No Time To Die – Film Review

No Time To Die – Film Review
by Fran Winston

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes

It’s fair to say that this movie has already received a huge amount of hype. James Bond films are generally event cinema but the combination of release delays and Daniel Craig’s imminent departure have ensured that this has already reached almost mythic proportions. No pressure so!

It quickly becomes obvious that you will get a lot more from this movie if you have seen the last bond cinema release Spectre. You won’t be totally lost if you haven’t, but I can’t actually recall another Bond movie acting as a somewhat direct sequel to its predecessor. Yes, they have alluded to past story elements but this is more or less Spectre part two.

Another thing that is apparent from the off is that there will be plenty of Easter Eggs and throwbacks, which is sure to thrill the hardcore fans and bring a smile to the face of those with even a passing knowledge of the franchise.

In a nutshell (no spoilers) Bond has to stop a man-made biochemical weapon of mass destruction from getting into the wrong hands. This kills a victim on close contact with someone carrying it and honestly after the last 20 odd months felt very close to the bone even though this was written pre-CoVid!

A baddie trying to destroy the world with a convoluted weapon is a pretty standard Bond plotline. However, throw in a love interest, Dr Madeleine Swann (Seydoux returning from Spectre), who has a link to the weapon’s creator Lyutsifer Safin (Malek) and the fact that Bond is technically retired and his 007 status has been reassigned to another agent (Lynch) and there are enough obstacles in the mix to ensure that it’s not just an open and shut case.

As in all Bond films, the action sequences are extremely inventive, high octane and great fun. The cinematography is also lush and beautiful helped in no small part by many gorgeous settings. It is a visual delight, but this is also layered with pathos, comedy, drama and camp. It is as if they cherry-picked popular elements from previous offerings, put them in a blender and mixed them up to try and create the most well-rounded Bond film in the franchise. Thankfully, Craig is an accomplished actor so he can deliver an incredibly cheesy one-liner as comfortably as he can break down at the loss of a loved one and everything in between. He does a brilliant job here and gives possibly his best bond performance since Casino Royale.

Unfortunately, most of the other characters don’t fare too well. Although Malek is second on the bill and plays the main villain he doesn’t get much to do and the role is something of a caricature and not in the least intimidating. Giving someone a foreign accent and stereotypical disfigurement make-up creates a cliche rather than an interesting character. He has little to do except spout exposition and stare menacingly which is a shame.

The same is true of Christoph Waltz returning as Bond nemesis Blofeld. His character is very Hannibal Lecter-esque and I was surprised he didn’t produce a bottle of chianti at one point.

One critique often levelled at Bond films is their treatment of women but in this outing, they are more than window dressing and actually get to kick some serious bad-guy butt in their own right. Yes, they are beautiful but they are also smart, strong and well rounded, which is refreshing.  Interestingly, there is also some subtle LGBTQ representation in this story which is wonderful to see but also feels like they are trying to reinforce the fact that Bond is now somewhat woke and has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

At 2 hours 43 minutes this could easily have been 20 minutes shorter (perhaps they could have cut some of Waltz or Malek’s rather lengthy exposition?) and it does drag a bit in the second act.

These criticisms aside though this is a fitting farewell for Craig. Waiting for cinemas to reopen in order to release this was the right choice as this deserves to be seen on the big screen. Overall, it is an exciting, edge of your seat movie with an audacious ending that will leave even the most cynical viewer with a lump in their throat.

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