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No Time To Die (2021)

Review: written Oct 2021

Exhilarating and emotional swansong for Craig’s Bond

No Time To Die (2021)

As this Bond movie finally arrives on the big screen (where it most assuredly belongs), expectations could hardly be higher. Of course Bond has to save the world as usual, but in addition to that, the entire cinema industry is looking for a saviour after the pandemic, and Daniel Craig is looking for a suitable swansong from the role he has owned since 2006’s Casino Royale. So is this the movie to accomplish all this?

Emphatically yes on all those accounts. There’s a much vaunted formula in Bond movies – and No Time To Die delivers in spades, with some stunning action set pieces, sexy women, sarcastic quips, beautiful exotic locations, not one but three Aston Martins and appearances from the usual characters.

No Time To Die (2021)

While it’s hard to deny the movie is too long at nearly two and three quarters of an hour, for the most part it zips along and doesn’t feel it, thanks to director Cary Fukunaga keeping the action, drama and yes, even emotions running at a high level throughout. The opening sequence is one of the most beautiful, dramatic and action-packed openings Bond has had, setting a great tone for the movie. In that opening scene, the music (Hans Zimmer) and cinematography (Linus Sandgren: First Man and La-La Land) harks back to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a musical and visual theme that reappears throughout the movie providing a harbinger of things to come. The titles themselves by the consistently great Daniel Kleinman, throw back to the history of Bond with people looking small and insignificant against the sands of time and the ticking clocks providing a reminder that Craig’s Bond has consistently provided an acknowledgement of Bonds aging process, a theme taken even further here than in previous movies. Indeed, the plot starts out with the pre-titles setting up a Bond alone in retirement, with – as one character says – only time to kill. That changes when Felix Leiter shows up offering Bond a job, leading to unexpected consequences and connections with Bond’s past. Rami Malek is pretty terrifying as the villain in the opening sequence, but I did feel as the movie went on, his journey from clear and precise revenge to archetypal Bond megalomaniac with plans to use a gene targeting disease to wipe out millions was muddled, and his motives increasingly fuzzy. It’s a weakness in the story, but doesn’t hurt it too much because it is more Bond and Madeline’s story that drive the heart of the movie. Moneypenny has a very minor role, and Q not much more, but Ralph Fiennes Malory has some meat to chew up the scenery with. Clearly there was a remit from Craig and the producers to close out all the loops of Daniel Craigs story, and while this provides a dramatic heft, it does also hurt the movie, with scenes from Leiter and Blofeld feeling shoehorned in to give us an unnecessary tying up of loose ends.

The movie could be summed up by considering how I felt about the title song. It’s bold, instantly feels like Bond, and yet is ambitiously different, with more emotion than we are used to in the franchise. As I accept it for what it is, it grows on me more and more. Before Craig’s tenure as 007, Bond movies were not much different to superhero movies. Bond remained the same ageless, and if not infallible, certainly quick to bounce back. This era of Bond culminating in NTTD shows a Bond who is demonstrably fallible and human, and it’s hard to see where the producers can take Bond next having had such a full arc played out – but for now, I’m willing to soak in this moment – yes, Bond is back on the big screen, it was rollicking fun and emotionally engaging and I loved it. It was the required formula, with some added unexpected variables. I’ll worry about Tomorrow Another Day..

No Time To Die (2021)

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