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No Time to Die

No Time to Die

Monday, 5 October, 2020 - 09:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The young man read the news and expressed his discontent. I assumed that Covid-19 had achieved a new record, or that Donald Trump’s doctors announced the deterioration of his conditions. Soon I realized that I was mistaken. The news has nothing to do with the world health or the situation of America and its president.


The story, in short, is about the release of the new James Bond movie, titled “No Time to Die,” starring British superstar Daniel Craig. The name of James Bond has an exceptional resonance in the movie market. “Specter” reaped about USD 800 million in the world in 2015, while the revenues of “Skyfall” in 2012 exceeded one billion dollars. This means that every return of the “Agent 007” to the screens is an artistic and economic event for the film industry.


The film was initially scheduled to hit the market in April. But then the world was overwhelmed with scenarios of fear, lockdown, infection counts, and distancing. As people were not aware of the resilience of the visiting beast, it was decided to postpone the release of the film to November.


The new date was set based on optimism that these advanced laboratories would not stand helpless in the face of the “Chinese virus”, and they would certainly find a vaccine capable of facing it and medications that reduce its pain and the number of its victims.


Adding to the excitement is that the USD 200 million movie marks the fifth and final time that Craig has played the role of James Bond.


The producer could not risk releasing the film. Cinemas are also on the list of the Coronavirus victims, similar to many industries related to entertainment, tourism and travel. Moreover, an important part of the proceeds comes from European markets, which have returned to record high casualties and renewed talks about types of lockdown. The concerned party had no choice but to drink the poison again and announce the postponement of Bond’s arrival to the market until April 2021, hoping that the global village and its cinemas would have been liberated from the wave of wolves unleashed by Covid-19 in every direction.


I am not claiming that I was eagerly awaiting the release of “No Time To Die”. The bleak profession we practice forces us into unpleasant preoccupations, especially as we come from a region rife with conflicts. But I still have a longing for the amount of excitement that spy stories provide, especially when they cross the Iron Curtain to the other camp, and gamble with their safety and sometimes with their lives and the reputation of their countries.


But the most important aspect to me is the amazing success of British novelist and former spy, Ian Fleming, in creating in the 1950s the James Bond character, and for this character to survive to our days. Then I further admired Bond when I learned that Vladimir Putin esteemed him, and he did not hesitate to send his spies on similar thorny missions on European soil. In fact, there is a certain similarity between Craig and Putin.


I tried to alleviate the discontent of the young man, so I told him that the world is busy today with more serious and urgent issues, especially since the number of deaths due to the Coronavirus exceeded one million and the infections surpassed the threshold of 35 million.


He replied saying that he fully understood that and knew that the world would not return to what it was, but he was sad because the image of James Bond was damaged in his mind. Bond used to break through the defense, settle confrontations, hunt secrets, deliver crushing blows, succeed and win. The story is now different.


The pandemic has taken this role and Bond no longer dares to go down to the halls, because fans of his movies may choose to stay away from closed spaces and avoid the conditions of social distancing.


“The Coronavirus disease has forced James Bond to cancel scheduled dates, and it became clear that the epidemic was stronger than Agent 007,” the young man told me.


The damage done to the James Bond movie is far less than the harm that many others have incurred. The world held its breath when the president of the most powerful country in the world and the supreme commander of the most powerful military machine in history announced that he was infected with Covid-19. The entire world was watching Donald Trump being taken to the hospital. The only question in near and far capitals was about Trump’s health and whether the treacherous virus was hiding surprises.


The role and safety of the man sitting in the White House are more important than those of James Bond. The president could not continue the policy of underestimating the virus. Covid-19 imposed the rules of the game. No one is sure of the deadlines that should not be broken. Will Trump be present in the elections? Will he be exhausted when it is time to use his excessive vitality to rally voters’ support?


For four years, the world has been living on the rhythm of the Twitter master. Will the Coronavirus allow these appointments to continue or cancel them?


Covid-19 has spoiled the world’s bliss. Shaking hands, hugging, and mixing are now prohibited. The virus tampered with calendars and appointments.


It imposed distance learning and remote work… Those places that used to warmly welcome students and employees are now cold, full of sterilization tools, and spacing signs.


The Coronavirus has canceled many dates and made them icy. A thousand thanks to technology for avoiding complete paralysis, but the world looks bleak, with no handshakes and close encounters.


The UN session was hit, so were the Olympic Games in Japan. The World Economic Forum, Expo 2020, the Festival of Cannes, the Oscars, the Rio Carnival, and regional and international summits will all be held remotely.


From Bond’s relapse to Trump’s infection, one concludes that the world has to fight hard to maintain its spirits. “No time to die,” says the James Bond movie. The truth is, we are tired of death. We are tired of the numbers and pictures of frightened and tearful eyes… from the pictures of loved ones leaving without saying goodbye.


The remote farewell law breaks the heart. Humanity is fighting an arduous battle with death. There is no choice but hope. This time, the new James Bond will emerge from a laboratory, announcing that the vaccine will enter the battle to deter the epidemic. The world will admire the new engineer more than the British novelist who invented Agent 007.


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