I just got back from a midnight screening of the latest official James Bond film No Time To Die. Very bleh and forgettable...
Did you buy that? Well now everyone else is gone, let me tell you something.
First things first, I probably will do the odd spoiler, yes even for a Bond film. They really play with the formula here (but never abandon it). I’ll talk about the results.
Bond asks itself after a long hiatus each time ‘am I still relevant in the modern day?’ Judging by this film, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In did this in the 3 year gap up to The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, the 6 year gap leading to Goldeneye in 1995, arguably the 4 year smaller gap up to Skyfall in 2012 and without a doubt in my mind, in this 6 year gap up to No Time To Die. The results are as is the case in all of these entries, excellent.
I am not too sure how much Phoebe Waller Bridge shaped the script. However, there is a distinctly different flavour with this one. It would be unfair to say without that knowledge if she is responsible for this entry being more in touch with its feelings and more character moments. Certainly, some of the cast are better than others at portraying these changes. Lea Sedoux is a highlight, as of course is Christoph Waltz (more on the latter later) but star Daniel Craig is possibly not giving us his best performance here. Some moments such as his interrogation scene or him pleading with Remi Malek’s Saffin fell somewhat flatter than a can of Coke which has been open all night.
On that note, this film opens with James Bond and his wife driving in an Aston Martin (which can somehow travel at the speed of light) with Louis Armstrong’s ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ playing and even being quoted. Semiotically, Bond mega fans such as me can tell you this means it will not end well for half the people in this shot.
I know I said spoilers are about, but I point blank refuse to say what this results in.
Just to note as an aside. If there are any glaring weaknesses to No Time To Die, it is in its villains. Unfortunately even with the mega talents of Remi Mallik and Christoph Waltz, neither feel entirely fleshed out fully. This is the second James Bond film in a row where the villains are not exactly all time classics. Both times, they have had an amazing wealth of talent but never use them to their full potential. This in no way drags the film far down but regardless, I hope we eventually go back to great villains we saw in Telly Savalas’ Ernst Staro Blofeld, Gert Frobe’s Auric Goldfinger or Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin. Although it does allow more space for the film itself to breathe. This is a film which demands that need too.
However, speaking of semiotics, maybe it is just to Bond mega fans like me reading too far into something but it is patently obvious that Remi Malik’s Saffin is a reprise of Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No. The garb of the radiation P.P.E., the radioactive rods being inserted into water, his secret lair baring more than a passing resemblance to Crab Key and finally, the lair’s interior look. It is never confirmed (I think - I want to watch yet another time to check). Interestingly though I feel this links it to one of my top 2 Bond films, Goldeneye.
Goldeneye has Bond in the mid 80s being best friends with an agent who is more or less his double (Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan) and then has to battle him 9 years later because Bond has ostensibly changed with the times and 006 really has not.
Basically to feature an arguably modernised James Bond re - igniting his tet a tet with his original foe in the EON produced series is an inspired way of showing how far the series has come in it’s 59 year existence and beyond a doubt, the relevancy the series will still offer in the years to come. And needless to say, as a mega fan, this is incredibly welcome turn of events. Particularly after a long break between entries.
The Bond formula oft cited (for better or worse in terms of clarity) is played with here. Note the adjective: play (bit of Kevin Nash there). The ‘mission’ is largely relegated to the second half of the beefy run time. The first half is where the characters are further cultivated, many character’s seeds were sewn in the last film Spectre. In a few examples, Bond films more or less cleaved in two content wise are not always the best. The Living Daylights and godawful cinematic turd Die Another Day easily prove that. But here, maybe my opinion will change in future viewings but right now, I’m not so sure. Here, I think it works. It isn’t a beautiful joining, you can still metaphorically see the seems, but overall it is well done. A credit to all involved.
To sum up, I think I need to let what Mark O’ Connell would say is the ‘newest Bond bullet’ (in late September 2021, give him a break) soak in. As I left the screening in a cinema I used to work in for 1402 days, I had to stay until the lights came back up. This was partially because I am a fan of the ‘JAMES BOND WILL RETURN’ credit, but partially because I was crying a bit.
This was still as Dame Judi Dench’s M described James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, ‘a blunt instrument’. It has some rough edges and is certainly not perfect, but from things like modernising the character and proving the ongoing relevancy of the series and to finally have the very excellent song ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ in an actually good James Bond film to the fact that like Star Trek: Picard, it revels in absolutely never appealing to those more unwilling to change their minds on bigger issues or even acknowledge times have changed.
Of the 25 official James Bond films made so far, this is easily top 10 territory, a case can be made for top 5 even but it will take a few more viewings to really get to full grips with it.
I don’t really like doing scores, but here I will change my mind for once. Daniel Craig has pulled off something I thought was pretty much impossible: a great Bond swan song for a Bond actor. I hope the next Bond actor is either David Ajala or myself, but that aside, I think this and the ‘reboot arc’ of 2006 - 2021 is such a beautiful thing now and quite the satisfying thing. An excellent film and an easy 4 out of 5.
This is my summary, it is of course wrestling flavoured:
DANIEL CRAIG! YOU JUST GOT OFF THE LIST!
Thank you for taking the time to read my somewhat substantial summing up of the latest James Bond film. It would mean the world to me if you’d also check out my James Bond September articles:
That would make this my 007th Bond article.