Film Review – NO TIME TO DIE (2021)

NO TIME TO DIE (2021, UK/USA) ***½
Action, Adventure
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); pr co. Eon Productions / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Universal Pictures / Danjaq / B25 / Cinesite; d. Cary Joji Fukunaga; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (based on a story by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and characters created by Ian Fleming); pr. Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson; ph. Linus Sandgren (Colour. D-Cinema. Arri 765 (source format) (some shots), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (some scenes), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format), Panavision Super 70 (source format) (some shots). 2.39:1); m. Hans Zimmer; ed. Tom Cross, Elliot Graham; pd. Mark Tildesley; ad. Mark Harris; rel. 28 September 2021 (UK), 8 October 2021 (USA); BBFC cert: 12; r/t. 163m.
cast: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Léa Seydoux (Madeleine), Rami Malek (Lyutsifer Safin), Lashana Lynch (Nomi), Ralph Fiennes (M), Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Billy Magnussen (Logan Ash), Christoph Waltz (Blofeld), David Dencik (Valdo Obruchev), Ana de Armas (Paloma), Dali Benssalah (Primo (Cyclops)), Lisa-Dorah Sonnet (Mathilde), Coline Defaud (Young Madeleine), Mathilde Bourbin (Madeleine’s Mother), Hugh Dennis (Dr. Hardy), Priyanga Burford (Dr. Symes), Joe Grossi (Hotel Porter), Nicola Olivieri (Cemetery Caretaker), Pio Amato (Cemetery Attendant), Javone Prince (MI6 Security Guard), Davina Moon (Madeleine’s Receptionist), Mattia Lacovone (Young Shepherd), Giansalvatore Duca (Young Shepherd), Amy Morgan (Alison Smith), Lizzie Winkler (Sarah Jones), Andrei Nova (Bunker Guard), Ernest Gromov (Bunker Guard), Gediminas Adomaitis (Blofeld’s Right Hand Man), Andy Cheung (Chinese Businessman), Brigitte Millar (Vogel), Hayden Phillips (Sir Sebastian D’ath), Winston Ellis (Spectre Agent), Adnan Rashed (Spectre Agent), Rae Lim (Spectre Agent), Chi Chan (Spectre Agent), Denis Khoroshko (Spectre Agent), Lourdes Faberes (Spectre Agent), Philip Philmar (Spectre Agent), Raymond Waring (Spectre Agent), Eliot Sumner (Spectre Guard), Rod Hunt (Spectre Guard), Michael Mercer (El Nido Bartender), Gemmar Mcfarlane (Passersby), Leighton Laing (Passersby), Kimo Armstrong (Passersby).
Craig makes his fifth and final appearance as James Bond and completes several story arcs that have spread through his tenure. Here, Bond has left active service, but his peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. The story has personal impacts for Bond and more than once nods back at 1969’s George Lazenby starring ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. The pre-credit opening sets up the story by re-introducing us to Bond and his relationship with Madeleine (Seydoux). The set-up creates conflict between the characters and introduces us to the main villain of the piece, portrayed by Malek. There are also links to SPECTRE and Blofeld (Waltz), which are resolved in a surprising fashion. It is not possible to explore the plot further without revealing key plot points. Needless to say, the plot is more complex than the usual villain who wants to take over the world – it is in fact that and much more. How successful the film is at dealing with these complexities is debatable. There are clever twists, but also an increased level of incredulity which requires the audience to suspend their disbelief and accept that whenever the villains shoot at Bond with their spraying machine guns, they never hit the mark, yet Bond dispatches them with such ease that the action feels overly choreographed on the level of a computer game rather than a real-life threat. This makes Bond feel like a comic book or gaming superhero and contrasts less favourably with the grittiness of the action sequences in Craig’s CASINO ROYALE debut. There are many positives, however. The cast is strong and the performances good, despite some occasionally clunky dialogue. The greater focus on character and inter-character relationships gives us something to care about. The locations and photography are excellent – as are all the technical attributes. The film’s excessive running time is not as cumbersome as it would seem, as the footage all feels relevant to advancing the story. I did feel, however, that I was being overly manipulated by the filmmakers and what I was watching sometimes felt superficial – particularly during the finale in Malek’s poisoned garden lair – a nice nod to Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice. Overall, this is probably middle-ground Bond, both in Craig’s tenure and the series as a whole. It will be interesting to see where the producers take the series next.