No Time to Die (SPOILER-FREE)
It’s hard to think of a film as highly anticipated in recent memory as No Time to Die. Delayed multiple times due to COVID-19, and riddled with numerous production hiccups, Daniel Craig’s final adventure as Ian Fleming’s James Bond has been a long time coming. The production would make a suitable film in itself.
Thankfully however, tonight saw the release to the public of Craig’s last Bond instalment. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see it at the earliest possible opportunity, and I have been out of the cinema about an hour as I write this review. There will be no spoilers here, unlike many broadsheet reviews released yesterday which were positively criminal.
So, the big questions are: how was it, and was it worth the wait?
To say it is the longest Bond film, running at 2 hours and 43 minutes, it certainly doesn’t feel it. The action scenes are typically stupendous and gripping all the way through. The emotional development of Daniel Craig’s Bond is brought full circle. Craig incidentally gives the best performance of Bond here, not just in his run but in the whole franchise, solidifying his position as the best Bond. I’m sorry, but it’s demonstrably the case, surpassing even Connery at his best. The most touching, authentic and immersive portrayal of Bond put to screen; Craig really is firing on all cylinders here, and to say it’s a joy to watch is putting it mildly. In fact, everyone in the core cast gives it their all, which may not be surprising given the array of talent on display. Newcomers Ana de Armas and Rami Malek are excellent too, and both leave you salivating for their next scenes whenever the camera cuts away from them. Malek in particular oozes skin-crawling charisma as Safin – a villain of the same calibre as a Goldfinger or a Silva. Certainly, he will go down as one of the more memorable Bond baddies.
I want to single out Lashana Lynch in the role of Nomi, the new 007. Her chemistry with Craig and the rest of the MI6 gang is greatly commendable, so much so it feels as though she has been with them for at least one prior film. The professional rivalry with Bond is well written and never cliched, as that kind of interaction can easily become.
Fukunaga directs with clear intelligence and carefully-woven intertextuality. Be it a painting of Robert Brown’s M on the wall, the Aston V8 from The Living Daylights, or the costumes in Safin’s lair identical to those of Dr. No’s Crab Key henchmen, Fukunaga knows how to slyly please the fans. Hans Zimmer’s beautiful soundtrack includes segments of John Barry’s legendary score from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Craig incidentally gives the best performance of Bond here, not just in his run but in the whole franchise, solidifying his position as the best Bond. I’m sorry, but it’s demonstrably the case, surpassing even Connery at his best.
No Time to Die’s plot builds upon the stronger elements of Spectre, a film which gets a lot of grief but certainly doesn’t deserve it. Strangely, and to the film’s credit, the plot takes a backseat to the emotional development of Bond. Make no mistake, this is a film about Bond, who he is, and what he’s become since we first met him in 2006. This isn’t to say the plot doesn’t work, in fact it cleverly weaves elements from the novel of You Only Live Twice into the final act.
For all that it gets right, there are several things that aren’t quite up to scratch, chiefly David Dencik’s cartoonish and sloppily-written scientist Obruchev. Luckily he isn’t in it much, and it’s just as well. Certain lines from various characters simply don’t work. Nomi, as epic as she is, delivers the most out of place quip which does make you stop for a brief moment and wonder why it needed to be said at all. Finally, and this may be more to do with me as an overzealous Bond enthusiast, certain developments throughout the film do not land with the emotional weight desired since the film gives the game away much too early. That being said, I only predicted certain events due to my strong understanding of both the film series and novels, so this may not trouble the majority of viewers.
No Time to Die, despite minor faults, is a triumph. It delivers everything a fan will want along with plenty of surprises. There is so much that will challenge fans’ expectations and quite likely rattle their cages… and that’s a good thing! Fandoms no matter how passionate must always be challenged, otherwise a franchise will inevitably turn stale. No Time to Die is a bold, unorthodox, thrilling and emotionally sophisticated Bond film. Thoroughly unique, and most importantly, the send-off that Daniel Craig deserves.