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‘No Time To Die’ – Review

‘No Time To Die’ – Review


For over 16 years English actor Daniel Craig has reigned supreme as Ian Fleming’s secret agent 007 James Bond and now in 2021’s No Time To Die he is set to give his final performance as the debonair super spy. And what a performance he gives in a film that I can only describe as a perfect James Bond film.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is the man assigned to guide Craig, in this, his swansong film, and damn does he create one of the most entertaining films of the entire year. From its opening frames to closing credits, No Time To Die is a cinematic rush that never eases up and Fukunaga delivers one hell of a Bond film for cinemagoers. As a viewer of this film, you feel Fukunaga’s enthusiasm for this classic hero and the genre in which he exists. And Fukunaga gives us everything we could want out of a Bond film in No Time To Die. A staunch hero, deadly villains, beautiful women, exotic locations, heart-pounding action and a vivacious score all encapsulate you as an audience member in the moment of No Time To Die. Film fans have been aching for a cinema experience like this for some time now, and No Time To Die delivers everything you could want from a Bond film.

Fukunaga’s approach to No Time To Die is to build a film that is both a throwback to classic Bond film’s of the 1960s, but also to create a film that feels entirely contemporary in its construction. It’s sleek, sexy and stylish, and there’s a terrific edge and pace to the movement of the narrative. No Time To Die’s story also leads into some very original territory for Bond to act in, especially in terms of the threat that he has to face this time around, and it’s an entirely fresh example of how the spy genre can be used to deliver compelling entertainment. No Time To Die also fits completely into the arc of Craig’s character development through four previous films, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre, and brings together the narrative story of all these previous films as Bond sets out to save the world.

No Time To Die is a film where no expense has been spared in its creation and it certainly shows on screen. This picture is gorgeous to look upon, and as an audience member, you’ll bask in the visual splendour that is presented to you. From the cinematography of Linus Sandgren, the production design of Mark Tildesley, the art direction of Mark Harris and Tamara Marini, the set decoration of Véronique Melery and the costume design of Suttirat Anne Larlarb, everything in No Time To Die comes together to build a very sexy and stylish film. To look at this film is to experience the quintessential coolness that we’ve come to expect of a Bond film, but also to experience something of immense beauty. The visuals that we witness are just stunning to look upon, and the ambience generated by Bond’s crisscrossing global mission will result in your excitement levels dialled all the way up.

Making his fifth and final appearance as secret agent 007 James Bond is Daniel Craig and he pulls out all the stops to give one hell of a final performance. Having to contend with an explosive new threat to global peace and security, along with overcoming his own personal burdens and trust issues, Bond’s mission is very much to find a way back to becoming a hero in No Time To Die after the events of the film’s explosive first act rob him of his will to fight the good fight. Climbing tooth and bail back into the fray, Craig’s Bond realises that there are far bigger stakes raised this time thanks to an elusive and dangerous new enemy, and things take a very personal turn for Bond as he jumps back into battle.

For Craig, No Time To Die is the circle coming complete as we see the end to his character growth as James Bond. For four films we have seen him move from a mere blunt instrument used by MI6 to fight the world’s most terrifying villains, to a man who has come to find a sense of place and purpose in his missions. That mission in No Time To Die is ultimately the most personal of all of the missions that Bond takes on and it’s do or die this time around. Along with his all-guns approach to stop the bad guys in their place, Craig’s Bond also has to contend not only with the love and relationships of his past but what has resulted from the love he has shared. And this makes for a very big surprise for audiences in No Time To Die. Craig truly gives everything of himself to No Time To Die, and the resulting performance is a deeply personal one as he puts his final stamp on the debonair super spy.

Standing next to Bond in No Time To Die, and reprising her role as Dr. Madeleine Swann from Spectre, is Léa Seydoux and she undergoes considerable character development as Swann as the action unfolds before us. From romantic moments shared with Craig’s Bond to being placed into the clenches of death-defying action scenes, Seydoux has a very important role to play within the narrative of No Time To Die and her actions propel Bond’s own as the narrative moves forward. While she was an interesting love choice for Bond in Spectre, it’s here in No Time To Die where we learn more about her character and motivations, and how her past has shaped her present. Seydoux again brings great gravitas to her performance, as she is prone to do, and she helps to bring out many revealing moments related to Bond’s own emotional state within No Time To Die, which have major ramifications for the film as a whole.

