Well this film was certainly worth the wait. It might just be the rosy glow of finally watching a film on the big screen after years and months of COVID-related restrictions, but I thought this was a really solid instalment and a fitting final curtain call for Daniel Craig. Talk about going out with a bang…
I am one of the few people who didn’t like Skyfall all that much and beyond the fantastic opening sequence of Spectre really thought it was a dud. I watched the latter film again a couple of days in preparation for No Time To Die and as usual my feelings have mellowed somewhat toward it, but for me nothing compares to Casino Royale. No Time To Die isn’t up there with that stone-cold classic, but it was certainly better than the three films that precede it, although of course the film couldn’t exist without them and it certainly feels like a final chapter in a five-part story.
Director and co-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga (Maniac) is clearly one of the people who contributed to my enjoyment of this film compared to Sam Mendes’ previous offerings. The pacing was much better even during the unavoidable moments of exposition and there seemed to be less hang ups over moody lighting and rather just getting on with the job at hand – making an action film.
I know there were plenty of stunts in the last two films, but somehow this film seemed to tap into the franchise’s long history of great stunt work which at it’s best seemed grounded and obeying the laws of normal rather than Hollywood physics, if not a realistic portrayal of the human body’s capacity to absorb a beating (Bond in this respect is more of an MCU superhero than a retired secret agent man). Sure there’s nanobots and bionic eyes in this movie, but there’s no invisible cars or robotic torture chairs and the technology takes a back seat really.
I am also sure that the co-writers including consultant Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame had a hand in bringing Bond as up to date as they could in the post #metoo world and left me able to enjoy the action without cringing so much at his sexist antics. Bond fails to get saucy with two of his fellow agents – Lashana Lynch, as the confident new 007, and Cuban Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049) perfectly cast as a seemingly inexperienced but plucky CIA agent who briefly helps Bond try to exfiltrate a scientist from a Spectre party in Havana. There’s also some very good interplay between Bond and his lover Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) whose relationship continues from Spectre and is the backbone of the story.
As usual for a Bond film there’s some globe-trotting and as well as the women there are the cars and the gadgets including the obligatory Omega product placement issued by Q (Ben Wishaw) whose sexuality is subtly referred to without making it a big deal. M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) complete the London contingent and there’s no sign of the flashy new HQ building that was under construction in the previous film. But it’s no sad loss.
Of course the cars are predominantly Aston Martins and indeed the DB5 is the star of the show during the first run in with the baddies. All the gadgets, apart from the oil slick and the ejector seat, are utilized to full effect in our hero’s escape. There’s also the welcome return of Timothy Dalton’s V8 Vantage from The Living Daylights.
Long-time Bond fans get a lot to smile about – not just the classic Aston Martins, but things like the shot shown in the trailer where Bond fires a pistol down a tunnel in a recreation of the classic ‘down the barrel of a gun’ title sequence segment, the fact that Lyutsifer Safin’s (Rami Malek) collection of poisonous plants on his private island is essentially a reboot of the garden of death from You Only Live Twice, a replay of Vesper’s underwater death scene with another character, and of course the use of the line “we have all the time in the world” which any fan will know means serious trouble is coming – like the bell ringing in the TARDIS, or a Star Wars character having a bad feeling about something. Someone is going to ‘buy the farm’ that’s for sure.
All those fan-serving nuggets aside, this story is really about Bond finally getting over what happened with Vesper, finding new love and being willing to trust a woman. He puts aside his ‘the bitch died’ attitude and finally opens up fully to Madeleine. It really does feel like it’s taken all five films for the character to arrive at his most vulnerable moment and it’s a breathtaking piece of cinema history. Too much? Well I’m still glowing…
I think my only complaints are that the ‘we two, we’re are the same…’ speech by the bad guy has been over-done in films. We only recently saw it from Silva (Javier Bardem) in Skyfall, so it seemed a little samey to hear Rami Malek reel off the same trope. I feel he was somewhat underserved by the script and certainly Cristoph Waltz whose ‘it was all me James, Vesper, your beloved ‘M’…’ speech was so great in the previous film was totally underserved by the script. Although I’m sure he got paid for his time. Minor points.
“The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time…”