Bond! James Bond is back! If you a hardcore James Bond fan, and a lot of us are, then the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time. Just when everybody was getting excited to see Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 the world went into chaos, cinemas closed their doors and we watched in dismay as the release of No Time To Die kept on getting pushed back further and further. I would be lying if I admitted there was a time when I was wondering if I would ever get to see this film. Well now the film is in cinemas, and I am happy to say that this is one time where that old wives’ tale of ‘good things come to those that wait’ is actually true.
Craig’s final hoorah begins with Bond retired from active service and happy in a relationship with Madeline (Lea Seydoux – Midnight In Paris). We quickly learn though that she has a dark secret that ties to her to the maniacal and precise Lyutiser Safin (Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody) who is about to unleash a vicious plague across the world.
When good friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright – Shaft) reaches out to Bond for help Bond finds out that things are very different at the agency. To M (Ralph Fiennes – Schindler’s List), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris – Moonlight) and Q (Ben Whishaw – Cloud Atlas) he is now an outsider whom they question whether they should help, and in fact he has been replaced with a new 007 (Lashana Lynch – Captain Marvel).
But as Bond works hard to try and bring the old team back together again he finds that just like Madeline he must face ghosts from the past when he finds that perhaps his old foe Blofeld (Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained) may in fact hold the key to how to stop Safin’s heinous plan.
You could forgive the filmmakers behind No Time To Die wanting to do the Fast & Furious game-plan for Daniel Craig’s final Bond film of bigger is better. But luckily for audiences director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) and his co screenwriters, Neal Purvis (Skyfall) and Robert Wade (Spectre), opted for a different approach.
I’ll admit that I am a fan of their approach. I have always thought that Bond films work better when they are more natural and believable. Perhaps that is why I have been more of a fan of the Craig Bond films then I have of some of the past films. Here Fukunaga again goes for the more natural approach – the villain here is believable and instead of going for bigger-is-better action sequences he goes for some brilliantly shot car chases and fight pieces that in a way are more believable for the audience. The result is something much more suspenseful and memorable than the myriad of city-destroying action films that litter cinemas these days. At times No Time To Die feels like I am watching a big budget episode of Spooks – and I have to say I like that.
Fukunaga and his writers also don’t forget the fact that while they need action set pieces they also need characterisation. I would argue that you see more of Bond’s character and emotions in No Time To Die than we ever had in any other Bond film and the closeness that makes the audience feel to the character seems like a fitting way to farewell Bond out the door. Likewise Madeline and Safin are given an amazing amount of characterisation throughout the script – while we also see different sides to Q and Moneypenny as well. Sadly the same can’t be said for the character of Nomi (the new 007) – there is very little characterisation shown with her and the result is she feels cold and aloof to the audience, although I suspect that may have been a smart little plan by the screenwriters to show her in the same light as how Bond views her.
Aside from the beautifully shot action pieces here, and I have to say that car and motorcycle chases through the cobblestone streets of a small European town is one of the best action sequences in any Bond film, it is the characterisation that makes No Time To Die such a special film. It gives the audience a closeness to the characters that is often rare in action franchises and this is one time when Bond’s sexual/personal relationship is very believable. These scenes are beautifully played out by Craig and Seydoux and that becomes a useful tool for the director when he wants to tug at the heart-strings or raise the suspense.
It feels weird saying that an action film is a beautiful film but No Time To Die certainly is. There is a beauty to the way that Fukunaga has shot this film – a 4WD chase through the mists of Scandinavia certainly attests to that. The believability and sheer brilliance of this film makes No Time To Die not only the best Daniel Craig Bond film but one of the best of the franchise that we have ever seen. This is going to become a well-loved Bond classic.