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No Time To Die Movie Review
Reviewed By: Katy Whitton on 02 November, 2021
Genre: Action, Adventure
UK Release Date: 30-09-2021
Studio: Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions, MGM, Universal Pictures
No Time To Die is the 25th “official” Bond Film (if you discount the non-Eon produced Casino Royal (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983) which I thought I’d mention as they cause massive arguments at Quiz Nights) and the fifth and final outing for Daniel Craig in the role of roguish spy James Bond.
Now, I am going to try to be impartial here but please bear in mind that (hot take warning) I am not a fan of Daniel Craig’s version of Bond. I find it to be far too rigid, quite misogynistic (HELLO! It’s 2021) and lacking in humour and warmth.
It isn’t that I’m not a fan of the James Bond franchise – I grew up watching the films with my parents every Sunday evening, and this got me into the actual books by Ian Fleming that the films were based on. Everyone has a favourite Bond and mine is hands down Pierce Brosnan. While Timothy Dalton brought a fresh new look into the franchise, it was still very rooted in the sexism of the sixties and seventies, but with Brosnan’s Bond, while he still objectified women a bit and happily threw sexist quips at them, his era also brought us a slew of strong female characters that could certainly hold their own against the British Spy.
Now this isn’t a history of the Bond franchise (maybe I need to look into writing one? Let me know in the comments) but I feel that with Craig’s Bond, we took a little step back in terms of female empowerment and seemed to head back to the women “being all swoony” days of Connery and Moore.
So now you know where I stand – and I feel it’s only fair to let you know that I was going into this movie with some baggage – let’s get on with the review.
The film opens to a house in the Scandinavian snow, a young girl is looking after her drunk mother when she sees a face in a mask at the window. She tries to rouse her Mum but she’s too blotto to care so the girl hides only to see the masked man shoot her mother and then come after her. She manages to (quite brilliantly considering she’s 8 and there’s NO RECOIL from the gun) shoot the masked guy loads of times and, when he magically sits up, escapes onto the iced over lake which obviously cracks. But in an odd turn of fate, the masked assailant decides to save the drowning girl instead.
We then fast forward to sometime in the future (who knows when) where a woman bursts from the sea in a way that very unsubtly links her with the girl in the lake. Anyway, we’re thrust into yet another Bond romance this time between James and Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux).
Once again, the producers and director don’t give a fudge about the age gap between these two actors – and by extension their characters – Craig is 17 years older than his co-star and I just wonder when Hollywood is going to start casting age-appropriate couples in films. Of course, that means acknowledging that young women don’t (as a rule) fancy older men, and that older actresses (and by older, I mean over the age of 40) exist.
Ignoring the age thing, my first issue with this is that we seem to be plonked into a backstory and I felt that I’d been asleep and missed some important plot point or key explanation. Maybe it was shown in Spectre? I can’t remember because I’ve not watched that in ages (and it came out SIX YEARS AGO) and I assumed that it wouldn’t be required viewing as most Bond films act as standalone entities
WARNING: No Time To Die however really doesn’t exist as a standalone film and you need to have watched the prior Craig films for most of this movie to make sense.
But this is a Bond film so he’s not allowed to have happiness and SPECTRE catch up with the retired Bond and Madeline. It’s unclear which of the two they’re actually targeting and thinking she betrayed him, Bond pops Madeline on a train, basically sticks two fingers up and walks away.
We then fast forward, I don’t know like 10 years maybe? Time has no meaning for this film.
Bond is drawn back into the action after his old friend, CIA agent Felix Lighter asks for his help in locating a stolen super bioweapon named Heracles which they think has fallen into the hands of SPECTRE. Things take a turn though when we find out a new supervillain has the bioweapon and is using it to target SPECTRE members and then? Who Knows (well we do know but it’s never explained how and why).
You’ll notice that I’ve not really mentioned the “main” villain in this film and that’s because he as a ridiculously small role. Much was made of the casting on Rami Malek as a Bond villain, with some people on the internet going as far as to say he was playing an updated version of Dr No – not beyond the realms of possibility when you consider they brought back Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).
No, in rather a massive, missed opportunity, they decided to cast Malek as Lyutsifer Safin, a villain we know basically nothing about. Sure, Madeline’s Dad killed his entire family on the orders of SPECTRE (and therefore Blofeld) but that’s about it. No explanation on why he wants to target other people or what his end goal with the Heracles weapon is mentioned.
