With cinemas shutting their doors and a load of mid-ranges movies going straight to digital, it seems like an age already since the announcement came through that Bond 25, No Time To Die, had been pushed from its scheduled April 2020 opening date to November.
And with restrictions getting tighter, we’re going to be spending a lot more time at home in front of the TV.
With this is mind, Tracey Sinclair has come up with some suggestions on what to watch instead while you’re on lockdown: distraction guaranteed, and hopefully no hoarding the remote. (See below for current UK availability)
Going to exotic locations and blowing shit up? Check! Nebulous and far-fetched world / regime domination plot? Check! A smirk-ridden script that relies heavily on the charm of its leading man? You betcha! Hell, if you squint a little, this could be a Bond movie.
In truth, nothing about Michael Bay’s latest – a big budget Netflix original – should work. It’s a ridiculous plot (a tech billionaire witnesses the bombing of a refugee centre, gets a conscience, fakes his own death assembles a ragtag gang of former spies, soldiers and crims to track down the Big Bad warlord), and it’s as subtle as… well, as a Michael Bay movie.
But a script designed with laser-cut precision for the post-Deadpool persona of Ryan Reynolds somehow makes it all work and there’s enormous fun to be had on the way (just don’t think about it too much.)
Based on a successful comic book, this 2010 super slick action flick with a stellar cast somehow never made much impact – in part, perhaps, because as it’s basically a sweary, violent take on The A-Team, it fared badly from being released the same year as the big screen adaptation of that much-loved TV show.
But this Sylvain White directed story of a disgraced military unit who go after the drug lord who burned them (and killed a bunch of kids in the process) is well worth a watch. The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the group’s hard-bitten Hannibal-type leader, and a pre-Captain America Chris Evans brings plenty of dorky charm, while Zoe Saldana is the femme fatale with the deadly secret.
Best of all you get to watch Idris Elba be all simmering and dangerous while muttering to yourself “he should totally be the next Bond.”
At first glance this 2015 Melissa McCarthy vehicle is just another Paul Feig gross-out comedy (and, yes, there is at least one comedy vomit scene) – but it’s actually a pretty solid spy movie.
When Jude Law’s slick operative goes missing, tech support Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is drafted in to go undercover to find him – and soon finds herself in the sights of glamorous but unhinged uber-baddie Rose Byrne.
With plenty of action alongside the laughs – plus a scene-stealing turn from Jason Statham proving he really does have a sense of humour about his hard-guy persona – this deserves your time (and a sequel, dammit!)
Before the Wachowskis blew our minds with The Matrix, they showed their visual flair with this taut, steamy noir film.
Although more a crime thriller than a spy or action flick, I’ve included this 1996 classic because Gena Gershon’s ex-con Corky has more swagger than Bond himself.
When she meets Violet – Jennifer Tilly in a career-best turn as a gangster’s moll in way over her head – the two of them plan to steal a ton of money from the mob and run away together. What could possibly go wrong? With a ground-breaking, steamy lesbian love affair, a crime heist that will have you chewing your nails and absolutely gorgeous visuals, this film works on every level.
Spooks: The Greater Good
Released in the US as MI-5, this 2015 spin off from the popular TV series works pretty well as a standalone.
What you need to establish as a backstory is handled pretty quickly (MI5 intelligence chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) has a history, a dead lover and isn’t afraid to go rogue for the greater good – there, you’re all caught up) and the film’s main focus is on new character Will Holloway (Kit Harington), dragged into a reluctant cooperation with Pearce to foil a terrorist plan on London.
Packed with character actors you know from the telly, it uses the TV show’s London locations well, packs in a ton of foreign settings to make the piece more cinematic, and if it never quite shakes off its TV roots, it kills a couple of hours grippingly enough.
The Night Manager
OK, I’m cheating as this isn’t a film – but since we’ll all be at home a lot, might as well binge a series. This 2016 BBC drama was seen by some as Tom Hiddleston’s extended audition for the James Bond role – and it certainly makes a good case for him.
Based on a John le Carré novel (adapted and updated by David Farr), this award-winning mini-series stars Hiddleston as a hotel night manager with a mysterious past (of course!) who gets drawn into a murky international plot by – of course! – a beautiful woman.
Spanning locations from Morocco to London, with stellar turns from Hugh Laurie playing against type as a bad guy and Olivia Colman playing totally in type as the best thing in any scene she appears in, this will let you scratch your Bond itch till the real thing comes along.
Tracey Sinclair is a freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly for online and print publications including Exeunt and The Stage, and is the author of eight books. A former subtitler and eternal geek, Tracey has a particular interest in Korean, Japanese and French films and anything to do with space or superheroes. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal