No Time To Die Review Must Watch
Reading Time: 14 minutes

“We all have our secrets, we just didn’t get to yours yet.”

-James Bond

Warning Spoilers!

It’s fair to say that Daniel Craigs term as James Bond, is the one that has been the most fraught of all the Bonds.

Starting off back in the early 2000’s the Bond franchise was in trouble. Pierce Brosnan’s films had become too gimmicky and his blend of Connery and Moore deemed out of date. 2001’s terrorist attacks changed the world’s mood and the 007 producers needed to do something radical to save the franchise. They decided to send Bond in a grittier direction. It was a massive gamble. The announcement that Daniel Craig was to be the man to save the franchise was met with backlash and the new Bond was on the backfoot before he had started work. The formula was rejigged and in 2006, Casino Royal hit the screens and James Bond was back with Craig nailing both the humour and the action.

In 2007 Universal Pictures launched the Bourne Ultimatum, suddenly Craig’s version of Bond was looking old fashioned. So, in came director Marc Forster with a vision to make Craigs next film (Quantum of Solace) more Bourne like. The production coincided with the writer’s strike, so Craig had no finished script to work with. This resulted in the 2008’s Quantum Of Solace being shot mostly on shaky cam, with a script put together on the fly. Craig even described it as “a bit of a shit show”  Despite this the film did try and introduce a new feeling of continuity Quantum Of Solace became the first Bond film to directly continue a story line, by following the Quantum Organisation.

Something else happened in 2008 too, The Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment had started. Suddenly every studio on the planet wanted to create their own cinematic universe and Bond was not immune.

Craig’s third Bond film (Skyfall) reintroduced a mix of classic characters, call backs and new love interest. The result was a Bond film that took just over a billion dollars at the Box Office, Craig had finally nailed it. However, in interviews for Skyfall, Daniel Craig’s language had mellowed on Bond, describing himself as never as good as those that had gone before.

The Marvel effect finally kicked in with Bond number 4 ‘SPECTRE’. In an attempt to make Craigs Bond feel connected to earlier bond films, Craig recreated some key scenes such as fights on trains, and the producers ramped up the Easter eggs. Obviously using Goldfingers car for example.  However most of it missed the mark and came across as a Craig obsession to play in the bond Sandbox. SPECTRE didn’t stop there with its obsession to connect everything. In yet another hap hazard way story threads, such as the Quantum Organisation where revealed to be part of classic bond Villains SPECTRE.

Post Spectre, Craig’s Language on Bond had become stronger, stating he did not want to do this anymore. Bond had taken its toll emotionally and physically, the man, it seemed was done…but not quite as Craig returned for one last throw of the dice and to wrap up the story threads that had scattered their way through Craigs tenure.

So does Bond truly have No Time to Die……

Introduction To 'No Time to Die'

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Produced by EON productions, directed by Cary Fukunaga. No Time to Die is the 25th film in the Bond Series and the final outing for Daniel Craig as James Bond. It is also the longest James Bond movie ever made, sitting at 2 hours 45 mins.
No Time to Die opens with a very young Madeleine Swann (last seen in SPECTRE) watching her family get attacked by mysterious protagonist Safin (Rami Malek). Fast forward several years later and we find Bond and Madeleine Swann together after the events of Spectre.  Bond has handed back his licence to kill and looks to be enjoying an idyllic retirement but Bond’s new lifestyle does not last long. Whilst on holiday, Bond takes an early morning trip to the tomb of Vesper Lynd (his love interest who died in Casino Royal) and is attacked by SPECTRE. Thinking that Madeline has betrayed him, he leaves her preferring to trust no one. The films skips ahead five years and Bond is now living in Jamaica, soon the CIA come knocking. His old CIA friend, (Felix Leiter) explains a scientist has gone missing and reluctantly Bond agrees to find him.  Finding the scientist becomes a perilous quest causing Bond to cross paths with the British Government, a new 007 and the mysterious villain ‘Safin’. (When is a Bond villain not mysterious?).  The stakes are highly dangerous, Safin is armed with a biological weapon that can kill specific people by using DNA coding, and he has a lair.



Trailer

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The Script/Screenplay

Rating 9 out off 10

Being brought up watching Bond films on a Sunday afternoon, prepares you for what to expect from a Bond film.

