‘You’re the only one I trust for this.’
An imaginative design ethic with chilling overtones and a sense of Giallo horror, a straddling of the classic and the new, a new Aston Martin car chase, a dynamic narrative and cast on duty to re-point some familiar Bond role dynamics with some possible changes of in-house staff, a sharp looking leading man who has never looked more onscreen ready for the role and a beautiful sense of Bond purpose. As the twenty-fifth bullet in James Bond’s ongoing cinematic project is loaded into the barrel for an April 2020 launch and No Time to Die pulls back the sheets on its first full trailer, this bullet catcher casts a goldeneye over what cards the House of Bond may have dealt their favourite spy as he steps into his 007th movie decade…
As Mark Gatiss aptly notes in Catching Bullets, a new Bond trailer is very much a ‘red letter day’ for Bond and movie fans. In a download, hashtag and streaming-heavy age, the world has switched from watching films in cinemas or on TV at the same time to watching trailers online concurrently. Just as we experience less of those communally shared moments with cinema, the trailer has reignited that mass spectatorship and become the lightning moment movie publicists and PR elves are so desperate to catch in their bottles. The currency has almost shifted from opening weekend fever to trailer fever. Or teaser fever. Or teaser for the teaser fever. Or teaser image for the teaser trailer fever. However, one mid-’80s 007 trailer narrators may have once declared – in the world of high adventure, the highest number is still 007. And as some online movie fans may have been decrying Bond for not coming round with a silver platter of No Time to Die treats earlier, when that first trailer hit on Wednesday 4 December 2019, the concerns were reset faster than a bomb-timer in the last act of a 007 film.
An ’80s Aston Martin V8 in storage (Bond is clearly spending a fortune on automobile lock-ups across the globe), a night at Q’s London pad, a caper of bio-technology, an incarcerated nemesis and the most valuable asset this country has, a Cuban riddle crisis, a striking and behemothic design nod to the modernist genius that was production artist Ken Adam, Bond’s Jamaican homestead both neighbouring and echoing that of Bond’s creator Ian Fleming and a Swannsong singing a very different tune – for what was expected to be a teaser of slithers and loud sparks, the trailer for No Time to Die instantly pulled the Pinewood rug out from under what many expected with an impactful level of story coverage, character introduction, possible plot and a wholly assured sense of movie purpose. Of course, context is all, good trailers are wily beasts and this is a film that is still very much being sculpted, nurtured and built.
With those teal-tinged eyes of Daniel Craig possibly influencing the costume, design and marketing palette of No Time to Die, blue is the warmest killer in this trailer – with a midnight blue midnight Bond panicking through an ominous party, the blue waters and neon nightclubs of Jamaica, a frozen blue lake, the turquoise ghosting of a Jamaican bedroom, those sky blue Tom Ford shirts, the blue steel paintjob and stained glass of a MI6 bolthole, a twisting camera following a blue-tinged office raid, Bond’s newest blue N. Peal Navy Hero jumper, and a villain’s lair marked by shimmering blue light and strip-lit watery labs. Sapphires are clearly forever for cinematographer Linus Sandgren (La La Land, First Man) with his debut foray as Bond’s chief lens-man already standing tall alongside the high pedigree of previous photographers, Roger Deakins (2012’s Skyfall) and Hoyte Van Hoytema (2015’s Spectre). No Time to Die looks to be a Bond bullet of distortions, gravity-defying visuals, mirrored agents cascading into infinity and maybe less story-reliance on MI6 tech than before. Maybe.
Of course, the necessary nods and tributes to Bond’s six-decade past are here in this two-and-a-half minute amuse-bouche. The heritage of the DB5’s battle capabilities, the glories of old-school gatling guns stepping out of the Aston’s headlights, the Stromberg vanishing point of a villain’s base, Rami Malek’s louche and cold-blooded reptilian villain, an opening-act swallow-dive off a bridge, a glimpsed cat-scratching post suggesting meeting Q’s cats may be finally on the cards and a dank tunnel-cum-gunbarrel motif closing this trailer as Dr. No once began. These all point to the continuation of the Daniel Craig Bond project at straddling the vintage and the contemporary, the old and the new. As James Mangold’s recent and rather slick Ford V Ferrari (a film starring Bond’s own stunt driver Ben Collins as Christian Bale’s co-driver) highlighted with such fresh onscreen velocity – the movie car chase can evolve. As camera, pre-vis, vehicle and second-unit technology finds its higher gears, this trailer for No Time to Die suggests a production pride around what principal photography achieved on the streets of Matera during the 2019 shoot – with hints of a freshly pitched car pursuit of low cameras, newly designed cameras, elaborate angles, impossible practical stunts and a heightened sense of humour and peril.
Just as Spectre saw director Sam Mendes and costume designer Jany Temime tip their hats to the films of Bernardo Bertolucci (The Sheltering Sky, The Spider’s Stratagem), this marketing overture for No Time to Die sees director Cary Fukunaga possibly not totally unaware of the likes of Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) and the background visuals of trailing Catholic processions and Virgin Mary statues on the move. With Craig’s Bond getting his fourth Italian stamp in his passport in nearly as many films, this trailer however suggests the new Bond film is also not just shooting in Italy. As well as the new Basilicata locations serving the production, the Italian film and literature genre of Giallo is clearly not that far from No Time to Die‘s influences. A product of the ’60s and ’70s (not that unlike Bond himself), Giallo is also all about thriller stories positioned alongside horror elements. The world of a gialli story is often one of shadows, the secrets of women, stylised violence, masks, eyes, high camp excess, twisting and baroque camera angles and titles taken straight from a pulp fiction novel. So far, so very No Time to Die. As this bullet catcher once wondered, the verve and punch of director Cary Fukunaga could well be a brand new creative shot in the arm for the series. Yesteryear Bond bullets often contained flourishes of the absurd, the strange, the underworld and the baroque. Just one image in this trailer of a masked phantom sniffing at the retro trappings of a reed glass window hints that ’80s kid Fukunaga is peppering his Bond film with similar quirks and ‘under the skin’ villainy.
‘History isn’t kind to men who play God.’
As Bond enters his 007th decade, his twenty-fifth bullet fires a trailer with a bespoke shake, an imaginative stir and a potentially contemporary zeal Daniel Craig’s final spin of the dice [and DB5] deserves. The knives were out, but have just been shot away by a bullet stamped ‘25‘. In one beat of this trailer we see a Jamaican beach house and a bedside pile of books. One of them is Robert M. Pirsig’s classic ode to journeying men, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – An Inquiry Into Values (1974). As No Time to Die purportedly marks Daniel Craig’s final spin of the 007 dice, one of its touted beats is to continue and conclude the sixth Bond’s story. With some already ever-so-chilling signposts to cheating death, the grim mystery bells tolling for the Proustian heroine Dr Madeleine Swann and a Bond tackling duty over life, perhaps one of the best clues as to how Daniel Craig will bow out can be found in Pirsig’s famous text…
“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
― Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
No Time to Die is released throughout the world in April 2020.