TL;DR – A solid ending for Daniel Craig’s run as Bond, giving James the most to play with as the world explodes around him.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a Press Screening of this film
No Time to Die Review –
Well, it has been a long time, getting from there to here. Eighteen months since it was meant to be released, and Bond is finally making its return. Part of me was concerned that we would never get to see the film out in the real, another part of me was concerned given how Spectre turned out, but here we are. There is always a trepidation going into the film where you know it is an actor’s last. Thankfully, I should not have been concerned because this film almost knocks off Skyfall as my favourite of the Craig era.
So to set the scene, we open in the middle of the Norwegian winter as a young girl (Coline Defaud) is looking after her sick mother (Mathilde Bourbin). As she is cleaning up a spill, she sees a man in the window wearing a mask. He is here to kill Mr White, but his family is an excellent second choice since he is not there. In the present, Bond (Daniel Craig) and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) are enjoying their retirement travelling down the Italian coastline arriving at the town of Matera. Swann is concerned that James keeps looking over his shoulder, but that seems fortuitous given that soon bullets start ringing out across the countryside.
There are many reasons you come to a Bond film, and let’s be honest, the first one is action, which is good because it is one of the film’s strengths. Bond action scenes work best when they consider the unique locations/scenarios that they are filming in. The towns of Matera and Gravina are stunning locations in southern Italy. You have Matera built upon the mountainside and Gravina with its famous aqueduct, villages filled with narrow passageways and many stairs. The filmmakers make use of this from the nubs in the floor of the aqueduct becoming a place to hide, the cargo strips in the stairs becoming ramps for motorcycles, and the church bells being used to conceal the sound of gunfire. It also helps that Bond has a clear motivation to get from his exposed position to where Swann stays in a hotel at the top of the town.
The fight in Santiago de Cuba is an entirely different beast, with the narrative Bond getting to one location replaced with four different groups competing to capture the same man, Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik). Here we have a continuous brawl/shoot out where the sides shift and change throughout the fight, where places of safety can become dangerous in a heartbeat. If I could describe it, it would be delightfully messy. This is because the rapport between Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas is at the heart of the sequence. If you have seen Knives Out, you know how well they can play off each other, and here you get to see that all over again. Looking at the action as a whole, some of the close up hand-to-hand fights get a bit messy around the editing, but that thankfully does not take away from the sequences. Also, for a film built around the idea of collateral damage, I like that this was incorporated into the film’s action sequences.
If there has been one big criticism about Craig’s time as Bond, it is that the writing does not give him much emotional room to work with. Here we get to see them give a lot of range to Bond’s character. There are those quips that Bond is famous for, but they also let the character move between love, concern, frustration, and more. This is a Bond that is not hiding all his pain behind a gruff exterior, and the scene at the start of the film where he finally forgave Vesper (Eva Green) was very much needed. All the supporting cast is also bringing their a-game here in the movie, with Jeffrey Wright always a delight as Felix Leiter. I was not sure what the hell Billy Magnussen was doing as Logan Ash until it all fell into place. M (Ralph Fiennes) gets to dabble in the dark for some of the film, giving his character a bit more depth. It would have been nice to get a bit more with Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), but what we did was a delight. Nomi (Lashana Lynch) might have one of the best entrances in a Bond film so far, and I like that Swann could still step to Bond.
From a production point of view, it was interesting to see a lot of this film referencing back to Bonds of the past. Which makes sense given that this is the 25th Bond film, and they handled it a lot better than Die Another Day. There are times when you see this in the production design, as the large portraits of Bernard Lee and Judi Dench as their respective M’s in the hallways of MI6. You see it in the location scouting, with such stalwarts of the franchise like coastal Italy, Jamaica, and London featuring prominently. You also hear it in Hans Zimmer’s musical scores that use strings to harken back to John Barry. Indeed, it was not until the third act when the brassy sound that is a feature of Hans’ music started appearing.
However, there is a but, and potentially a big but. However, to discuss it, we have to delve into the plot a little bit, which means there will be some mild [SPOILERS] for the rest of this paragraph. So the big question I was left with as I walked out of the cinemas was, “what was Lyutsifer Safin’s (Rami Malek) motivation”. There is no motivation for his actions in the third act. I think given we are talking about the big issue, a virus that could kill millions that some dialogue got cut given *waves hands around wildly*. But it limits the weight that Safin could have. Now for me, this was just a wrinkle in an otherwise excellent film. But I have talked to people where this really took away from their enjoyment of the film, so your mileage may vary.
In the end, do we recommend No Time to Die? Absolutely. For me, it was the perfect send-off for Daniel Craig’s Bond and quickly became my second favourite film out of the five. If you like No Time to Die, then, of course, I am going to thoroughly recommend Knives Out to you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of No Time to Die
Directed by – Cary Joji Fukunaga
Story by – Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Cary Joji Fukunaga
Screenplay by – Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga & Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Based on – James Bond by Ian Fleming
Music by – Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by – Linus Sandgren
Edited by – Elliot Graham & Tom Cross
Production/Distribution Companies – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Eon Productions, United Artists & Universal Pictures
Starring – Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik, Rory Kinnear, Rory Kinnear, Dali Benssalah, Lisa-Dorah Sonnet, Hugh Dennis, Priyanga Burford, Mathilde Bourbin, Coline Defaud & Brigitte Millar
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13