Humour by Rehana Munir: We’ve been expecting (more from) you, Mr Bond

Daniel Craig’s all-too-tormented 007 exit in the recent release No Time To Die leaves one hankering for heroes past
No Time To Die makes some attempts at wokeness with a black woman playing 007 (Parth Garg)
No Time To Die makes some attempts at wokeness with a black woman playing 007 (Parth Garg)
Published on Oct 24, 2021 12:46 AM IST
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ByRehana Munir

Lockdowns can rewire your brain and make you do things you’d never dreamt of before. Sample this. I recently found myself in a theatre at 10am on a mellow Delhi Friday, putting on a pair of 3D glasses and sinking into one of those plush seats that are so decadent, you stop yourself from checking how far they recline purely on grounds of morality.

The private life of secret agents

No Time To Die makes some attempts at wokeness with a black woman playing 007 (for a short while), perhaps thanks to script inputs from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose Fleabag and Killing Eve put women at the centre of the story. But this is the world of Bond, James Bond. They’ve put him in sweet domestic situations, had him rescue a doll from a disaster site and even warm up to the colleague who’s taken over his title—but he’s still drearily heroic. Still, no one’s as dreary as the villain, played by Rami Malek in make-up that’s meant to serve as a back story. I really wanted to feel more about Daniel Craig’s exit from the franchise, but the word ‘franchise’ somehow got in the way of my need to feel.

But the theatre experience, along with recently-acquired antibodies and a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, was fantastic. The friend, like me, is an unlikely Bond girl. Irrespective, we found ourselves laughing both with and at the film. At one point, my mind went back to Graham Greene’s 1978 novel The Human Factor, about an M16 secret agent. “I wanted to present the Service unromantically as a way of life, men going daily to their office to earn their pensions” the author said about his celebrated novel. I then returned to ogling Bond’s indestructible Aston Martin with the gratitude of the cinema-starved.

Meanwhile on Baker Street…

Somewhere around the tenth car chase, I began to miss Bond’s compatriot from fiction, that other fellow who’s never shot of a quip as he saves the day yet again. My initiation into the world of Sherlock Holmes was not through literature but film; book lovers are supposed to have read the canonical works of all genres, but that’s not just impossible, it’s unnecessary. I found the two Guy Ritchie films, featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law that released in 2009 and 2011 respectively, to be a riot. The second film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, was camp as well as madcap. And “It’s so overt, it’s covert” is a line that can be applied to various situations with hilarious accuracy.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock bravely transplanted the action to modern-day London, but what the series gave up in terms of period atmosphere it gained in weirdness and originality. The moment where Moriarty (played magnificently by Andrew Scott), presumed dead, descends from a chopper to the rousing accompaniment of Queen’s I Want To Break Free, is one of those TV moments that stick.

No time to cringe

Perhaps the most enjoyable portion of the all-too-tormented new Bond film is an action sequence set in Cuba, where Bond is paired with a local contact in a low-cut dress and perilously high stilettoes (played by the luminous Ana de Armas). Declaring herself a novice, she leads him into a wine cellar. Spoiled by screenwriters past, Bond assumes this is a sexual prelude to the mission. But she merely needs him to get into his tuxedo, and is weirded out by his assumption. She then joins him in fighting off the bad guys while downing vodka martinis (with the added responsibility of avoiding a wardrobe malfunction). When he commends her on a job well done, she praises him back. Fun.

The last time this pair of actors appeared together on-screen was in the highly entertaining 2019 film, Knives Out. Daniel Craig was more in Holmes territory here, playing a private detective hired to solve the murder of a wealthy mystery novelist, the patriarch of a dysfunctional family. Ana de Armes was pitch perfect as the Latina nurse of the deceased, holding up the subversive drama’s theme: of challenging the bigotry that genteel society perpetrates against “the outsider”. Smart, funny, progressive. And a sequel is afoot.

Follow @rehana_munir on Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, October 24, 2021

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