One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 54
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
Without too much of a drumroll, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve decided No Time to Die will be the first movie I plan on seeing in a theater since February, 2020, right before the Covid-prompted lockdown. If anyone is going serve as my pandemic-busting hero during these times, it ain’t gonna be no Marvel Comics superhero—it will be James Bond.
After six years, a global pandemic and a worldwide shutdown and quarantine, it’s time to proclaim that James Bond is back! The theatrical release of the much-anticipated 25th Bond film adventure, No Time to Die has finally taken place. And it looks like Bond has defeated the Covid virus, or at least kept it at bay for the time being.
Originally scheduled to open over Easter weekend in April, 2020 but waylaid by the pandemic, the film’s U.S. release was changed four times: Its opening was first moved to November 25, 2020, then shifted back a bit to November 20, then pushed ahead to April 2, 2021 and then, finally, moved to last weekend on October 8.
And, now, it’s fair to say, based on the box-office reaction overseas (it opened in a number of foreign markets during the final days of September) and its U.S. rollout this past weekend, coupled with a nonstop international publicity blitz, that Bond is back in a BIG way!
No Time to Die rang up $167 million at the international box office going into the weekend of October 8, with expectations of continued bang-up business around the world, particularly with its debuts in France and Russia, among other territories. By weekend’s end, the tally was up to $259 million on the foreign front, with all eyes turning to the U.S. and the film’s roll out to 4,400 screens over the holiday weekend. In the weeks prior to the release, analysts and studios projected a $55-$60 million take at the stateside box office.
The final number wasn’t all that far off, with No Time to Die coming in at $62 million at the domestic box office for the extended weekend. Like James Bond himself when he captures a nefarious assassin or a slinky blonde in his sights, the film behaved exactly like everyone expected it to behave. And that’s a good thing—we don’t need any surprises right now as the Delta variant continues to make a mess of things and our slow recovery from past hellish 18 months bumpily improves. And with a $322 million box office take worldwide and counting, No Time to Die is on track to becoming the biggest blockbuster of the pandemic era. Take that, Black Widow and Venom!
No Time to Die stars Daniel Craig in what has been announced as his final appearance as the legendary British Secret Service agent. (But you knew that, right?) It’s Craig’s fifth James Bond film, a 15-year cycle that began with his 2006 debut as 007 in Casino Royale.
I’m going to reserve any critical assessment on the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed No Time to Die or the opinions of other critics and aggregators until after I’ve seen the film, which probably won’t happen for at least a month. Hey, I might be eager to go to the theater, but I have no problem waiting a little while longer for the movie house to be a little less crowded. A nice late morning weekday multi-plex screening, perhaps…
That said, since the next time I talk about Bond, it’s going to be all about Daniel Craig’s swan song, let me exercise my rights as a Bond aficionado and hit you with a handful of opinions on some of the previous highpoints in the Bond pantheon. Bond fans love doing this and I’m no exception.
And be sure to check back with me next month!
Reel Streaming’s 7 Best of 007
1) James Bond’s introduction in Dr. No
Looking across a casino gaming table at the tuxedoed man who’s just beaten her at chemin de fer, a smiling temptress coos, “I admire your luck, Mr….?” The camera cuts to a tuxedoed Sean Connery, lighting a cigarette that’s dangling from his lips, to hear him reply “Bond. James Bond.” That was at the eight-minute mark of the 1961 film, the very first James Bond adventure, and there was no looking back.
2) Bond and Oddjob fight to the death in Goldfinger
Surrounded by stacks of gold bullion bars inside a gleaming chamber at Fort Knox, 007 and the titular villain’s hulking Korean manservant (and his steel-rimmed bowler hat) go mano a mano as a lethal cobalt bomb ticks down to what will surely be their mutual destruction. Weird and wild stuff.
3) The death of Bond’s new wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
As Bond pulls off to the side of a mountain road and removes decorative flowers from his and his new wife Tracy’s car following their wedding reception, the villainous Blofeld drives by and sprays the scene with machine gun fire. Tracy is killed instantly, leaving the shocked and sorrowful secret agent to cradle her bloody head in his arms and weep, “We have all the time in the world.” It remains the saddest moment in the entire series.
4) The spiraling car jump in The Man with the Golden Gun
Bond launching his AMC Hornet X off a slanted bridge remnant to the other side of a swampy brook with a 360-degree barrel roll in-between remains one of the greatest car stunts of all time. And it’s probably the only one to ever receive its own credit in the end crawl: “AMC Astro Spiral Jump – Mathematical and computer technology furnished by Carlspan Computation, Buffalo, New York.”
5) The ski chase in The Spy Who Loved Me
There have been no fewer than four extended ski chases in the Bond franchise, but this opening pursuit across the Austrian Alps remains the most breathtaking. This liveliest of pre-credit sequences ends with Bond jumping off a mountaintop, losing his skis during his seemingly endless plummet, and then finally opening his hidden Union Jack-emblazoned parachute to the strains of Carly Simon singing “Nobody Does It Better.”
6) The foot chase and fight in Casino Royale
Bond runs down a nefarious terrorist in a furious pursuit in Madagascar that brings him to the top of a swinging derrick, across a high-rise construction site and finally into a hostile embassy building filled with gun-toting guards. Parkour-styled leaps and fiery explosions accentuate this wildly physical and inventive back-to-basics chase sequence.
7) Bond meeting Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale
On board a train to Montenegro, Bond has a sit-down dinner with British Treasury Agent Vesper Lynd and they begin to fall for each other as they thrust and parry with the most stylish and sexy dialogue this side of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
“Having just met you, I wouldn’t go as far as calling you a cold-hearted bastard, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine. You think of women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits,” Vesper says, sizing up her dinner companion. “So as charming as you are, Mr. Bond, I will be keeping my eye on our government’s money and off your perfectly formed ass.”
“You noticed,” grins Bond.
“Even accountants have imagination,” she replies.
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.