And so, we come to this. After years in the pipeline, endless delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an overwhelming amount of anticipation from the core fanbase, the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, is finally in cinemas.
In truth, the movie has been on release for more than a week over here in the UK, but due to various scheduling issues, as well as a touch of illness on my part, I’ve only just made it to a screening. Has this slight additional delay impacted my anticipation for this movie? Heck no – if anything, it’s only strengthened it.
I’m a long-time Bond fan, and have been looking forward to watching this movie for some time now. Like every other Bond fan, I was disappointed the movie’s release was put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic, but I knew that once we got through the worst of the coronavirus, No Time to Die would get the release it deserved – and it has.
This movie hasn’t just popped up out of nowhere, it has arrived with a bang; surrounded by a huge amount of advertising, countless PR pieces from the cast, and every blog and entertainment site offering up endless discussions about the film. No Time to Die is everywhere right now, and even if you’re not a Bond fan, this movie’s release will not have gone unnoticed.
Yet despite its omnipresence, those who have seen it have been very good and have not given away any of the film’s major spoilers. Key plot details have not leaked, the audience’s enjoyment of the movie has not been sacrificed for quick headlines, and unless you go looking for spoilers, No Time to Die remains shrouded in mystery.
And you can rest assured that I don’t plan on dropping the ball either – this review that you are reading right now will not contain any major plot details that would ruin the film. I’m only covering the basics of the plot – so you can proceed.
Still with me? Great!
For those unaware, No Time to Die is the 25th entry in the official James Bond movie series, and the fifth instalment for lead actor Daniel Craig. The movie is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, and stars Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Christoph Waltz, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, and Ralph Fiennes.
For this film, Craig puts on Bond’s tux one final time, having previously played the role of Bond in Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), and Spectre (2015). Going into this movie it is important to know that this is an end-point for Craig, and an end point of sorts for the franchise, so you can understand the emotional weight and sheer level of anticipation that is attached to the film.
This is not a spoiler by the way; this is something that has been heavily publicised. Every Bond actor does a finite number of movies, and Craig has made it known (for quite some time now) that this is his swansong.
There will be other Bond movies in the coming years, and more actors taking on the role of 007, but for now this is a resting point. No Time to Die has been written to allow Craig to walk away from the series, before the inevitable rebirth in a few years, and is a culmination of what has come before.
But before the story can get to that culmination and resting point, the film needs to bring Bond back into service. You see, due to some personal developments at the beginning of this movie, super agent James Bond has walked away from his duties with MI6 and has retired to Jamaica.
But Bond’s retirement is cut short when CIA agent Felix Leiter makes contact and asks for his help. An MI6 scientist called Valdo Obruchev has been kidnapped, and this is incredibly bad news for the world as Obruchev has been developing a bio-weapon that could threaten humanity.
At first, Bond refuses to help, but eventually agrees to come back into service to assist in tracking down the missing scientist. This soon puts the former ‘00’ agent on a deadly mission to save the world, while facing a variety of enemies, some old, some new!
As is traditional with Bond movies, No Time to Die opens with a prologue before segueing into the film’s title song. This prologue is a fairly lengthy opening sequence, which goes on for many minutes, but is one that is reflective of the movie’s expansive running time, which this time around is a whopping 163 minutes!
So, if you’re heading out to the cinema, be sure to take plenty of snacks with you and maybe a cushion. This is the longest-running Bond movie to date, and you will find yourself sat in your seat for some time.
The great news is though, the events of the film fly by, so you won’t even notice that run-time. There are a couple of moments toward the end of the movie that slow things down a touch, but everything else is well plotted, so it all zips along at a pace.
This is a movie which has to deliver a satisfactory conclusion to the Craig-era of Bond, while at the same time serving up all the required action that fans expect, and it does so by using its run-time effectively. There is a lot going on in the movie, including a few new additions to the Bond mythology, but everything is slotted in nicely and not once does this film buckle under its own weight.
Now, speaking of the ‘new additions’ introduced into this film, No Time to Die takes the Bond series into different places, with at least three significant plot points that shake up the existing mythology. These plot points may not have worked in previous entries, but they fit rather snuggly here, and are perfectly suited to the Craig-era, which has always looked to push the envelope.
By introducing these plot points into this film, the stakes feel bigger and the reason for Bond to complete his new mission feels more important than ever before. It could be argued that in many ways, this is one of the most rounded, most fully-formed Bond films because of these changes, and it certainly has one of the best performances from its lead star as a result.
Daniel Craig has been a sheer delight across all five movies, but here he gets to demonstrate a real vulnerability to the role of James Bond. We’ve seen a similar a vulnerability to the character in previous Bond films, including the George Lazenby-starring On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), but we’ve never seen a Bond being given such depth.
In No Time to Die, Craig is given some serious and substantial material to work with, and he delivers it time-and-time again. He sells every single look, every line, and every moment, and he benefits from this movie’s desire to serve up something new.
Craig is a star, of course, but as is always the case with Bond films he isn’t alone, and the actor is accompanied by a fantastic ensemble cast which includes the superb Ben Whishaw as Q, and the ever-dependable Ralph Fiennes as M. But joining him this time is Lashana Lynch as a fellow ‘00’ agent, and Ana de Armas who puts in a scene-stealing performance as a new Bond ally.
The only weak link in the casting is Raimi Malek, who is given the role of the movie’s chief villain, Safin. Malek does the best he can with the material, and through his demeanour he is able to create moments of creepiness, but there’s really not much going on with his character.
It’s not Malek’s fault, but Safin is a misfire and I do feel the actor’s casting somewhat overshadows the part. The role is small, so maybe it should have gone to an up-and-coming actor, rather than to an established actor like Malek, who can do so much more than this.
However, this is really the only negative thing I have to say. The cast are fantastic, and despite this wobble (once again, not Malek’s fault), everyone is excellent.
But it’s not just the cast that works; from a technical point of view there are some breath-taking shots in this movie, and in terms of its soundtrack, the film benefits from a magnificent score by Hans Zimmer. There are also some strong character moments, there is plenty of action, and both the set design and costuming are on fine form.
With this film, director Cary Joji Fukunaga has delivered something truly special. It is a movie which pushes Bond forward, so feels progressive, yet at the same time it also works for long-time fans who have adored Bond since Dr. No (1962).
It is an expertly made movie, which all Bond movies are, but it is one that allows for character growth, so in many ways it is one of the best examples of a Bond film to date. It is certainly a film that will get discussed and debated at great length, and that will be part of its legacy.
As far as the Craig films go, I believe No Time to Die to be on par with Casino Royale and Skyfall. It caps off a strong era of Bond, provides Daniel Craig with a suitable exit, and is thoroughly entertaining.
Sure, there are elements of the plot which feel a little predictable, and maybe even a little silly, but I’ve watched enough Bond films to know this is par for the course, and I refuse to take the sheen off what is a great movie.
If you’ve been missing big blockbusters, emotional pay-offs, and the sheer escapism of cinema, then go see this movie. I promise you that with this instalment you’ll get a little more Bond than you bargained for and you won’t regret spending a few hours with the best secret agent we never had.