Sigh. In answer to those asking why there’s no review published, or even planned, for the much-delayed James Bond film No Time To Die, here’s a quick glimpse behind the wizard’s curtain to explain the omission. In short, there’s no way to see this film. As with the previous James Bond films, there’s no press screenings in the country where I live, Scotland. James Bond was born in Scotland, his most famous incarnation was played by a Scottish actor, and the latest film was partly made here, and yet our critics won’t be allowed to see the film, and Scottish audiences will have to look to London-based journalists to hear about how it reflects on one of our national treasures.
And this is nothing new. Jordan Peele’s horror film Us was toured in advance around the USA to ensure that everyone had a chance to have an opinion on the film; in the UK, Universal demanded that Scots critics made a 1000 mile round trip to London, with no budget for expenses. Similarly, despite the many Scots soldiers who fought and died for their country at Dunkirk, Warners didn’t feel that Scots journalists should be allowed to see or comment on Christopher Nolan’s film. After a 26 email conversation by email, they relented and put on a shambolic press screening where the sound regularly cut out and the picture frequently vanished; hardly what the director would have wanted. Today’s BBC website has a run-down of exitable critical opinions on the film, but none of the critics write for Scottish publications. I guess I can see Bond in a cinema with the infectious distractions of a live audience, but enthusiasm withers.
There’s an interesting scene in Live and Let Die in which James Bond goes to Harlem; as usual with Bond, the sequence shows a white man conquering a tough, uncharted neighbourhood. It’s a scene that borders on racism, but reflects the white saviour nation that’s been an essential part of the outdated Bond mythos. Is it racist to exploit the physical locations and literary history of a character, then cut everyone of his race out of the cultural conversation? Scotland is meant to be a country that’s part of the union of the UK, and yet despite having it’s own parliament, newspapers, tv stations and culture, we’re used to not being invited to the party. Our opinions don’t count by dint of our race, and that’s what’s dispiriting about such cultural elitism. Even millions of public money contributed by Scottish funding bodies into Trainspotting 2 didn’t allow Sony to find the £200 they’d need to stump up for a Scottish press show; it’s not a financial problem, it’s a problem that’s ingrained in yesterday’s notions of racial superiority.
It’s not that long ago that I helped organise a charity premiere of Casino Royale in Glasgow, complete with Bond’s car parked outside for photo-opportunities. And not that long since I sat down for a one-on-one with Daniel Craig at One Devonshire Gardens and sank a few bottles of beer to talk about his work. But the days when film-makers were proud of their work and keen to share it with anyone but their own corporate cronies seem to have gone. Racism is the flavour of the moment, and by putting their film where only a handful of middle-aged white London critics can see it, the Bond producers revert to the most out-dated characteristics of their brand. While cinema is in the doldrums and crying out for any kind of success, this wilful negligence of their potential audience smacks of the laziest kind of racism. I’ll catch up with Bond at a public screening if and when it feels safe, but right now, in this country, it feels like this is No Time to Die.