No Time to Die

Posted: October 11, 2021 in Film reviews, James Bond
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Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Starring Daniel Craig, Rami Malek,  Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas, Christoph Waltz and Ralph Fiennes.

Please note: This is going to be as spoiler free as I can make it. I will do a more spoilerific review once I’ve seen the film again. I can’t guarantee I won’t give away snippets of spoilers though so if you’d rather see the film completely spoiler free, I’d suggest reading my review afterwards 😊

After the events of Spectre, James Bond (Craig) and Madeline Swann (Seydoux) are holidaying in the city of Matera in Italy, when they’re ambushed by Spectre agents intent on avenging Blofeld. In the aftermath of events in Matera, Bond retires to Jamaica.

Five years later Felix Leiter (Wright) arrives and ties to tempt Bond into returning to the field because he needs to locate a missing scientist in Cuba. Bond is a little hesitant, but after a new 00 agent, Nomi (Lynch) appears and warns him off, Bond decides to help Felix out.

In Cuba Bond contacts CIA agent Paloma (de Armas) and they locate the scientist. Things aren’t what they initially appear to be however, and Bond soon returns to London and MI6 and all too soon he’s at odds with Lyutsifer Safin, a mysterious adversary with links to Madeline, and a man in possession of a deadly weapon.

Finally! Eighteen months after it was supposed to come out No Time to Die finally arrives in cinemas, and I take my first trip back to the pictures since March 2020 (Parasite, in case you’re wondering).

So was it worth the wait, does it justify the hype, or is it merely Spectre 2?

It’s difficult to truly judge a Bond film until I’ve seen it a few times, so my opinion may waver (I famously hated the final act of Skyfall the first time I saw it but now adore it) but at the moment what I can say is that No time to Die is very, very good.

Not perfect, and maybe not top five Bond film status, but a huge improvement on Spectre and a hugely enjoyable film pretty much all round. The action set pieces are superb and the emotional heft of the film carries it buoyantly along, even through a somewhat choppy third act. This is a film that goes places no Bond film has ever gone before and wears its homages to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with pride, the first time Hans Zimmer lets a hint of ‘We have all the time in the world’ play a shiver went down my spine.

As he’s been all along, even if the material was at times suboptimal, Daniel Craig is immense. He truly has been a fantastic 007 and it kinda takes some getting used to the fact that, while James Bond will return, Daniel Craig won’t, but at least we have Knives Out 2 to look forward to. Here he has a whole gamut of emotions to run through. Despair, joy, anger, resignation. At times he’s very funny but he’s always mesmerising. The next Bond really has big shoes to fill.

I was not overly enamoured with Léa Seydoux in Spectre, but then much like everyone else she didn’t have a lot to work with. Here, given a story arc with true emotional intensity, she’s wonderful and has probably quickly risen through my Bond girl rankings. The chemistry between her and Craig is also a lot more palpable now than it ever was in Spectre (where they fell madly in love in the space of about 13 seconds) and their relationship finally has room to breathe, bringing their romance closer to the levels of Tracy or Vesper.

Of course, she isn’t the only woman in Bond’s life. As Nomi, Lynch makes a fine addition as the franchise’s first official 00 agent (there are women seated amongst agents being briefed in both Thunderball and The World is not Enough, though it isn’t clear if either is a 00). She’s snarky and tough, although the nature of Bond as the film’s lead means she is somewhat side-lined as the film progresses, though she plays a significant part in the final act.

There is, of course, another kick arse female agent on display, CIA agent Paloma who Bond works with in Cuba. Sadly the wonderful Ana de Armas (see Blade Runner 2049 and Knives Out for further details) has limited screentime, but what an impression she makes. The trailers show her as deadly and competent, and she is, but what they don’t show is how downright adorkable she is!

This leaves Harris as Moneypenny, and I genuinely feel sorry for the actor. She’s fantastic in Skyfall but since then she’s had little to do and it’s been a waste of a fine actor and an interesting character. In another universe maybe she’d have taken Nomi’s place by Bond’s side in the final battle.

Talking on Moneypenny brings us onto Tanner, Q and M. Kinnear gets about as much to do as he ever has (here’s an idea Eon, next time why not combine the roles of Moneypenny and Tanner?). Whishaw is wonderful, but again doesn’t get a whole lot to do. At least the film proudly shows Q is most assuredly gay, and we get to meet his cat (cue hilarious line for Bond). Fiennes is arguably one of my favourite actors, but again feels short-changed as M, at times here he always feels like the bad guy, or at least as a man who’s made questionable choices. Whether he remains as M or not I think the producers need to give the character a more respected footing.

A villain can make or break a Bond film, but thankfully the rest of the film is so good that this isn’t the case here, because Rami Malek is…well, he’s just kinda there. I don’t wholly blame the actor, and he is given a decent backstory (even if it does retcon my own personal cannon about Spectre) and at least initially, his motives are solid, but then he just becomes a generic Bond villain, I’m not 100% sure what his eventual plan actually is, the film gets a bit fudgy here. He’s going to do something evil, that’s all you need to know I suppose. Most of his lines are in the trailer. Shame really.

Blofeld returns, but not for very long. Waltz and Craig spar nicely and Blofeld manages to have more of an impact on the story than you might imagine, and it’s nice to see Jeffrey Wright return for Craig’s final film. He makes for a great Felix.

Of course, the most shocking casting, for British viewers anyway, is the appearance of Hugh Dennis!

Fukunaga’s direction is excellent, and he manages to snag a writing credit as well, which suggests he, and the incomparable Phoebe Waller-Bridge, had substantial impact on the script, which for the most part is excellent. This is a film about something, a film with a solid emotional core, which makes it easier to forgive some plot related issues (seriously what is Safin’s plan?)

The near three hour run time was never an issue for me, in fact I didn’t start to get remotely fidgety until right near the end, and thanks to some judicious planning I managed not to need the loo while watching it! I was quite numb when I walked out of the cinema, but the length of the film had nothing to do with this.

The film is exceptionally well paced. Most of the action is superb but the film has plenty of quiet contemplative moments as well. There are some neat homages, including a reference to Delectado cigars, last seen in Die Another Day.

Great set pices, great performances, wonderful cinematography and true emotional engagement with its characters, this isn’t a Bond film without its flaws (Safin!) but the good outweighs the bad significantly, and even that final act is rescued by the end.

A Bond film in every way, yet a Bond film that goes places Bond has never gone before.

So long, Daniel, we’ll miss you, but as the title card said right at the end of the credits…

James Bond will return.

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