Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Stars: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Billy Magnussen.
The release of the latest film in the long running Bond franchise, the ironically named No Time To Die, was delayed for 18 months by the global pandemic that closed cinemas around the world. No Time To Die is Daniel Craig’s fifth and final appearance as James Bond after fifteen years of playing the iconic superspy. And the producers have given him a fine send off for his final appearance, although some of the creative decisions made here may trouble the purists.
The film opens with one of the longest and most exciting pre-credit sequences of the series. Since the events of SPECTRE, Bond has retired from the service and is living an idyllic life with psychologist Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of one of SPECTRE’s high-ranking assassins. But then some SPECTRE assassins emerge and attack them. Fearing that he can no longer protect Madeleine and also fearing that he can no longer trust her, Bond parts company, putting her on a train and walking away.
Cut to five years later and Bond is reluctantly drawn out of retirement by his old CIA colleague Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who wants his help in tracking down Obruchev (David Dencik), a kidnapped scientist, and the revolutionary bioweapon he has developed. He has developed cutting edge nanobots that have been designed to use a person’s DNA to specifically target them in what would be a clean surgical strike without unnecessary collateral damage. The mission takes Bond to Cuba where he encounters Nomi (Lashana Lynch), a female agent who has been given his former 007 designation and Paloma (Ana de Armas), a lethally efficient CIA operative.
The mission also leads him to his nemesis Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), who is confined to a glass cage within Belmarsh Prison, and a startling reunion with Madeleine. Madeleine now has a five-year-old daughter, who she denies is Bond’s. The mission also brings him up against Lyutsifer Safin (Oscar winner Rami Malek, from Bohemian Rhapsody, etc) who intends to use the nanotechnology to wreak world-wide havoc and destruction.
The film’s spectacular action sequences race across a range of exotic locations, from Norway to Cuba to Italy, to Jamaica, to London, and to a remote island in the Faroes that is Safin’s headquarters. There is some spectacular production design for Safin’s island hideaway from Mark Tildesley that is reminiscent of Ken Adams’ massive submarine pen for The Spy Who Loved Me.
The script from series regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Ward in collaboration with director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre, etc) with some script doctor work from Phoebe Waller Bridge (Fleabag, etc) ties up many of the narrative strands and subplots from previous films, drawing to a close the overreaching arc that has been the driving force behind the Craig era. The stakes this time around are far more personal. The film has a more gritty, darker edge to it that has become something of a trademark for the Craig era, and the action is grounded in reality with practical effects rather than CGI. Fukunaga does a great job with the action set pieces with his muscular direction.
More importantly the film is littered with references to other films in the Bond canon, with portraits of previous M’s hanging on the paneled walls of MI6 headquarters, and there are several references to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby’s one and only outing as Bond which was unfairly maligned on its initial release in 1969 but has since been more favourably reviewed in the years since. All The Time In The World, Louis Armstrong’s signature tune from that film, is given a fitting reprise here and adds to the unexpected emotional quality of the film’s finale. There is also a typically bombastic score from Hans Zimmer that hits some familiar riffs, while the theme song from Billie Eilish is a fairly bland and forgettable number.
Craig has always brought a rugged quality to the role that is much closer to the character created by Ian Fleming, but he has also projected a more empathetic edge to the character who has clearly been troubled by his years as a government sanctioned assassin. He has made Bond a more complex and conflicted character that is a change from the way he has been portrayed in the past, most notably in the Roger Moore era when he became more of a cartoonish action hero.
Malek’s Safin is not the most ruthless or dangerous villain in the Bond canon either, but with his pockmarked face he is easily one of the more unsettling and psychologically damaged. The cast also includes a number of series regulars with Ralph Fiennes’s authoritarian M, Naomie Harris as the faithful Moneypenny, and Ben Wishaw as technical wizard Q.
For me, No Time To Die falls in the midrange of the Craig films – well below Skyfall, which was the best Bond film in five decades, and Casino Royale, but it is much better than the disappointing SPECTRE and Quantum Of Solace, easily the weakest of his tenure.
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