Film (Reviewed by Nick Bartlett)
There’s an undeniable underlying melancholy in No Time to Die right from the start, where Hans Zimmer‘s soaring score references the theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As Daniel Craig‘s final outing as Bond, this feels appropriate and intentional, but this is never miserable and there’s a lot of fun to be had, as both the gadgets and the one-liners are back as well as outstanding action.
As well as Craig giving one of his most all-rounded performances as Bond, and nailing every character beat, this is a James Bond film where the high stakes are actually important. As the narrative progresses forward, and the fighting becomes increasingly frenetic, each set-piece is distinct and feels vital to the plot. The chase sequence where Bond and Madeline are hunted through the woods is especially eerie, and beautifully shot, with a nice payoff that recalls Licence to Kill.
No Time to Die also features well-written female characters; Lashana Lynch is a great no-nonsense foil to Bond – a younger, hungrier agent who revels in getting under his skin. Naomie Harris actually gets to leave her desk as Moneypenny, and Ana De Armas is weirdly reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe as the guileless yet efficient CIA newbie Paloma. Meanwhile Léa Seydoux is given much more, playing a crucial role in the story. The Bond series has never been known for its feminist undertones or strong female characters, but Bond 25 marks a noticeable improvement over previous entries, albeit with some way to go.
Rami Malek has a great look as the ridiculously named Lyutsifer Safin, clad in the customary evil genius outfit. His evil plan is one of the more diabolical of the Craig era, and he delivers his lines with a characteristically offbeat intensity, but he doesn’t have the same sinister presence as Silva or Le Chiffre, and is ultimately a little bland – the worst thing a Bond villain can be.
The cameos from Jeffrey Wright‘s Felix Leiter and Christoph Waltz‘s Blofeld are welcome and essentially serve as a curtain call for their characters. Of the two, Wright’s appearance feels more impactful – Leiter hasn’t appeared onscreen since Quantum of Solace but he and Craig have such an easy chemistry it feels like he’s never been away.
No Time to Die wraps up Craig’s tenure nicely and makes his run unique – no other actor has played Bond from recruit through to seasoned veteran, with a proper sense of continuity and closure. A measured, poignant film that still delivers everything you want from a Bond film, this is the perfect farewell for Craig.
Special Features (Reviewed by Dan Bullock)
The No Time to Die extras really put us inside the pure-raw energy, depth and commitment that the entire team offer Bond every time, and these extras prove it’s right up at the top level for Craig’s final journey.
Of the five features, we start with Anatomy of a Scene, which goes into the process of that opening sequence in Italy, in the old city of Matera, to show us a deeper understand of another classic Bond setup. From the DB5 itself, and how many of the cars they’ve got as back up for stunts, to THAT motorbike jump up the wall and across the square, which was achieved by a proper stunt driver, I love seeing how proper action is created.
They keep this ‘real’ element live int he aptly named Keeping It Real: The Action of NTTD, as well as Chris Corbould – the Special Effects Supervisor – and this is a man who know his work well, having also managed the likes of Inception, The Dark Knight and Casino Royale. Chris, and his team, are probably happiest when they’re making it look as real as it possibly can, even in the most controlled situations. This time around it’s the cast and crew taking us through that ‘Spectre’ event, the trawler and proper physical rigs and the chase sequence.
The feature A Global Journey takes us along with everyone across the world, and a chat on how important that the location itself becomes a character within the story. For me, Bond continues to find epic places that take us beyond the normal – and that’s surely the escapism we all want? I do! There’s also Designing Bond, which always keeps the style and glamour you’d expect with 007. But it’s also very important to push it forward, to make it feel both modern and progressive. We get an insight from the Art Directors, Andrew Bennett and Neal Callow, and how they used local Jamaican builders to make sure that James’ beach house was as authentic as it can be, and quite right to. As ever, it’s important to see how these elements help the actors to immerse into characters.
Finally, there’s a 45 minute documentary about ‘Being James Bond‘ himself. This one takes us into the Daniel Craig‘s journey and it’s particularly entertaining to listen to so-called experts dismiss him before he’s even started. We hear voice-snippets of how they were concerned he didn’t look, or act, the right way before he’s even done a film, like a classic Bond ‘would have’ – and it’s great to conclude how wrong they were!
This doc short gives us the fascinating story behind getting Craig to believe in the role by the Producers, and even his own journey of realising he wanted to do it, and everything that goes with it. Obviously, Casino Royale showed everyone what our boy could do, and it was something so very special – and if you got to see the Secret Cinema production, that world kept getting bigger. I’d seen Craig in a number of things before Bond and knew he’d have the acting chops but I also felt he brought something we’d never had before, a rawness and gritty reality that actually made James Bond a believable character again. And he eventually got to even bring back the one-liners and absolutely smash it, every time.
Thank you, Mr Craig, for a hell of a Bond adventure.