stay up late and watch ‘Moonraker’ under your duvet (this was last week in my case) that it lulls you into falling for it. Then it bludgeons you into submission. As M wrings his hands and Q toys with lethal watches you know you’re in safe hands, I mean safe-ish considering Bond can’t walk past a building without it falling down. There are stunts which would once have provided the climactic sequence, now almost thrown away, emotional peaks that would fuel a dozen other movies (you could squeeze a rom-com out of Q’s date night alone) and one character, the delightful Paloma, who deserves her own spin-off movie. You feel treated, by the way in which old and new is combined, by the surprises (including one which will hurt if you’ve been with the series for a long time) and by the spitting out of set pieces like a box-firework that goes on a little too long (163 minutes) – but even that is OK because more of everything is still more. And you’ll love it because it’s everything you didn’t know you wanted.