Safin is literally a cardboard cut-out villain that they’ve devised as they thought they’d overdone the Blofeld plot I guess – even though Blofeld’s a massive part of the storyline so I don’t know what the heck was going on.
And again with the age thing, Safin’s character (not the actor) must be at least 10-to-15 years older than Madeline but he’s drawn to her in a creepy “I save your life you owe me *wink wink*” way. JUST STOP IT WITH THE DODGY AGE STUFF.
This film was disappointing on so many levels: The action sequences didn’t seem as big as they could have been. I remember my jaw literally dropping at the dam bungee scene in Goldeneye. Here we get a short drop off a rather picturesque bridge with no real sense of (literal) gravity or danger.
The car sequences are nothing new, there are no new gadgets, and when one of the cars does crash it defies the laws of physics so hilariously, I almost had to look up whether it’s possible for it to happen. I didn’t as I was in the middle of the movie but because I am a geek, I read a couple of physics blogs later and I don’t think it could have happened the way they showed on screen. Call me petty but it really took me out of the film at that point and ruined what could have been quite a good scene for me.
Maybe we’re all used to the massive stunts being performed “in real time” by Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible films, and yes, they are a lot to live up to but that’s where our level of expectations are now. Oh, and you can’t blame COVID either as principal photography took place from April until October 2019. You also can’t blame the budget which was a whopping $250,000,000 dollars – they could have done a lot more in post if they wanted to…. Just saying.
One redeeming feature of this film are two strong female characters in Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) who, as well as kicking arse and taking names, have some really witty comebacks (worthy of former Bonds). You can really see Phoebe Waller-Bridge (yes, of Killing Eve and Fleabag fame) touch on these roles. I fear if she hadn’t been brought onto the script writing team we’d have been left with another two female characters who fawn over Bond rather than showing him up and, on occasion, telling him where to stick it.
Another plus in this film is the relationship between Bond and Madeline. As the film progresses you do really feel that they have a true bond (pun intended) and that they have lost a lot of time due to Bond’s insecurities and inability to trust and you do feel sorry for them both (icky age issues aside that is).
These two points don’t change the fact that this film is flat, shows no real character development outside of Bond almost letting someone into his life (Yawn – see Vesper Lynd), and is a humourless piece of cinema that shows no love to the long and varied film history that has gone before it. All this film is? Basically a series of poorly executed action set-pieces (apart from one scene with Paloma) that hold a lacklustre and confusing storyline together.
I’m not even going to go into the ending. I don’t want to spoil it for you and while it was an emotional farewell to Craig’s tenure as Bond, I was left wanting to throw my drink at the screen, it could have been handled so, so much better.
When you consider how much of a legacy this franchise has, there were so many influences that they could have drawn upon (apart from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which was just…. No. Bond fans hate that film. Please never reference it again, you did Dame Diana Rigg a dirty on that one) it seems to throw all of that away and yet confusingly at the same time rip it off completely.
As mentioned, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is ripped off several times thanks to Blofeld turning people into walking bioweapons, they use the music (We have all the time in the world) and similar locations, and Dr No‘s lair is ripped off – in a way that makes no sense stylistically or to the plot.
I have no idea whether the director Cary Joji Fukunaga is a fan of James Bond (or has even seen a Bond film for that matter). He was (in my opinion) an odd choice for director given his lack of big screen experience – let alone action movie experience, unless his version of Jane Eyre tells the story in a different way that I’m not aware of?
It’s a shame that Craig’s final Bond outing has ended on such a sour note. I’m sure that casual Bond viewers will love it, Craig stans will think he’s done a wonderful job but if you’ve been a fan of 007 for a long time, it’s not really a Bond film to me; it’s a poorly executed action film that uses the Bond name in order to pull in an audience.
I won’t get into the debate of who the next Bond should be (in this article at least – want me to comment on it? let me know below) – but we all know it’s not going to be a woman, right? No matter how progressive society becomes and how many women break the glass ceiling, Hollywood/The Film Industry and by extension the Bond Franchise will remain a firmly male orientated property, no matter how many strong female characters they try to shoe-horn into the films.
Watch this film if you’re a Daniel Craig fan or if you haven’t seen any Bond films made before 2006.
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