Let’s talk about No Time To Die.
When did you realise that the Covid-19 Pandemic was going to be a bit more serious than the various animal themed flus? For me it was when I went on holiday in Vienna and found it to be almost all locked down. For many, it might have been a couple of weeks earlier when we had the first film delay caused by the pandemic. That film was No Time To Die, a movie that had already been delayed because of a change in director. It ended up becoming a symbol of the state of cinema during the pandemic because of how important its eventual release date would be. When it was delayed from it’s new date in October 2020, cinema chain Cineworld decided to shut its doors until an undecided date in the future. But now after 18 months of waiting, we finally have Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond.
James Bond has retired from MI5 alongside the love of his life Madeleine. However Madeleine has her own secrets which sees Bond be betrayed. Years later, a new villain emerges with access to a super weapon of a virus which can target entire races and families and kill them instantly. Bond is drawn back into action to try and save the world once again.
Ok let’s get past the irony that a movie so heavily affected by the pandemic has a super virus as the basis of its plot. Firstly, let’s talk about Daniel Craig. This is his final film as James Bond which is not a great sign of quality for this movie. In my opinion, every Bond’s last film has been the worst of that actor’s stint. You might doubt me on that but consider Sean Conney’s Diamonds Are Forever, Roger Moore’s A View To A Kill, Timothy Dalton’s License to Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s Die Another Day. I’d say the only one you’d debate there is Moore’s entry, mostly because Moore had some proper stinkers. And I’ll be honest, despite Daniel Craig being my favourite Bond, I wasn’t too enthused with him continuing. His performance in Spectre was one of the low points in a really mixed film as it did appear that he was done with the character. Compare his performance in that film to the fun he was having with silly accents in Logan Lucky and Knives Out and you’ll see what I mean.
But maybe because he’s more relaxed as he knows this is the end and that soon he’ll be able to spend all of his time perfecting the silliest of accents, he puts in a great performance as Bond. His Bond has always been very unique as he was meant to be more gritty and down to earth. Instead of the effortless charm of Brosnan and Moore, Craig was meant to be a Bond not afraid to get down and dirty in order to get his work done. It was a Bond born out of Jason Bourne being the biggest thing in action movies and a much needed update to a franchise that was struggling to find consistency in a post Cold War era. And Craig gets back to this in this movie. He brings a lot of energy and urgency to the role which was lacking in Spectre and even has a bit of charm and wit to go with it. This is the Craig of Casino Royale back for one final go around.
And he gets a big complex villain to take on with Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin. This is an interesting one as he could have been a hero for a while as he takes on Spectre early on in the movie due to his grudge with them. But then he turns into the big villain you’d expect as he plans to wield his super virus for nefarious means. I think. The movie never really elaborates what he is going to do with this virus. We know this virus could be a massive threat because it can be programmed to wipe out entire races if they want it to, but it’s never established that he wants to do it. We don’t even get the idea he wants to use it for that just yet. As we go into the final third there is the usual urgency which is helped by other circumstances which have happened, but the virus element lacks impetus because there’s no indication it is about to be used in a big scale. I’m saying I could with a ticking clock basically.
We get a bunch of fun new characters aside from the villain though. As well as your usual set of returnees, with M and Q getting more screen time though Moneypenny sadly sidelined for the most part, you get some new characters. The big headline is the new 007 Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch. A black woman being 007 was designed to trigger every racist and provoke about 50 tedious TalkRadio debates but that would ignore the fact she is is very good. There is a fun chemistry between her and Craig as they clash over being the old 007 and the new 007. She’s fantastic and probably the only time I’d think James Bond could have a spin-off as I’d love to see more of her. I also really enjoyed the short appearance of Ana de Armas’ Paloma. You expect her to be the usual Bond femme fatale so when she ends up being quite bubbly and overly excited to be undercover, it’s surprising and quite heart warming. She also kicks ass which helps too. The characters are just great in this film and it’s enjoyable to see them all interact with a script that gives them plenty to do.
Of course we’re here for the big action scenes and we get plenty of good ones. After kicking off with a car chase involving the iconic Aston Martin DB5 in an Italian village, we get the usual Blond globe trotting adventure. We visit Bond in his retirement home in Jamaica then have a good fighting scene in Cuba with the aforementioned Paloma. There aren’t a lot of action scenes but the ones that do last a while and they make you worth their while. One of the things which put Cary Fukanaga on the map as a director was a stunning no cut sequence in True Detective and he repeats this trick to great effect in a staircase sequence which reminded me a lot of a similar scene in Daredevil. Each action set piece is something different and while I can’t say there’s anything that stands out as truly stunning, other than the one shotter, they are a lot of fun.
This is all building up to be a very good Bond film. Not one that would be many people’s favourites but not one of the derided or average ones either. But this film which for the longest time follows a set formula and is very reverential to the older Bonds from using sound motifs from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to using the dot imagery in the opening credits like the first few films becomes brave in a way you could never imagine a Bond film to be. It turns a Bond movie that you’d keep on when it came on the TV to one that is going to be remembered for decades to come. One that will be discussed endlessly and I say this without words of exaggeration, a film that your children will ask about in future and want to know what you thought about when you see it. It’s quite staggering to watch and it will be interesting to see how the public at large sees it when more people see this film.
If you take No Time To Die on its own, it’s B-Tier James Bond affair. The villain lets it down despite a great performance from Rami Malek as his plan seems ill-thought out and it isn’t quite sure where it’s going after establishing the personal grudge between him and Bond. It’s also fair to say the length of the film will weigh down on many views. If it was that, I’d say check it out if you can but no sweat if you miss out on it. However, the movie takes those very brave turns. Brave turns that change this into a huge cultural event you have to go to see. A movie which will cause shockwaves and be remembered for years in a way most movies could only dream of being. This won’t end up on many Top 10 Films of 2021 list, it probably won’t even end up on mine. But it will be the most talked about and most remembered, I guarantee that.