What can I say? It is quite genuinely difficult to find the words..
It has been an epic 6 year wait. SPECTRE ended with hints of more to come but also a kind of closure in itself on the Daniel Craig era. That said, we all knew the actor had one more movie in him and that his Bond had perhaps earned a full on 007 adventure with every trope restored, unapologetically and without some metatextual commentary.
At the same time? It was a logical impossibility to push Craig’s ‘take’ into the fantastical. Indeed, one could make a case for saying that he was basically finished after SKYFALL, or even QUANTUM OF SOLACE? Heck, had the bloke thought ‘nah’ to more Bond after CASINO ROYALE? He would still have been a great one and done in one of the best pictures from the series.
And therein lies the innate problem with NO TIME TO DIE. Because whilst it models and captures everything that made Daniel Craig’s first three Bond films a kind of tidily self contained unit? It also engages with, mops up and yet in so doing, arguably worsens the ambiguous mess left by SPECTRE, just without the childlike innocence of that particular entry.
So this is not quite a Bond comes of age or grows up movie and neither, btw, for all its dramatic efforts, does it feel in ANY WAY like an earned finale to either the Craig tenure or to 007 on film for good.
It’s just an adolescent transition of a film, biding time until the next guy/girl/whoever comes along. Fine for development and not without fun. But awkward in every way, too.
IE: we have a severe verisimilitude problem.
This is DIE ANOTHER DAY in reverse. By that I do not mean that 007 drives an invisible car or para-surfs tsunamis. And incidentally: there would have been nothing wrong with those features in Brosnan’s 2002 swansong IF the film had not started as a revenge thriller about an agent who had been captured in North Korea.
(You’ll see where I am going with this in a second. Because I have a clear and linear place to reach, unlike Bond in his latest outing).
With Bond: you can of course treat the fantastic as serious (first half of MOONRAKER actually works on that score) or mix light and romantic with hard edged political thriller (THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS).
But generally? You either go all out ‘dark’ (LICENCE TO KILL; QUANTUM OF SOLACE) and enjoy that punchy pulp pacey blast? OR: Go big, camp, fun popcorn patriotism (SPY WHO LOVED ME).
You can fuse genres. But mix tones in the wrong key: and the whole enterprise can feel ironically more empty, the greater it strives for the profound.
And that is PRECISELY the problem with NO TIME TO DIE.
It has plenty to recommend it. You will laugh, cry, sit on edge of seats and be thrilled, visually and emotionally. There are enough standout wow moments to give you goose-bumps and want to own the movie to play on repeat.
But the ingredients do not gel well and it muddies the flavour. That is a sin one could overlook IF the tone was primarily an escapist bit of rousing fun. (SKYFALL pulled that off btw: it’s a panto for all the initial veneer of grit).
NO TIME TO DIE has more exaggerated and campy moments than any previous Craig Bond film. Yet it remains determined, throughout, to make you ‘feel’ things that simply aren’t logical places to go. There is a mean spirit pervading the enterprise imho.
An arc IS set up, beautifully here. IE: Can Bond settle down and find happiness? How does a man without consequence face domestic maturity? But they (writers/director and yes, leading man) augment that simple premise with needless convolution and a wholly unsatisfying ending, devoid of logical utility and charged with pseudo erudite wannabe profundity. That is perhaps the most frustrating thing here.
The plot is basic mad macguffin stuff with some sort of bioweapon. The baddie (Rami Malek) is underused and his beef with Bond never feels charged with much chemistry. Bizarrely, Christoph Waltz returns as Blofeld and they neither satisfactorily develop nor redeem his arc from SPECTRE. That’s two Oscar winners. Wasted.
There are attempts at talking geopolitics and Ralph Fiennes’ M is placed at the centre of that. It is not a flattering role. Ralph: give it up. It’s doing you no favours.
Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) barely features at all; ditto Tanner (Rory Kinnear). And yet they seem to be in it a lot, just given nothing much to ‘do’? Lashana Lynch is perfectly fine as Nomi and in the film less than expected.
The best things here that do make it a ‘must -see’ (because, for all my reservations, I cannot see how anyone can miss this movie?) include:
- Some nice nods to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE.
- Ana De Armas makes an hilarious cameo.
- BEST OPENING of the Craig era and one of the best in the series.
- A tender, intimate, warm and very real romance between James and Madeleine (Lea Seydoux).
- One genuine surprise that feels ‘right’ (sadly cancelled out by another, which simply does..not).
- Immersive, kinetic action from start to finish.
- A cameo from Hugh Dennis (shame not to therefore include Claire Skinner?).
- Visually STUNNING shots. This takes you to every location.
- A truly engaging simulation of Bond’s life as a great outdoors everyman: sailing, fishing, exploring, living, learning.
- And of course, a great performance by DANIEL CRAIG.
Yes, see this movie. It’s a patriotic duty! Cinema and Britain expect it. And you do get your money’s worth, for sure. It will polarise audiences. Going out I heard some say ‘I will never watch a Bond film again’ and others say ‘BEST BOND EVER!’. I shan’t recite my own words but I have since calmed down. 😉
Where to now? Well, Amazon will want their 00 pound of flesh and fast. Usually I would recommend a long break. But bizarrely, one leaves the cinema with a pressing urgent desire for more Bond and in a differing key via reboot.
Whatever the franchise’s future? It IS in great hands with the wonderful producer, Barbara Broccoli and I will always be grateful for the trio of near perfect Bond movies in Craig’s initial run as 007.
I once compared Bond to Inspector Morse. Well, Morse finished in my mind when he drove off into the sunset with Adele Cecil at the end of DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOUR. Yes, I wanted more. No, I did not need to see its inevitable decline toward darker tones again. Same here with the Daniel Craig Bond.
For me? The whole 007 series is summed up by Daniel’s Bond stood on top of that building in 2012’s SKYFALL, amidst a sea of union jacks and Olympic feelgood magic. Anything was possible back then. And perhaps, it will be again. The world now NEEDS that vital injection of feel good FUN. More than ever.
And thank you, Daniel Craig. That’s a wrap!
You were a GREAT James Bond!
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. TRANSMISSION ENDS X