Picture this: it is October 2024 and you’ve settled into the theater to see the new James Bond movie. The lights dim, the audience goes quiet, and at once the classic gunbarrel sequence with the unmistakable theme rocks you and everyone else in the theater. The new Bond, obviously a classic tall dark and handsome type even if you can’t make out his face too clearly, strolls into view and shoots at you.
You then find yourself transported through the gun barrel to gorgeous snowcapped mountains and waters that have the signature visage of the fjords of Norway. The camera zooms in from above, passing mountain peaks and ridges closer and closer, the inerplay of sunset’s reddish light and long shadows giving a warm yet crisp ambience to the scene.
As the camera slows its travel and gives a 360-degree sweep of the landscape, at a moment when the camera is looking down the mountain slope we see a man with skis pass as a silhouette in front of the setting sun as he jumps off the slope, followed by hearing the gunshots of sniper rifles, followed quickly by multiple other men on skis one after the other, also passing by the sun as silhouettes.
Throughout this experience you’ve heard only the ambient sounds of the mountain winds and blowing snow, and lastly the skis passing by and the gunshots, but as the film cuts to a shot of a man in ski mask and goggles being hotly pursued by equally faceless assassins, a slow orchestral rendition of Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” begins to play, with the lyrics delivered equally slowly by a feminine chorus in a creepy whisper of a song, their style not unlike Billie Eilish’s in her theme for the previous film, “No Time to Die”.
Multiple long shots of these figures skiing furiously down the ski slope and fighting each other unfold as “You Know My Name” plays, all the masked skiers performing daring stunts on the slopes, but through thick and thin the hunted man in the ski mask manages to dispatch the assassins one by one, their deaths and the stunts choreographed to the music, the cinematography emphasizing the long shadows of the sun on the snowy slopes, the low-key lighting making it reminiscent of some kind of balletic film noir.
Still the hunted man cannot dispatch all of his pursuers before he approaches a forbidding snowy cliff, a sheer drop thousands of feet down. Yet he skis down fearlessly, and to these last lines of “You Know My Name” we see him jump off the cliff into mid-air:
The coldest blood runs through my veins
You know my name
Then as “You know my name” is repeated by the creepy whispering chorus we see the masked man in free-fall for several lines, then he opens a parachute emblazoned with the British flag, “You know my name” still being sung in endless repetition by the chorus.
The camera zooms in on the parachute, and the stripes on the flag fade into shadows, the background of the flag fading into a soft but vivid color; a golden, blue, or red glow. The credits roll for Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli, et al. as a light appears and brightens at the center; the British flag stripes fade slowly as a girl struts out in silhouette. Prominently displayed in white text you see the film’s title: “Shadows Never Lie”.
After a slow instrumental buildup you see a bit of her face (perhaps through the light and/or camera angle shifting) and she starts singing sultrily and romantically of Bond, how she knows his face but doesn’t know his name, then about how she lives in shadows and they live in shadows.
Light and shadow envelop her in noir-ish patterns (a bit like in Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” music video (can you tell I’m a huge fan yet? 😉 )) as she is chasing and is chased around quite choreographically (like in a dance) with various sinister agents trying to surveil upon or assassinate her.
She sings of “Do shadows lie?” as a completely silhouetted James Bond appears, both of them acting as if they’re unsure if they can trust each other, but near the end she embraces him in a dance and sings “Shadows never lie!” while becoming enthusiastically loving toward him. At the very end Bond, still silhouetted the whole time, holds her in a deep dip with both of them unmoving.
As Bond stops his head comes in view of a low-key light and you see his face for the first time along with the girl’s. I envision Bond in an A-frame stance, standing up with his legs spread, holding the girl halfway between standing up and lying down on the floor. I envision the light being above their heads; so the girl’s face, looking up to the light, is in full view, while Bond’s is obscured by shadows. Still you see his face for the first time, a call-back to how “Casino Royale”‘s titles ended, with you seeing Daniel Craig’s face prominently after he was a silhouette for a long time.
At the very end of the opening titles, the picture of Bond and the girl fades to another man and another woman in the same pose, only they’re in a brightly-lit, classy, and timelessly beautiful environment, a ballet studio, practicing choreography for some kind of dance. These are the villains, and while they practice they’re conferring about their evil plan with their small audience of henchmen as they look on, a very cosmopolitan group with members from every major race and country in the world.
As outlined in my previous thoughts on James Bond, this plan is much the same as the media manipulation plot in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, only this time it’s social media and the Internet; troll farms, bots, paid trolls, all the good stuff. It soon becomes clear to you that the girl being held in that pose you see for the first time, a white European type, is the mastermind who gives all the orders.
After it’s revealed the wheels have been set in their sinister motion, the film cuts to a man in a monk’s cloak on what is unmistakably a Buddhist monastery high atop the Himalayas in Tibet. His eyes closed, meditating as the cold winds ripple his cloak, the film pauses for a moment to let you gaze at this man, who is being trained in the art of meditation and contemplation.
His teacher, a Buddhist monk, is trying to learn him something very difficult, but the man becomes frustrated and obviously very tired at the concentration required, prompting his teacher to say “That’s enough for today, Mr. Bond”, revealing that this man is in fact the new James Bond, the first time you get to see his face clearly and close up. This might be like 20 minutes into the movie.
Later on, as day turns into night – you see something of a montage of their evening together, as Bond is a guest of the monks – Bond slinks around the monastery into places he’s not supposed to go to, places the monks (wrongly) think he can’t break into, and finds the whole place is in fact a den of spies, a front for some kind of intelligence operation.
Bond is caught after a while of this, and the “monks” reveal themselves as assassins, and they try to kill Bond. Having to make a hasty escape from the “monastery”, he hijacks an aircraft (a solar-powered propeller plane?) he saw over the course of his investigation, and it’s after then you learn he was sent there in the first place because MI6 suspected them and he went undercover. For once Bond does some real spy work!
After this you see Bond undertake an adventure across India and neighboring regions to take out Shadow, the organization behind the sinister social media manipulation plot. You also see later on that the primary Bond girl in this film, a fair and lovely Indian woman, is the same girl who performed in the opening credits. She’s a secret agent herself in addition to being a performing artist type, and her loyalties are questionable even as a romance blossoms between her and Bond (she’d be reminiscent of Kara in “The Living Daylights”), but it turns out she was on Bond’s side all along in the end.
That’s about all I’ve got for the movie in terms of details I haven’t revealed in my previous post on my ideas for the next Bond installment. Instead of the drab and dreary style of recent films a return to the crisp vividness of “Casino Royale” would be part of “Shadows Never Lie”.
Literally calling the social media manipulation organization “Shadow” might seem pulpy, but the app used for the infamous 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus was developed by a company literally called “Shadow Inc.”. Reality is unrealistic indeed.
Despite the noir-ish trappings, the actual film and story, while not shying away from darkness, will be adventurous, shiny, optimistic, and upbeat in tone. Poignant Bond stories have their place, but after the dour Craig era, whose finale “No Time to Die” made quite a few viewers cry by the end, a return to form is in order. Think something like “The Living Daylights”; it’s not absurd or silly, rather it’s serious, but still leavened with wit and above all very fun to watch. Like its spiritual predecessor “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “Shadows Never Lie” will be enjoyable entertainment, but with a plot that hits close to home.
Personally I think my ideas are just the thing the franchise needs to reinvigorate itself, to move in a new, different, yet very Bondian direction for the post-Craig era. Have any ideas? Then feel free to leave a comment!