Welcome to Movie DNA, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of both new and classic movies. Learn some film history, become a more well-rounded viewer, and enjoy like-minded works of the past. This entry highlights what to watch if you like the James Bond movie No Time to Die.
Before Daniel Craig came along, you could pretty much watch any James Bond movie on its own. But the latest era of the 007 franchise has followed a continuous narrative arc for Bond. Before seeing each new installment, you pretty much had to have seen the last. With No Time to Die, Craig’s final stint in the role, you definitely benefit by doing your homework. You need to watch Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre first.
The Craig Bonds are also filled with “easter egg” homages to other James Bond movies of the past. That sort of fan service pays off better if you recognize it, but if you’re not familiar ahead of time, you can enjoy the reference afterward by catching up. I should probably devote this entire edition of Movie DNA to which classic Bond films are best to watch next. But I decided to only recommend the most significant and then filled the rest of the list with other picks I find to be relevant.
As always, I note where you can watch each movie, if available, as of the moment of this column’s publication.
Tank Force (1958)
Four years after the first screen appearance of James Bond and four years before the first film adaptation, Tank Force arrived in theaters under its original name, No Time to Die. It’s a strange production that is so divided on what it’s called that the IMDb page says one thing and the Wikipedia entry says another. Also, it’s inconsistent whether an exclamation point belongs at the end of either title. Now, 63 years later, the 25th James Bond movie is also known as No Time to Die. No punctuation.
Anyway, besides the connection to one of its names, the World War II drama happens to have been written by Richard Maibaum and Terence Young, and directed by Young. And one of its producers was Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. All three went on to make the first James Bond feature film, Dr. No, in 1962. Young also directed two more Bonds, Maibaum worked on the screenplays for 12 more, and Broccoli produced 14 more before his death (at which point his daughter took over). How’s that for trivia?
Well, here are some more fun facts: the female lead, Luciana Paluzzi, went on to play Fiona Volpe, the villainous Bond Girl in Thunderball, and Tank Force star Anthony Newley wrote the lyrics to the title song from Goldfinger. Here’s one more morsel: the other producer of Tank Force, Irving Allen, famously missed the Bond boat — he and Broccoli actually had a falling out over his disinterest in the series — so he started his own spy movie franchise in 1966 focused on the character Matt Helm.
Our Man Flint (1966)
Another spy film series started in 1966 follows the character Derek Flint (played by James Coburn). As with others in the genre of the time, Our Man Flint was a response to the popularity of James Bond and takes a more comedic approach to the world of espionage. The reason I am spotlighting it now in relation to No Time to Die is that it’s the first action movie and franchise film release that I can think of that begins a retired hero having to be pulled back into the game for a mission only he can accomplish.
Released one year later, fellow spy film spoof Casino Royale also begins with its main character in retirement. That hero is James Bond (played by David Niven), since Columbia Pictures had the rights to Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel — which had already been adapted for television 12 years earlier — and decided to turn it into a comedy rather than have it compete with the “official” Bond films. Of course, the “official” franchise would eventually acquire the rights to the book and make their own version, which kicked off Daniel Craig’s run as Agent 007.
Our Man Flint is available to rent digitally from your favorite VOD outlet.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
The one James Bond movie I’m recommending is also arguably the best James Bond movie ever. There are a few allusions in No Time to Die to George Lazenby’s single stint as 007. Most notably, Craig’s Bond tells Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), “We have all the time in the world,” just before they’re ambushed in a sequence that ends with the couple separating. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby’s Bond utters this exact phrase to his new wife (Diana Rigg) at the very end of the film, ironically after she’s been killed.
In case that wasn’t enough for the fans, the song “We Have All the Time in the World,” as performed by Louis Armstrong for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, plays during the end credits of No Time to Die. And the instrumental version of that theme plays in other spots of the new movie, too. It’s a blatant “easter egg” that provides emphasis for the melancholy nature of and some foreshadowing for the events of No Time to Die. It also could seem like a red herring as it makes you think Madeleine is the one who is doomed.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is now streaming free on PlutoTV.
The Rock (1996)
If you’re one of those who see The Rock as an unofficial sequel to the Sean Connery run of James Bond movies, then I guess here’s another 007 recommendation. Connery plays a legendary British spy who has been in American custody for decades. He’s brought out of prison in order to assist the US government with a mission to Alcatraz to stop terrorists from unleashing a biological weapon. In No Time to Die, Bond is brought out of retirement to assist American agents after terrorists steal a biological weapon.
Connery’s character, along with a team of Navy SEALs and an FBI agent played by Nicolas Cage, also enter “the rock” similarly to how Bond and friends enter the terrorist villain’s island lair in No Time to Die. At the end of both movies, the primary hero (it’s actually Cage in The Rock) is in a race against time to finish the mission before military forces destroy the island with a barrage of missiles. In The Rock, though, the goal is to signal for the missiles not to be deployed. In No Time to Die, they’re already on their way. Ultimately, the island is struck in both stories, but only for James Bond in No Time to Die is it lethal for the hero.
The extent to which I was reminded of The Rock while watching No Time to Die seemed like a coincidence until the James Bond movie also wound up reminding me of Con Air. That’s Cage’s second collaboration with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, released a year later. The ridiculous plot follows the actor as an ex-Army Ranger about to get out of prison and finally meet his young daughter when the plane serving as his final transport is hijacked by his fellow convicts. There’s a toy bunny involved, just as there is during the climax of No Time to Die, which winds up in need of saving. The only thing missing is Bond telling someone to put the bunny back in a box.
The Rock is now available to watch on FuboTV and Showtime.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
The concept of nanotechnology has been around for decades, but it’s still such an abstract idea for most people that its application in entertainment is broad, nonsensical, and seemingly unrealistic. Nanobots appear capable of being anything that a writer needs them to be. They can be the explanation for otherwise magical regeneration of body or armor in superhero movies or they can be unseen MacGuffins and weapons in James Bond movies, like No Time to Die.
Mainstream misunderstanding of nanobots can have a negative impact on the real scientific research involved. And it really hasn’t helped the field that its advances in public awareness have been through media attention on the more out-there ideas (see Ray Kurzweil, Transcendence) and from villainous plots or otherwise bad scenarios (see Michael Crichton’s novel Prey, episodes of sci-fi shows such as Star Trek and Doctor Who, most movies with nanobots, including No Time to Die).
The first movie that I can think of that features nanotechnology — and of course, it’s for an evil scheme — is Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. Unsurprisingly since nanobots were most prominent in anime early on, probably because live-action special effects weren’t adequate to depict them for a while. Anyway, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie involves terrorists who unleash a mysterious deadly new virus, which turns out to really be nanobots targeting the human immune system. Sounds familiar.
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