No Time To Die – 6/10
For a while there it looked liked Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 had no time for release never mind time to die after it went through a heavy number of postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was originally scheduled to hit screens in November 2019 until it was pushed back until February 2020, April 2020, November 2020 and April 2021 before finding its settled date in September 2021.
Now there was a lot riding on the latest instalment, the most important being that it was, as mentioned, going to be Craig’s final appearance as the ever so popular spy after portraying him over a 15-year period spanning five movies. Secondly, the release of No Time To Die would have a massive impact on cinema as a whole as it continues to recover from the pandemic. There is no doubt that Bond movies are made to be experienced on the big screen so I am glad they decided against the straight to streaming plan that was surfacing at the tail end of last year.
It looked to be as action packed as ever despite Craig being 51-years-old at the time of filming showing that age is “only a number” (see the movie to understand that reference) and it was shaping up to be a breathtaking finale for the actor to take his Aston Martin one last thrill ride.
So how does Bond’s latest mission compare to his other movies? Does it give Daniel Craig a dazzling swansong? Is No Time To Die shaken (good) or stirred (bad)?
Let me say first of all that the runtime really lets the overall feel of the movie down. Coming in at a staggering 163 minutes long, it holds the record as the longest Bond movie, overtaking Spectre‘s runtime of 148 minutes. There is a lot of unnecessary filler to drag the movie to around 2 hours and 45 minutes and one of the them is Jeffrey Wright’s return as Felix Leiter who gets Bond to help him track a scientist in relation to a deadly bioweapon. Whilst I like the character I felt his involvement to the plot was just so we could get an action set piece in Cuba, which by the way is pretty great but not necessarily needed. It feels really drawn out and definitely 30 minutes too long.
The biggest revelation of the movie is that Bond has a young daughter with Madeline Swann, a daughter that we learn of when the movie time jumps five years after the opening credits. Speaking of the opening, it’s so amazing to see/hear the gun-barrel sequence on the big screen again. My biggest issue with the beginning as a whole though was that it brought us back to the whole Bond grieving Vesper element that was a major focus in earlier movies. Did he not drop her necklace in the snow at the end of Quantum of Solace? Did that not symbolise him finally moving on from her? We see him visiting her grave professing that he still misses her almost like the final scene in QOS never happened.
We have all the returning characters from previous Craig movies: Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Wishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Rory Kinnear as Tanner all play their part aiding 007. Christoph Waltz also returns as Blofeld for a short 5 minute scene before he is killed off, a bit of a waste for such an amazing actor but when you are still trying to squeeze the Spectre continuation into an already pretty crammed plot then I guess he would have to show up in some sort of capacity.
A new character who is thrown into the mix is Nomi portrayed by Lashana Lynch. She is the new 007 after Bond disappears and she spends the first half of the movie clashing with him as they try to complete the same mission. This doesn’t last for long though as Bond is reinstated as 00 agent and they ultimately work together in the end. There is a recurring theme of trying to get the better of each other with Nomi bragging she is now the new 007 only for Bond to counter that by saying it’s only a number. This is then downplayed when he is given the 007 codename back at her request before their final mission.
The movie explores more of Madeline Swann’s past and the secrets that she has been hiding from Bond during their romance which drives him to think that she had betrayed him. It is revealed in the opening that a man named Lyutsifer Safin played by Rami Malek killed her mother when she was younger as a token of revenge for his own family who were murdered by Madeline’s father Mr Green, an agent of Spectre. Safin is a stereotypical Bond villain, he has an exhausted plan of killing everyone in the world, this time though it’s by using nanobots that enters people’s body. Malek tries to be chilling but he doesn’t get close to reaching the heights of Le Chiffre, Silva or Blofeld. I wasn’t really understanding the whole poison garden aspect to his character and how much it meant to him, we see it once and that’s all we get. He just didn’t seem like that much of a threat and I think his biggest downfall was that they were trying too hard to make him as complexed as they could.
Going back to Bond’s daughter Mathilde, the inclusion of this turns the movie into the stereotypical good guy saving his love and child from the bad guy plot that we have seen in so many action movies. Bond should be different from the norm, it should think outside the box. I’m not saying it was a terrible decision to make Bond have a daughter but the way they done it almost changed his character completely. I found similarities with Rambo: Last Blood, in that Stallone talks and acts some ways as if he is a different person to the Rambo we know of. The same can be applied here, Bond changes, quite drastically, with the way he acts/thinks once he realises that he is a father. There is much more emotion to Craig’s final performance than any of his other outings as 007. He delves much deeper than the usual gun fights and one liners that we are used to and in many ways he is more humanised than ever before. He does eventually get to have his big farewell moment to the franchise in a pretty breathtaking way during the movie’s final moments. For the first time in nearly 60 years and 25 movies featuring six actors to receive their license to kill we finally get to witness the onscreen death of James Bond.
In a shocking turn of events, Bond is infected with the nanobots that programmed to kill Madeline and Mathilde whilst he tries to escape from Safin’s base before it is struck with missiles. We get a really deep and affecting final exchange between him and Madeline as he says his goodbye over the radio whilst staggering up to the top of the base as the missiles land and blow the entire place up, killing him in the process.
Its quite a powerful scene helped by the beautiful score by Hans Zimmer who did a tremendous job all round. His callbacks to previous movies played to that nostalgia factor yet still ensuring its modernity.
The pacing of the whole movie just seems all over the place. We get a pretty entertaining first act followed by a dull middle and then a typical rushed action packed conclusion. With the Craig era the continuity is ensured throughout every movie to create a more in depth story but it doesn’t help when I can’t buy into the very dull character of Madeline Swann. It’s not Léa Sedoux’s fault though it’s the way she has been written as a counter balance to Bond.
Overall it’s not the perfect send off for Daniel Craig as I’d have liked. Yeah his death scene is the focal point and will be the most talked about but there are other things that could have been done so much better to ensure it didn’t fall flat in the middle. Not only was it a predictable movie but it relied too much on previous ones as opposed to reinventing the wheel and giving us something different.