Director: Cary Fukunaga
Stars: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes & Jeffrey Wright.
Review by Damocles.
As a Bond film, it was a delight to see the legendary 007 back on screen again.
At its’ core, No Time to Die is a loving tribute to the 007 franchise, and a celebration of Daniel Craig’s contributions to the legendary spy. This is a film that is anchored around Craig’s portrayal of Bond, emotional, vulnerable and undeniably, stoically masculine.
As has been noted by many fans of the series, Craig’s run as Bond, started off strong in Casino Royale (2006), went decidedly wrong in Quantum of Solace (2008), before returning to form in Skyfall (2012). The less said about Spectre (2015) the better, the film being a particularly egregious chapter in my film repertoire.
It was hoped that Craig would return to full strength for his final run as James Bond, and I can confirm that, despite some of the messier issues with the film, it was wonderful to see Craig get a proper send-off and truly cash in all the good-will he had garnered over the years.
No Time To Die is aware of the franchise history, littering much of the screen with excellent references to previous Bond films without being overly distracting. As a long time Bond aficionado, I found myself smiling a lot throughout the film, noting the Easter Eggs with a genuine pleasure. From the dotted beginning of the opening credits to the John Barry-esque score that Hans Zimmer employed, this film is bound to get many hardcore fans going.
However, just like Skyfall, No Time to Die works on its’ own. It is an emotional film, with much of the focus on the character of Bond and his relationship with Madeline Swann, the second Bond girl to actually reappear in a Bond film.
Both Craig and Seydoux seem to have worked on their chemistry, because in this film, it is given plenty of screen time to develop and grow, with both characters faring much better in this film, than the predecessor.
However, this emotional focus is so narrow that it sacrifices much of the plot and drama. A lot of the plot is confusing, with the new bioweapon something of blurry detail. In particular, Malek’s Safin is one of the weakest Bond villains as of yet, his motivations and relationship to Bond very obscure and obfuscated.
Let’s not mention the numerous henchmen either, of which there are a bit too many. I did enjoy though, the return of the physically strange henchmen trope that Bond films are so famous for and his eventual death. Oddly, this time, the “killer-pun” was actually perfectly delivered and was in no way as distracting as it was in Spectre.
To the movie’s credit though, in spite of the lack of characterisation and messy plot, the pacing of the film is rapid, with so many action scenes and emotional beats hitting their mark accurately, so that you do not feel the length of the film. In less deft hands, the movie would have dragged inexorably, but Fukunaga’s helmsmanship ensured that the movie was quite engaging throughout.
A pleasant surprise, was Craig’s committent to stunt-work, who despite his age, still possess the same killer body and look that he debut in Casino Royale. So many of the action sequences were not filmed around, thanks to Craig’s excellent work ethic and it was a pleasure to see Bond in action again, with grounded fights and many fun gadgets.
From a cinematography perspective, No Time to Die is easily one of the best looking Bond films, with strong uses of colours, appropriate amount of hand-held and plenty of homages to past Bond films. It is an attractive movie, that really soaks you in the adventure and the ocean blues of Craig’s eyes.
What was less solid though, was the more generic Hans Zimmer score, which failed to impress me upon first listen, without the context of the movie. Too much of the score was borrowed from previous Zimmer works, the Bond theme and odes to John Barry’s past work only kicking in every so often to remind you this was a Bond film. I was particularly left nonplussed by his latest version of the Bond theme.
Something about it, lacked the bombastic nature I’ve come to expect from a Bond theme rendition.
Billie Eilish’s No Time to Die theme however was excellent. It was the perfect segue into the opening credits, after the opening sequence, and perfectly nails the overarching theme of the film. This coupled with the gorgeous visuals of the credits and the seamless transition into the rest of the film, might be one of my absolute favourites after Casino Royale’s You Know My Name. I absolutely adored the song in cinemas.
One final waxing of positives for this film is the wardrobe. Daniel Craig established his own trend way back in 2006, by only wearing a tuxedo when it was appropriate to do so. Otherwise you would often see him bedecked in Sunspel polo shirts, Barbour jackets or Crockett & Jones chukka boots.
This has much to do with the excellent sartorial taste of Daniel Craig, whose style icon: Steve McQueen, has influenced much of Bond’s approachable casual wear. In this film, Bond is beautifully outfitted in every scene, with a flattery and generosity not often seen in the Sam Mendes films, whose tight suits served to distract, rather than compliment Craig’s muscular figure.
Overall, I am pleased that I made this film the first cinematic experience coming out of lockdown. It has rekindled my love with the franchise and the cinema experience, something I do not take very lightly. It has also begun to empty my wallet, due to a LEGO Aston Martin DB5 replica, a pair of Vuarnet Sunglasses and a luxurious N.Peal Ribbed Army Sweater. I’m just glad I haven’t got the luxury of affording an Omega Seamaster yet or heavens forbid, an Aston Martin Superleggera.
To sum up, No Time to Die is a worthy farewell to Craig’s Bond, whose tenure has been a lovely run as the world’s most famous spy. Thank you Daniel for inspiring countless men out there to achieve a modicum of what Bond is as a man.
A scene to recall: There are so many references to previous Bond films, but I particularly love the shot below, simply because it emulates the iconic gun-barrel sequence. Fukunaga is clearly a huge Bond nerd. There need to be more clever adaptations of iconic Bond moments like this in the future.
A scene to recall: Perhaps my favourite sequence of any of the Craig era Bond series, the few seconds of Bond piloting his private yacht to his Bahamas home, relaxed, supremely confident and alone perfectly encapsulates everything I know about the character.
I love that they used Ian Fleming’s home Goldeneye and that you can see how this is the place where Bond escapes from the troubles of the world. It’s quiet, beautiful, rich and lonely.
The speargun is a lovely throwback to past Bond films, Craig’s outfit is masculine, supremely confident and sexy. Add in Zimmer’s heroic score, it made me wish I was Bond.
At the end of the day, I want my Bond films to create a serious feeling of envy. It is that jealousy that makes me want to upgrade my own life. This scene did just that.