They usually start with a pre-title opening sequence, showing the end of Bond’s latest mission. Then onto a stylised credits sequence with a strong vocal performance. Bond is then summoned to M’s office, gets chastised, possibly sacked. He then sets out on his mission to save the world, finds a girl, nearly gets killed, survives, finds the bad guy, kills the bad guy, gets the girl…the end. Bond will return…

No Time to Die does things a little differently. Bond is retired at the start, so he has no prior mission to finish, instead Director Cary Joji Fukunaga and veteran Bond writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade opt to showcase the films main protagonist in a flash-back. The pre title sequence then consists of Bond surviving a SPECTRE attack. After the credits we spend what feels like the next half of the film waiting for the villain to show up. Notably for a film of this length, the key characters are pretty hard done by. Blofeld seems to be an afterthought with only a few key scenes, and poor Moneypenny seems to be getting diminishing screen time since her stunning introduction in Skyfall. There is also the questionable decision to place ambiguity on the sexuality of ‘Q’. When casting an LGBTQ+ actor to play Q the writing was on the wall for the character to also be portrayed as LGBTQ+. Personally, I think its excellent to see classic characters being reworked to meet the demands of a modern audience. Nevertheless, something feels forced about how it was handled. It’s an awkward scene, that would have benefited from a slightly more abrupt approach, such as interrupting Q on his date, rather than hinting about who he is meeting, and is putting the Queer into Q the best way to overcome unconscious bias of the general public?

Fukunaga, Purvis & Wade have created a traditional Bond villain in Safin, in that he is one dimensional and paper thin his motive for being evil rests on a revenge plot linked to…yes you guessed it SPECTRE. This is a villain whose only quest is to get revenge for his parent’s death, has managed to fund a private army, and has found a lair in the middle of nowhere without being detected or questioned by any government agency.

All of this is not to say that the film is underwhelming, in fact I found it quite the opposite.

The strengths of the script lie in the obsession to delve deep into Bond’s psyche and pull his strings. Gone are the days of being simply a blunt instrument and in are the days of a rage fuelled, double crossed assassin who will stop at nothing to protect those he cares about the most. This is a dimension of Bond that has been brewing for a few films and its great to see how it plays out.

Fukunaga’s decision to bring Phoebe Waller-Bridge on board, has paid dividends with the script. Phoebe’s dialogue tweaks bring out Bonds dark humour that Connery instilled in the early films. Lines such as “I just showed someone your watch, Q. …It blew their mind” when using an EMP watch to fry a cybernetic eye that kills a baddie. Or creating the reason for classic Bond line “Bond, James Bond” when Bond tries to introduce himself at the MI6 front desk with just his last name and then is forced to give his full name when it gets no recognition. Made all the better by Craig being obviously irritated at having to say it.

I also like how cleverly the writers have used ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ as the muse for this film. Its influence over No Time to Die ranges from the overt such as including a certain key song and having an ending that is the perfect mirror, through to being so subvert as to use a gas type weapon as the plot device. The writers seemed to have stopped short of instigating the wearing of kilts though this time – shame.

The script lays the groundwork for a new 007 by making it obvious that the number is re-assignable. This is nothing new, with 006 appearing in the novel ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and as an agent during a briefing in ‘Thunderball’ and popping up again in ‘Goldeneye.’ So, it stands to reason other 00’s including 007 would be transferable to other agents – the question remains though does the name James Bond transfer?

One last thing to mention about the script is how well it balances call-backs and references to other Bond films. I have been critical of Craig’s previous films for being obsessed with shoehorning in call backs. Fukunaga’s style is much more subtle, and I actually had some fun trying to spot them all while watching No Time to Die.  I suspect few people realise that in the closing scenes of the film the text that ‘M’ reads out is used by Fleming in the novel ‘You Only Live Twice’. maybe this is a clue to what happens next….

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

Standout Casting

Rating 10 out of 10

Daniel Craig as James Bond

No Bond review would be complete without talking about the man himself.  Offscreen Daniel Craig portrays a reluctant Bond, a man at odds with playing such an iconic character. In that regard he reminds me a lot of Connery, as they both seem to whinge about playing Bond in the later stages of their 007 career. On screen is a different matter, Craig’s ripping up of the rule book that came to define the previous 20 bonds, the desperation to make the perfect 007 movie, the fascination with exploring Bond’s emotions, all come together in perfect harmony in No Time to Die.

