Set five years after the events of 2015’s Spectre, James Bond has now disappeared into a Jamaican retirement. However, when a Russian scientist and his deadly genetic weapon are abducted, Bond’s old friend and ex-CIA agent, Felix Leiter pulls him back in. With questions left unanswered and characters from Bond’s previous life once again putting the world at risk, can 007 save the world once more? Or is there a new figure behind these events who threatens Bond’s world far more than just with “global annihilation”?
With Daniel Craig's Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang having now "shot his six", it remains to be seen if the Broccoli's rolled dice will come good...
Well, if we had all the time in the world, then maybe Daniel Craig’s revitalising James Bond would have even more years to run. Yet, whilst he’s chosen to bow out after fifteen years, it’s clear that both Craig and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, still had more to say after Spectre and No Time To Die is the result.
With a franchise that has constantly sought to reinvent itself, thankfully much of Bond’s back catalogue of bad behaviour has now been put into check. Gone is the womanising and predatory arrogance that so marked out Sean Connery’s time and now we have a Bond who’s truly stripped naked whilst his co-stars get to keep their clothes on.
Still haunted by the ghost of Casino Royale‘s Vesper Lynd, Daniel Craig finally gets to move beyond the regrets of the past with his paramour Madeleine Swann as played by Léa Seydoux. -Or does he? This is because hiding in her past is a secret that threatens them both in the shape of Rami Malek‘s Lyutsifer Safin. Embittered and battered from the movie’s opening scene, sadly, he is mired between the script’s competing demands. On the one hand, as a ‘Bond villain’, he needs to be a sadist on a global scale and also a wronged individual hellbent on revenge. Unfortunately though, and through no fault of Malek himself (who has some truly unsavoury lines to munch through), the result is much more Dr No than Dr Yes.
Whereas 2015’s Spectre‘s re-introduction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the Spectre syndicate was supposedly to introduce something to build upon, No Time To Die immediately tears it all down. Add to this, the dead-pan one-liners that clatter to the ground and you quickly find yourself inside a movie that stars James Bond but isn’t a James Bond movie per se. For sure, the gadgets are back and Aston Martin has duly emptied their garages with some of the finest cars to ever feature in the franchise. Yet, the longer it goes on, the clearer it becomes that we are moving into the territory of ticking boxes and tying up loose ends.
Following on from 2015’s Spectre, Bond’s relationship with Léa Seydoux‘s Madeleine Swann unsurprisingly comes into close focus and we find that the world of British Intelligence has moved on since 007 – however, fortunately, this kicks the door open for the breath of fresh air that is Lashana Lynch. As a newly assigned “00” agent, her asides hit below the belt and consistently find their target. Like a weaponised agent of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, her character is a rogue assassin let loose inside the script, who’s clearly been charged with cutting down dead wood wherever she finds it. Couple this with a much-improved stand-off between Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld and Daniel Craig and No Time To Die still has flashes of brilliance with which to bring some sparkle to the canon.
Yet, in the end, the film’s finale becomes a microcosm of the movie itself. Whereas Skyfall left enough screen time for Craig’s Bond to ache and brood, No Time To Die‘s 163 minutes makes no similar concessions to character depth or investigation. Instead, in desperately seeking to add pathos to a formula that’s almost contractually obliged to careen out of control, the film goes for broke with a surprise ending that could possibly split opinion.
So, with Daniel Craig’s Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang having now “shot his six”, it remains to be seen if the Broccoli’s rolled dice will come good. Delayed due to the pandemic and staunchly sticking out for a lucrative cinema release, the gamble will probably pay off. That said, whilst there are certainly enough ingrained aspects to make No Time To Die a commercial success, I’ll warrant that this latest vodka martini may leave some with an indifferent aftertaste.
Either way, see it. It’s unavoidable… but it is clearly Spectre: Part Two.