2021 Arts Preview: The Year Ahead in Film

After a chaotic year for the film industry, Alistair Harkness explores some of the big themes that movie-lovers should look out for in 2021

Daniel Craig playing James Bond in the new Bond film No Time To Die. The 25th James Bond film has been delayed until April 2021 PIC: Nicola Dove/PA Wire
Daniel Craig playing James Bond in the new Bond film No Time To Die. The 25th James Bond film has been delayed until April 2021 PIC: Nicola Dove/PA Wire

Will James Bond return? There was a grim irony in Sean Connery passing away the year James Bond became 2020’s most famous no-show. Having first embodied 007 and defined who the character was for several generations of film-lovers (this one included), Connery’s death, at age 90, came just as the resilience of modern cinema’s longest running franchise was being repeatedly tested by coronavirus. That the pandemic came on top of a troubled production that had already cost No Time To Die much earlier release dates that would have put it in the clear is perhaps something its backers would rather not think about right now. As it stands, Daniel Craig’s ace-looking final outing is currently scheduled to hit cinemas on 2 April. Crucially for multiplexes, it will be followed by the rest of 2020’s deferred blockbusters, among them A Quiet Place II (April 23), Black Widow (7 May), Fast and Furious 9 (28 May), Dune (1 October) and West Side Story (10 December). Nothing, though, is set in stone, as evidenced by the number of as-yet-untitled studio films also currently on the release schedule. Ranging from the non-committal likes of Untitled Universal Event Film (5 March) and Untitled Disney Live Action (10 December) to the less cryptically monikered Untitled Matrix Film (22 December), industry bets are being hedged left, right and centre.

Can Tom Cruise save the big screen experience? There’s a reason a masked Tom Cruise made a video of himself attending the first public screening of Tenet in London. No movie star is more dedicated to delivering big screen thrills than the Cruiser. He doesn’t do TV and he doesn’t hang off the side of planes just so you can watch the results on an iPhone. Consequently, nobody wants to get down to the business of going back to the movies more than Tom Cruise, not least because he’s got two new films lined up. Top Gun: Maverick – the belated sequel to the movie that made him a mega-star 35 years ago – was primed for take-off last summer before the pandemic hit; Mission: Impossible 7, meanwhile, was one of the first big blockbusters to shut down production when the scale of the crisis became apparent in February. The former will now land in UK cinemas on 8 July with Mission: Impossible 7 following on 19 November. And if the latter comes anywhere close to topping 2017’s ridiculously entertaining Mission: Impossible Fallout, it’ll be one blockbuster worth running to cinemas to see.

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Why Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao will rule 2021 McDormand, of course, is the double Oscar-winning star of Fargo and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri; Zhao is the Chinese-born, US-based filmmaker whose 2017 sophomore feature, The Rider, put her on the map as as one of the best filmmakers in the world. Their new film together, Nomadland (19 February), is set to be one of the cultural highlights of the coming year. A rooted-in-reality character study of a middle-aged widower (McDormand) traversing the United States in a van, it’s an example of American Neo-realist cinema at its absolute finest and should net McDormand her third Academy Award and put Zhao in contention to be only the second woman to win an Oscar for best director. But Zhao also makes her blockbuster debut too, having already wrapped Marvel’s Angelina Jolie-starring superhero movie The Eternals (5 November). As for McDormand, she’ll be seen in Wes Anderson’s much-delayed The French Dispatch (release TBC) but, more intriguingly, will play Lady Macbeth opposite Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth (release TBC), a new film version of the Scottish play adapted and directed by her husband, Joel Coen, in what will be his first solo project without his brother Ethan. Bring it on.

From left to right: Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Emily Blunt star in Paramount Pictures' A Quiet Place 2. PIC: Jonny Cournoyer

Glasgow Film Festival, UK-wide edition Like every other big arts event, Glasgow Film Festival's forthcoming 17th edition has had to adapt to our new reality, this time with a hybrid programme of physical screenings and a curated selection of online premieres and retrospectives. The good news is that the festival is rolling out across the UK, with online screenings accessible to UK-based film fans and physical screenings happening across 22 cinemas, from Stornoway to London. Sundance 2020 winner Minari will open the festival on 24 February while the Parisian-set Spring Blossoms will bring proceedings to a close on 7 March. The full programme will be announced 14 January.

Cinema gets itself a gun In the age of streaming there’s been a lot crossover between prestige television and movies so it’s perhaps appropriate that The Sopranos, the show that ushered in the current era of cinematic television, should be getting a big screen prequel in the form of The Many Saints of Newark (12 March). Co-written by series creator David Chase and directed by series veteran Alan Taylor, the film is set against the backdrop of the 1967 Newark race-riots and zeroes in on the young Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini) and his relationship with Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), the oft-referenced father of one of the show’s best-loved characters, Christopher Moltisanti. Corey Stahl co-stars as the young Junior Soprano, while the rest of the cast is rounded out by heavy hitters such as Goodfellas star Ray Liotta, The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal and Vera Fermiga, who may or may not be playing Tony’s monstrous mother Livia. Bada Bing!

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Frances McDormand in Nomadland PIC: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

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