From the outset of the film, Daniel Craig’s performance is as sharp as his tailoring.  When the action set pieces arrive, Craig is flawless, you really believe the effort it takes to run the distance or throw the punches. Craig has also nailed the chemistry between him and Léa Seydoux, and in grand old Bond tradition the age gap between lead and love interest is noticeable!   It’s not all action and love either, Craig has some tense scenes that stretch Bond as a person, a scene with Felix is most poignant. Craig is able to bring a sense of vulnerability to the character and this plays through to the end of the film, and I don’t mind saying I might have shed a tear for the last few scenes of Daniel Craig as James Bond.

It’s a mighty performance as Bond and I would say it’s the best out of his run.

Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann

Seydoux is back in No Time to Die. This time, key elements of the plot centre around the character of Madeline Swann.  Seydoux is able to showcase her talents, so much so that Seydoux is put on an immense emotional roller coaster. One that she rides very well, balancing the emotional heft of loving an emotionally damaged Bond and caring for her daughter, all whilst being tormented and chased by a maniac.

Seydoux takes all this in her stride, giving more dimension and layers to a character that was underserved in Skyfall.

Rami Malik as Lyutsifer Saffin….

Bond Villains have a reputation to be the least fleshed out characters that seem hellbent on Bonds destruction for no clear reason. In No Time To Die the producers have opted to cast Oscar winning Rami Malik to play Bonds’ Nemesis Lyutsifer Saffin. Unfortunately for Malik this Bond Villain is no different. Safin’s motives are a paper-thin and in typical Bond style we know he is a villain because he has a disfigurement.  All this means that Malik does not get a massive amount to do. His early scenes are parading around with a gun murmuring words and, in the later part of the film Malik gets a bit more screen time while sitting in his DR NO inspired concrete lair. Malik is forced into using facial expressions in order to emphasise Safin’s emotion, and then do yet more walking around. Ultimately Malik does the best with what he I is given, but I feel it’s an underutilised use of talent.

Lashana Lynch as Nomi.

Long before No Time to Die hit our screens rumours abound of a female James Bond, a black James Bond, and as Taylor Swift once sang ‘Haters gonna Hate, Hate, Hate.’  I paid no attention to such internet gutter fodder and was delighted to see Lashana Lynch reveal herself as the new 00.  Lynch uses her reveal to give a wonderful nod to to Gloria Hendry who famously played Rosie Carvers in  Live and Let Die and had to wear an Afro wig after getting a hair cut prior to call-back reshoots.

Lynch plays Naomi as a slightly awkward but capable agent. Her first few scenes seemed a little flat, as though Lynch was finding her rhythm. As the film progressed Lynch seems to settle down into the role.  Giving Bond the quips and reminding him he has been replaced. Lynch turns out to be more than a match for Bond. Lynch nails the first female, black 00 agent in a role that no doubt will inspire young women across the world.

Sound/Music/Score

Rating 9 out off 10

Hans Zimmer and his team where handed the responsibility for No Time to Die’s Score only a few months before production ended. Hans is one of my all-time favourite composers with close to 700 credits and chances are you have heard one of his scores.   I was excited to hear what magic Hans could bring to the tried and tested Bond themes and score. On the day of release, I fired up Apple Music and took a listen. My first reaction was one of instant disappointment.  The score was not revolutionary or even evolutionary, it was worse… it was generic with only one standout track. Disappointed, I didn’t really pay too much attention to it until I watched the film. Then bang everything made perfect sense.  Hans had worked with The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr, to produce the perfect score. Perfectly melding the on-screen shenanigans with the melodies hitting my ears.  Achieving the fine balance of the nostalgic E minor/major 9 chord mixed with some stirring Cuban inspired notes.

The influence of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is also felt in Hans score. Director Fukunaga worked with Zimmer on how to get the best out of the final few scenes of Craigs Bond and of course they could only go with one track.  Hans skilfully brings in All the time in the world as the song to close of Craigs Tenure.  It an emotional call back to the closing few scenes of On Her Majesty’s  secret service and very  skilfully done.

So my mind was changed and I discovered it’s not only a great film score,  it’s a good gaming score too!  Try playing Call Of Duty while playing Cuban Chase!

