Film review by Jason Day of No Time to Die, the James Bond action thriller starring Daniel Craig and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
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Following previous events with SPECTRE agent Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), spy James Bond has left active service and his 007 number has been reassigned to another agent, Nomi (Lashanna Lynch).
His retirement proves to be very temporary when his friend from the CIA Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) contacts him. Bond is then led on a trail back to his old enemy Blofeld and a new, mysterious villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) who has developed a dangerous new ‘viral nanotechnology’ that threatens everyone on the planet.
Review, by @Reelreviewer and @win_hughes
Three weeks training?
There’s going to be a slight departure in approach for this review. There is quite a bit to talk about with the ending, so to avoid giving away any spoilers, I’ve linked to a separate document at the end of this post. How helpful is that?!
We all know by now that No Time to Do represents two big things for the Bond – or any – franchise. Firstly, it has had possibly the longest gestation period in the series; the conclusion of principal photography itself was two years this very month. Original director Danny Boyle leaving the production in 2018 and – you’ve guessed it! – the ongoing pandemic also helped scupper getting the final thing into cinemas as originally planned.
The second thing is Bond himself, as established lead Daniel Craig officially left the franchise after finishing work on this film, a massive addition to producer Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson’s to-do list.
But here we are at last and, in summary, I really enjoyed the film. And Bond 2021 finds himself in a totally different world to the one he was in six years ago. This is a world that has been faced with task of settling huge social inequalities that have been rumbling on for centuries.
Aside from a lobal pandemic that has impacted on how we think and see and act about so many think, the #MeToo and Black Lives Matters movements have also altered our perceptions of the world and our place in it.
Sometimes, I’ve found myself feeling a bit short-changed with the Craig-era Bonds, the same way I do with the Timothy Dalton-era movies, crippled as they were by political correctness and too thoroughly painting him as a ‘new man’. I’ve felt at times that Craig’s movies try too hard to be ‘different’ to what we accept as being ‘traditional Bond’, to mark them out as distinct from your Connery or Roger Moore movies.
The team are to be commended for branching out and trying a different approach, but with No Time to Die I detect wistful moments, as if the Bone team are harking back to Bonds of past:
- The theme song to OHMSS – ‘We Have All the Time in the World’, so beautifully and movingly sung by Louis Armstrong – is played twice on the soundtrack
- The MI6 Head (played by Ralph Fiennes) discusses Bond seated in a ‘rogues gallery’ of the previous ‘M’ characters
- A return to the Ken Adams style of production design, with huge, cavernous and expansive sets. Safin’s island lab is reminiscent to the volcano rocket launchpad in You Only Live Twice.
- A stronger emphasis on gadgets and tech (personally, I’m all for more of these jiggery-pokery nik-naks and modes of transportation and loved the glider/boat/sub).
At times I’ve also felt Daniel Craig – whom I think is a superb actor – is a bit too stiff and self-aware as Bond. Here, I think he finally seems to relax into the role. There are moments – for instance, when he questions an incarcerated Blofeld with a sarcastic glee – when he really gets the comedy of Bond, that he can derive an almost comical enjoyment from the stress of others.
NB: On this scene; what is up with the English prison system? Constant stories about underfunded and overcrowded prisons, but Belmarsh has the cash to splash on a slick and fancy penal home for people lie Blofeld, with an expensive-looking, epic, sociopath-in-a-cell reveal (à la Silence of the Lambs), with Blofeld’s iron-sedan chair easily rivalling Hannibal Lecter’s plexiglass quarters.
So, are the team suggesting this period of the character and franchise are on the way out and they want to start from scratch? Or, by including these alongside the more modern take on Bond, hedging their bets and giving themselves extra possibilities when Bond #26 is fleshed out?
No Time to Die is an epic movie with epic shifts of gear, it’ll be interesting to see if what tone the next movie takes.
A few more general observations about No Time to Die…
Lashana Lynch – despite copious, erroneous misinterpretations of her character (no, she is not the new James Bond. She is a new MI6 operative with the number of his now vacant license to kill) and people, predictably, kicking off across social media, Lynch is a fabulous and much-welcome addition to the Bond franchise. She ticks off everything you need to fit in to this series, with pithy one-liners and humour handled with aplomb, some kick-ass moves and carries off a great, stylish look.
Bond women – let’s not call them girls! Those in No Time to Die covers the traditional range these women are permitted to inhabit, but I still feel frozen out by the ‘maternal’ and ‘loving’ Madeleine (Léa Seydoux). Better is the truly fabulous Ana de Armas as Bond’s Cuban associate Paloma who has only had three weeks training, but handles herself incredibly well, in heels whilst looks great in a physics-defying cocktail dress.
More than just support – in Bonds of yore, the likes of M (Bernard Lee et al), Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell et al) and Q (Desmond Llewellyn et al) have been mere cameos. In the Craig era, they have a far more substantial and proactive presence. It will be interesting to see if, with Daniel Craig bowing out of the franchise, the wonderful Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Wishaw will be retained as those former actors were when new actors assumed the Bond mantle.
The eyes have it – what is it with men with missing eye in this movie? One of Blofeld’s ocular organs was obliterated in SPECTRE and we are treated to loving close-ups of the scars here. Assassin Primo (Dali Benssalah) likewise has a replacement eye, with explosive capabilities.
Action – spectacular stuff handled superbly by Fukunaga and the many film units. The car chases are where this movie hits its stride; one, with Craig and Seydoux in a ubiquitous Aston Martin as its bulletproof windows and slowly splintered by multiple gunfire, is especially gripping.
Anyway, about that ending, For those who haven’t seen the movie, check out the extra thoughts below.
Cast & credits
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga. 2hr 43mins/163 min. Eon Productions/MGM/Universal Pictures/Danjaq/B25/Cinesite. (12a).
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson.
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Camera: Linus Sandgren.
Music: Hans Zimmer.
Sets: Mark Tildesley.
Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Wishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz, David Dencik, Lisa-Dorah Sonnet.