If you’ve studied the action genre, you’ll know that however grizzled and creaky-hipped they get, our heroes never stay retired.
Take James Bond (Daniel Craig) in No Time To Die. After a series spent foiling a long line of metal-toothed, pincer-handed maniacs, the super-spy is cooling his heels in Jamaica.
But the peace is broken by a visit from CIA agent and long-time compadré Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) with news of a vanishing act by scientist Waldo Obruchev (David Dencik).
Bond’s in, but when he discovers how deep and deadly this mystery goes, he might wish he’d stayed at the beach house.
We’ve known Bond since 1962’s Dr No, through a total of 25 films and with 8 actors taking on the role of the iconic MI5 spy. But in his final outing, Daniel Craig dives into the “flaws” that drive 007 (“I always had a secret idea,” he says, “of where I wanted to take it”).
But this isn’t just a man’s world.
Producer Barbara Broccoli has spoken of reflecting the #MeToo movement, and you feel the winds of change in Nomi (Lashana Lynch): a pushy young agent who wants Bond off the mission. There’s never been a more relatable female character than CIA butt-kicker Paloma, described by actress Ana De Armas as “bubbly”, “irresponsible” and “messy”.
And as for Bond’s backroom staff, you can set your laser watch by intelligence chief M (Ralph Fiennes), secretary-on-steroids Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and gadget-master Q (Ben Whishaw).
Given that Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) was taken down in 2015’s Spectre, the world should now be all candyfloss and puppies, shouldn’t it? Well, no.
While Blofeld rots in MI6 custody during No Time To Die, a new villain rises in the form of Safin (Rami Malek). If you only know Malek as the Oscar-winning star of Bohemian Rhapsody and Mr Robot, prepare to have your flesh creeped by a Japanese mask-wearing psychopath, currently setting the internet ablaze with theories that his character is actually Dr No, from the original film.
Intriguingly, Malek doesn’t deny it: “I heard that rumour,” he told Esquire. “Isn’t that an exciting thing to consider?”
It just wouldn’t be James Bond on a moped. Take your seats for No Time To Die and brace yourself for automotive overload.
We know from the trailer that the new 2020 Land Rover Defender will feature in the mother of all off-road chases, while long-time Bond marque Aston Martin has confirmed No Time To Die will feature four classic models. We can’t wait for Bond’s bulletproof DB5, seen wasting the bad guys with Gatling guns behind the headlights.
But for eagle-eyed Bond-watchers, the sleuth’s V8 Vantage Volante might be most tantalising: it’s got the same numberplate (B549 WUU) as the car from 1987’s The Living Daylights, so does it still have the pop-out skis and chassis-slicing lasers?
As well as shooting at Pinewood Studios – home to the world-famous 007 Stage, purpose built for The Spy Who Loved Me in 1976 – No Time To Die globe-trots between Kingston and Port Antonia in Jamaica, London, Aviemore in Scotland’s Cairngorms and the lonely beauty of the Faroe Islands.
The scene where Bond is trapped beneath a frozen lake went down in Nittedal, Norway, but perhaps the best stunt sequence is the chase through the stunning hill town of Matera in southern Italy.
Let’s just hope it stays stunning after Bond has skidded a motorbike up the roof of an ancient basilica…
From Jack White to Adele, the Bond series has always snared the finest musical talent. Likewise, No Time To Die has its finger on the pulse, with Grammy-hoarding alt-pop sensation Billie Eilish turning in a slow-burn ballad that the 18-year-old whispers in your ear like a twisted fairytale.
Eilish recalled that No Time To Die took just three days to write in a tourbus crossing Texas – but that waiting for Craig’s verdict was nerve-wracking: “He has a big say in it. He's really involved. He's got to like it before they move on.”