Care has also been taken with how the film sounds at home, both the Blu-ray and 4k Disc have and ATMOS track and it sounds superb. The LFT track booms but is not overpowering and speech crisp and clear form the centre.

The No Time To Die Score is available on all streaming platforms

Sample Score

Video Quality

Rating 10 out of 10

Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren FSF, ASC (La La LandFirst Man) was handed the task of making the latest Bond look as lush and extravagant as ever.  It’s clear that Sandgren has an exquisite eye for detail, the first few shots of Bond’s mini break to Matera look like a picture postcard. Sandgren is adept at keeping the camera focused on the subject in action sequences, bringing the viewer right into the action. Gone are the fast cuts and shaky-cam from previous Craig films, and in comes a more classic Bond style. No Time To Die is brimming with bright colours and swooping vistas. Saffin’s concrete lair could have looked like a dimly lit nightmare, but even that pops on screen.  Look out for some cleaver imagery of tunnels echoing the famous gun barrel scene.

The film’s disc release benefits from Sandgren’s use of 35mm, 65mm and even IMAX filming techniques. Not only do the VOD services have it in 4K, but the film has also just launched on Blu-ray and 4K disc. The transfers look fantastic, if not better than cinema presentations, they really do benefit from the excellent job Sandgren did whilst filming.

Visual Effects

Rating 9 out off 10

Its fair to say that Bond films have a questionable relationship with special effects. On the one hand they have record-breaking stunts and jumps, yet on the other hand they can suffer from terrible effects, such as Bond surfing onto a Cornish beach in Die Another Day, or Pierce Brosnan kite surfing a tsunami!  For this film though, Fukunaga has stuck to a tried and tested formula and kept on board special effects guru, Chris Corbould.  An Academy Award winning special effects specialist, Corbould has 15 Bond films under his belt (including those mentioned above), so he knows a thing or two about making an Aston Martin fire guns!

In No Time to Die Corbould goes for a huge range of practical effects, with digital CG  support provided by  Industrial Light & Magic. We get to see an Aston Martin doing donuts, an amazing scene with a fishing trawler, Land Rover Defenders jumping in sync and …that ending. Its good to see that instead of trying to make big bangs for the sake of it, all the effects have a place and are driving or complementing the plot. Fukunaga, Corbould and their respective teams have done a sterling job with the effects that hit all the right beats. I would not be surprised if they go onto be nominated for awards galore in the forthcoming awards season.

Thoughts On' No Time to Die'

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Craig’s run may have been dogged by competing with other action films, changing world views, strikes and a mixed bag of films, but all of this distraction has meant that for once the attention is turned on the vulnerability of Bond. No Time To Die may still have some recognisable Bond traits but as a Bond film it is a far cry from Bonds of old. Stereotypes have been destroyed; plot lines resolved supporting characters have received a modern update as well as this, new plot lines have been created and new supporting charters introduced. In short, Craig has delivered what he always promised, the best Bond film.  Just as well really, because he had all the time in the word to create it. I wonder, now that the obsession with Bonds psyche has been explored whether the franchise will return to more traditional roots, only time will tell, one thing is for certain …Bond Will Return…

The Silver Hedgehog: Rating

The Script / Screenplay - 9
Casting - 10
Sound/Music/Score - 9
Video Quality - 10
Visual Effects - 10

9.6

Must Watch

Craig has delivered what he always promised, the best Bond film

User Rating: 4.37 ( 4 votes)

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End Credits

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Directed by        Cary Joji Fukunaga

Screenplay by    Neal Purvis Robert Wade Cary Joji Fukunaga Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Story by Neal Purvis Robert Wade Cary Joji Fukunaga

Based on James Bond by Ian Fleming

Produced by Michael G. Wilson Barbara Broccoli

Starring

Daniel Craig

Rami Malek

Léa Seydoux

Lashana Lynch

Ben Whishaw

Naomie Harris

Jeffrey Wright

Christoph Waltz

Ralph Fiennes

Cinematography              Linus Sandgren

Edited by Elliot Graham Tom Cross

Music by             Hans Zimmer

Production companies  

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Eon Productions

Distributed by  

Universal Pictures (International) United Artists Releasing (North America)

Release date     

28 September 2021 (Royal Albert Hall)

30 September 2021 (United Kingdom)

8 October 2021 (United States)

Running time     163 minutes[1]

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