While Bond’s unresolved romantic feelings might be met by Seydoux’s Swann, it’s his professional status within MI6 that is questioned and challenged by Lashana Lynch as Nomi, a new 00 agent who doesn’t take a liking to the old war dog. Very much representing the new 00 of our tech-savvy 21st century, Nomi is a smart and capable field agent who sees herself as Bond’s successor and a far better one than that. She’s a ‘by-the-book’ agent, compared with Bond’s status as a ‘rogue actor’ and when they meet there’s a fun and playful tension that Craig only exasperates further throughout the film. Lynch handles herself in the part well, and she’s a great foil for Bond as they go up against the forces of Spectre and an even murkier enemy, and her addition to the film certainly keeps the drama interesting.

The rest of the Bond family are also present and accounted for with Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner and Ralph Fiennes as M. All of them get their moment within the action of No Time To Die, but it’s Ralph Fiennes’ M who has a very senior role to play within the story of No Time To Die. Part of the focus of Fukunaga’s film revolves around the idea of secrets and their eventual cost, and its M’s own secrets that lead to the point of contention in No Time To Die and this results in moments of on-screen tension shared with Craig’s Bond. Ana de Armas brings a sultry, fun-loving quality to first-time field agent Paloma which makes for a very fun Bond girl moment, while Bond veteran Jeffrey Wright again brings the bravado and comradeship Bond needs as CIA operative, and his long-time friend, Felix Leiter.

Finally stepping out of the shadows and providing No Time To Die with its villainous menace is Academy Award winner Rami Malek as the elusive and dangerous Lyutsifer Safin. And he’s a very sinister figure for Bond to contend with. A calculating, focused and destructive force, Malek’s Safin is certainly the most threatening and disturbing villain that Bond has ever had to fight. With his scarred face and hungry eyes, he’s like a half-crazed jackal just waiting to pounce and his disquieting presence has a disturbing effect on audiences. Malek gives Safin a malice that recalls the great Bond villains of the 1960s and his commitment to this creepy character is sure to get under the audience’s skin. Malek makes for a stellar villain in No Time To Die and he completely holds the attention of the audience when he appears on screen.

No Time to Die is a cinematic experience of the broadest and grandest scale. Operatic in design and presentation, it is a Bond film of exotic locations, big action set pieces and intense character moments and it’s a very fun experience to be caught up in. This broad style marks it out as a very masculine film and keeps to the form of Craig’s character of Bond. Fukunaga and his team do nothing small within this film and its giant set pieces wrap you up in the moment. No Time To Die’s opening in Matera, Italy is unbelievably impressive and sets the tone for an adrenaline-charged cinematic experience that floors the throttle and leaves off the break. Bond’s mission in Cuba to apprehend a rogue scientist is a pure adrenaline rush and the film’s climactic act and battle in the confines of Safin’s brutish island fortress base also gets you wrapped up in the action of No Time To Die.

The stunt team who have worked on all of the Craig era Bond films have always pushed for excellence with each new film and this has resulted in some of the most epic action moments ever captured on celluloid. They bring this same commitment to excellence in No Time To Die and it shows fully on-screen. Making the most of the film’s exotic locations, and Bond’s ability to blow them up results in some epically cool moments. A case in point is the film’s opening scene in Matera which results in one of the coolest chase scenes you’ll ever witness as Bond pushes the limit of the famed Aston Martin DB5. But it’s not just an adrenaline rush that you get with these action scenes, but you also come to realise how revealing they are of Bond’s character and that these scenes play a pivotal role within the narrative structure of No Time To Die’s presentation.

The James Bond films have always been about pure escapism and that’s exactly what get here with No Time To Die. It’s a film of grand locations, massive scale, epic action and tells the ultimate story of good versus evil. In viewing this film I feel like No Time To Die is the perfect James Bond film. Yes it is Craig’s swansong as the character, and yes it is the final chapter in his arc as the character, but with its construction and presentation as a cinema event, No Tiem To Die and its director Cary Joji Fukunaga fully lean into what a James Bond film is, and what kind of an experience it’s supposed to be. It’s a product of pure entertainment and is the kind of spectacle that draws in the power of the cinema and why we go to the movies in the first place.

No Time To Die is far and away the best film of the entire year, and it’s a rollicking good ride from beginning to end. Breathlessly entertaining, and with a committed performance from its lead star, Daniel Craig, it’s the perfect film for him to go out as the character and audiences will be very pleased with what they witness up on the big screen with it. After all, nobody does it better than James Bond.

Image: Universal Pictures