05th Oct2021

‘No Time To Die’ Review #2

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear | Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge | Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

No Time to Die, not to be confused with Too Young to Die (seriously, look that one up), is the latest instalment of Bond, and the one where the title (almost) has some logical relevance to the plot. Socking it to Quantum of Solace. Bond, the Marble Arch, and Percy Pigs, Bond may be fictious, but he gives us Brits that warm feeling one gets when one dunks a hobnob into some milky tea or a piece of fried bread into an egg yolk. Even my snarky, black, liberal heart cannot sully the manly Jaffa cakes and Yorkshire tea wonder of a Daniel Craig Bond, and nor would I want to. I grew up watching Timothy Dalton in aqua cars, and a 60 year before #metoo Sean Connery, blackmailing women into sex. For King and Country, or thereabouts.

No matter the product placement, the Nokia phones, the Heineken beer or most ridiculously, the Smirnoff, going into the vodka martini, Bond is Bond, and he’s out there, steely blue eyed, and doing murders on our behalf. God bless him.

We are kicking off, where the last film left off, with sudden lose ends, sudden suspicions, and some truly terrific visual spectacles. Where Spectre had impressive, but hollow, set pieces that ticked the box, but did little for my heart rate No Time to Die manages to maintain a thrilling opening pace, for a surprising amount of time. I was gripped, I was thrilled. I was shaken, and I was stirred.

The Bond music kicks in, (somewhat forgettable fayre) not only does the pace keep up, but also this one manages far more character development than most Bond films. Most Bond films (with a few key, and maligned exceptions) leave Bond exactly where he was at the beginning. Sure, he blew up a moon base, but Moneypenny is still fawning over him with those “come thither eyes”. Here, Bond loves, he learns, and he loses, and the film is all the better for it. The film leans into some Bond troupes, but plays with others, it understands its heritage, but is not a slave to it.

Honestly, huge chunks of this film are brilliant, and as the house lights came up, I found myself moist-eyed and missing my wife and kids (in the several hours since I had waved them fairwell on my 15-minute drive to the cinema).

As the film goes on the old mistakes are back, looping plots and sub plots into each other, nonsensically, baddie plans that don’t make the slightest sense, clumsy attempts to do the “joker and batman, two sides of a coin” schtick, not only with Bond, but with another character too. But you know, I didn’t mind one bit. I enjoyed every minute of it, even the baggy second act. There was texture to Bond, no he isn’t entirely likeable, but that is the point. He feels much less like that cardboard cut out of Bond I saw on the pavement back in West Kensington, in 2005, that I was too embarrassed to take home with me, a decision I instantly regretted when someone else had got to it later. The quips after killing people still feel forced with Craig, something made an art form by Roger Moore but perhaps there is something to that, perhaps Craig’s Bond is not so blasé about killing as he might like himself to believe, there is a flicker of humanity in the old assassin yet, perhaps.

The film is not perfect, but nor does it need to be, it has the brains and heart to make it, not only a fine Bond film (perhaps the dust must settle, but I am calling it the best, as I write this, an hour out of the cinema). The action sequences, the direction was at times masterful. A lot of people die in this film, but the action never runs away from the director, everything is kept tight, the action is kinetic and visceral. Some camera shots are deliberately dark, almost musty, as a wood lined office room in rainy olde London towne often must be. The crumbling beauty of Italy, the forests of Norway, the silly baddie island, even.

Looking back on these five Craig Bond films, his legacy is surely as a good Bond, if not a great one. Three excellent Bond films in Casino Royale, Skyfall and now No Time to Die, one missed opportunity in Spectre and one stinker in Quantum of Solace. We assume we know who our new Bond is, but they have given enough wiggle room to backtrack and get a muscular white man if the alt right kicks up a big enough stink.

What No Time to Die gets right, it gets very right, and the mis steps it makes are small potatoes in contrast to the kinetic brilliance of an action film of this quality. For me, no time to die goes down as a brilliant film, even if Smirnoff leaves a sour, burning taste.

No Time To Die is in cinemas now.


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