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.

Film Review – SKYFALL (2012)

Skyfall (2012; UK/USA; Colour; 143m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Sam Mendes; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace, Helen McCrory, Nicholas Woodeson, Bill Buckhurst, Elize du Toit.  James Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. Engrossing and emotive, this is one of the best of the series with Craig delivering his strongest performance to date as Bond and Dench having a much greater involvement as M. Whishaw debuts as a geeky young Q. Bardem stays the right side of caricature in a delicious turn as the villain of the piece. Thrilling, explosive finale at Bond’s ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands. Production credits are all top notch and Deakins’ cinematography is sumptuous. Oscar winner for Best Song (“Skyfall” by Adele and Paul Epworth) and Sound Editing (Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers). Based on characters created by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review – QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

Quantum of Solace (2008; UK/USA; Colour; 106m) ∗∗∗  d. Marc Forster; w. Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; ph. Roberto Schaefer; m. David Arnold.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, Rory Kinnear, Tim Pigott-Smith, Joaquín Cosio, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Jesús Ochoa. Seeking revenge for the death of his love, secret agent James Bond sets out to stop an environmentalist from taking control of a country’s valuable resource. Disappointing follow-up to CASINO ROYALE suffers more from comparison to the film it follows than to the rest of the franchise. The exceptionally tough action sequences are too frenetically shot and edited thus rendering them breathless as well as incomprehensible, save for one excellent sequence shot at the opera during a performance of “Tosca.” The characters and the plot are given little room to breathe as a result of Forster’s seeming insistence in prioritising style over substance, but Craig does continue to impress as 007. [12]

Film Review – CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/ Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut as 007 in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening and closing sequences whilst the engrossing plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review – SPECTRE (2015)

Spectre (2015; UK; Colour; 148m) ∗∗∗½  d. Sam Mendes; w. John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth; ph. Hoyte van Hoytema; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen, Stephanie Sigman. A cryptic message from James Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. Satisfying globe-trotting 007 action vehicle with all the expected ingredients and several nods to the series’ history. The most traditional and outlandish of Craig’s outings offers little that is new but will undoubtedly satisfy fans. Action scenes are well-staged if a little mechanical. Bellucci is wasted in small role as grieving widow. Sam Smith’s theme song is unmemorable. Based on characters created by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review Round-up – COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011); THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985) and REBECCA (1940)

10531351-1322658704-826498Cowboys & Aliens (2011; USA; DeLuxe; 119m) ∗∗∗  d. Jon Favreau; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby; ph. Matthew Libatique; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Abigail Spencer, Buck Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Cooper Taylor, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Chris Browning, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Ana de la Reguera, Noah Ringer, Brian Duffy, Keith Carradine, Walton Goggins. A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way. Starts out well but quickly descends into formula. Technical aspects are strong and Ford and Craig add much needed weight to an otherwise uninspired story.  Based on the comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Extended version runs to 135m. [12]

41WAWC1EV0LPurple Rose of Cairo, The (1985; USA; DuArt; 82m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Van Johnson, Alexander H. Cohen, Dianne Wiest, Zoe Caldwell, John Wood, Milo O’Shea, Deborah Rush, Edward Herrmann, Karen Akers, Michael Tucker, Glenn Headly. In 1930s New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world. Clever fantasy comedy with sharp observations about the importance of escapism in the cinema during the depression era and wry observations about the Hollywood machine. [PG]

3003_frontRebecca (1940; USA; B&W; 130m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Alfred Hitchcock; w. Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison, Philip MacDonald, Michael Hogan; ph. George Barnes; m. Franz Waxman.  Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, Nigel Bruce, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Gladys Cooper. A self-conscious bride is tormented by the memory of her husband’s dead first wife. Absorbing and atmospheric mystery drama brilliantly acted and directed with evocative cinematography. Winner of Oscars for Best Picture and Best Cinematography, and received nominations for nine additional Oscars. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – ABOVE THE LAW (1988); ABSENCE OF MALICE (1981); THE BIG STORE (1941); CASINO ROYALE (1967); CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Above the LawAbove the Law (1988; USA; Technicolor; 97m) ∗∗  d. Andrew Davis; w. Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, Andrew Davis, Steven Seagal; ph. Robert Steadman; m. David Michael Frank; ed. Michael Brown.  Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone, Daniel Faraldo, Ron Dean, Jack Wallace, Henry Silva. An ex-CIA policeman working for the local police department, while doing an investigation discovers the existence of a big weapon trade. Seagal has the physical attributes but not the charisma of a Clint Eastwood. The plot is used merely as a prop from which to hang a number of admittedly polished action scenes. Aka: NICO: ABOVE THE LAW. [18]

Absence of MaliceAbsence of Malice (1981; USA; Colour; 117m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Sydney Pollack; w. Kurt Luedtke; ph. Owen Roizman; m. Dave Grusin; ed. Sheldon Kahn.  Cast: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Luther Adler, Barry Primus, Josef Sommer, John Harkins, Don Hood, Wilford Brimley, Arnie Ross, Anna Marie Napoles. When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man’s life begins to unravel. Absorbing and well-made conspiracy thriller with excellent star turns from Newmand and Field. Adler’s last film. [PG]

Big StoreThe Big Store (1941; USA; B&W; 83m) ∗∗∗  d. Charles Reisner; w. Sid Kuller, Hal Fimberg, Ray Golden; ph. Charles Lawton Jr.; m. George Stoll (musical director); ed. Conrad A. Nervig.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin, Virginia O’Brien. A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store’s crooked manager. Although the musical interludes threaten to drown the comedy there is much here to enjoy notably Groucho’s rendition of “Sing While You Sell” and the slapstick finale chase through the department store. Based on a story by Nat Perrin. The Marx Brothers announced that this would be their last film, but they actually went on to make two more. [U]

Casino Royale 1967Casino Royale (1967; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗  d. Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest; w. Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Burt Bacharach; ed. Bill Lenny.  Cast: Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Daliah Lavi, John Huston, George Raft, Joanna Pettet, Charles Boyer, Kurt Kasznar, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter O’Toole. In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH. Out-of-control spoof is interesting mainly for its cast and Burt Bacharach’s score. The whole thing, though, is ill-conceived and loses its way completely in a free-for-all climax. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Casino Royale 2006Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold; ed. Stuart Baird.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening sequence and the plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [12]