Albert “Cubby’ Broccoli’s stamp is very much in evidence in testosterone fuelled action/thriller No Time To Die, a expensive dress rehearsal for the James Bond movies with many of the same preoccupations on display in embryonic form. Bond was, of course, Ian Fleming’s creation, but it was Broccoli and his family who would go on to create and nurture the cinematic incarnation of the brutish, British super-spy. Having optioned the rights to the Bond adventures, Broccoli was assembling reliable talents; this enterprise features Dr No director Terence Young, plus writer Richard Maibaum who worked on 13 of the franchise entries.
WWII was very much were the notions of a gentleman spy were tested; No Time To Die features an unusual lead character in David Thatcher (Victor Mature), who is something rather more than a conventional soldier; having taken part in the failed assassination of Joseph Goebbels, Thatcher has a sizable bounty on his head and knows that capture means certain death. So when the British tank crew Thatcher is riding with are captured, Thatcher immediately leads a POW escape for his own sake rather than anyone else’s; he’s a one-man army who plays by his own rules a la Bond. He’s joined by the more sedate Kendell (Leo Genn), a Brit keen to educate his American friend as to the ‘rules of war’. The war was barely a decade old when No Time to Die was filmed, and it’s something of a revelation to hear so much discussion about ‘what soldiering means to the King’s regulations’. Of course, the enemy feel free to break with tradition in violent style, and so does Thatcher, although Kendall is keen to keep him right as the action leads the men from a getaway via a stolen ambulance to a multi-tank battle near Benghazi, shot in Libya.
There’s a slew of links to Bond here, from acting talents female lead Lucianna Paluzzi (Thunderball) and Anthony Newley (who co-wrote the lyrics to Goldfinger), plus innumerable technical staff. The action scenes are up to 60’s Bond levels, with a few lively gunfights and bookends of set-piece desert tank action. But there’s also precursors of the laconic style of the Bond movies; a traitor is murdered by a baying crowd of the men off camera, and we pan slowly down to find his blood gushing out of down a drainpipe, a familiar short-hand often used in the Bond movies. It’s also notable that characters are firmly tied to real events; Thatcher has a tragic back-story, his wife has died in Belsen, and there’s a deliberate sourness about the way he navigates the war. It’s typical of Broccoli’s worldly output with his Warwick Films label, a specific taste for laconic action that Broccoli moved across to his new Eon Productions company, and the rest is history.
Once the titles of Ian Fleming’s stories were used up for movies, ephemera like the name of the author’s house (Goldeneye) came into play; presumably this aesthetic has been expanded to include Broccoli too. This feature no longer appears on his Wikipedia page, presumably to avoid any confusion with the new Bond movie No Time To Die, recently announced as heading to streaming on the new Paramount+ channel after a 2021 cinema release as part of the channels deal with MGM and Epix. Issued in the US as Tank Force!, the original No Time To Die is a watchable, well-crafted action film that’s of substantial interest to cineastes by dint of catching some major talents, and some resonant ideas, on their way to establishing cinema’s most venerable franchise. It might not be the No Time to Die we want right now, but it’s the No Time To Die we’ve got; James Bond fans will want to have a careful look before the latest instalment finally arrives this year.