No Time to Die (2021)

Cary Joji Fukunaga directs Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux and Lashana Lynch in this 25th James Bond movie where the super spy comes out of retirement and discovers the world is on its head.

*** NO MAJOR SPOILERS ***

The marathon Bond. The running time is not the problem. NTTD whips along at exactly the clip you’d expect a lengthier Bond movie to. Probably has a similar rhythm as Casino Royale. And tone. Could it have slipped in another couple of action sequences? Definitely, EON know the spectacle and set-pieces aren’t going to be talking points here. Though the first hour Cuba shoot-out is a fun mid-level highlight, a glimpse at a sillier and more energetic 007 we haven’t seen in a couple of decades. The slight return of the campier stuff is what I enjoyed best – bionic eyes, mad masterplans. There’s more of that than we’ve previously seen during the Craig era but still not enough. Don’t expect many jokes outside of Q’s scenes either.

This time it’s personal. Problem is it has been “personal” for at least four movies now. Bond’s past returns to haunt with cataclysmic global consequences. Again. Remember when a detached jobbing all-business Bond got briefed on a mission, followed a few leads over the continents and gave whatever megalomaniac rotter who was threatening world peace a good hard slap? Those days are gone. I miss them. Craig leans into the emotional stuff… he’s overqualified for the predictable curveballs the myriad of screenwriters bowl at him. There are soapy twists you can see coming a mile away.

And yet other stuff that feels vaguely under explored. Madeline Swann and the new big bad’s backstory is never nailed down. What happened between them between the decent flashback opener and her introduction in Spectre is anyone’s guess? It is a James Bond adventure where he feels out of step with all the drama. A strange dour ensemble piece where he’s often left on the sidelines despairing. Watching some never fully explained grand plot continually leave him behind while he stares up into the sky wondering how his franchise has moved ahead without him in the driver’s seat… It certainly isn’t the Bond scrabbling to win against unbeatable odds right up to the last millisecond of the cataclysmic countdown or breaking the laws of physics to defeat the henchman with elan that I get excited about every release. Bond sitting in an inflatable yellow life raft without a dolly bird to cuddle up to looking distraught – unforgivable. And there’s a half a dozen of these moments.

We don’t exactly dwell on the tragedy… like I said it is surprisingly pacy… but equally the drama doesn’t really have room to marinate. It is there to suggest a maturing of the franchise, a graduation into adult intelligent, almost human cinema. Yet what I really want is a set pieces that never comes… the megadeath MacGuffin is actually ripe to ramp up the peril and yet the Hitchcockian moment when Bond or Swann (or another shock character whom I shan’t spoil) need to achieve something yet cannot touch never comes. Imagine the fun a Spielberg or a Cameron or a De Palma or a Nolan or a Fincher or a Mission: Impossible or a Boyle would have with that under-utilised wrinkle in the dynamics.

So it doesn’t deliver three hours worth of what I want from a Bond entry (quips, extravagant violence, stunts, sex) it still is a very polished, well made film. Maybe a little overly muted in its look, even the credit sequence is a bit… grey and beige. The returning cast aren’t really given enough to do… and if you could hack quarter of an hour out it’d be their Embankment office sequences. Does James need to say hello to Tanner? Lashana Lynch as the inheritor of the 007 mantle makes for a striking figure but is left way too often on the sidelines in the big island lair finale. Ana De Armas steals the show as a “rookie” CIA agent in an utterly gorgeous evening dress during THAT Cuba mini mission – genuinely the best 12 minutes of Bond since Quantum’s plane dogfight.

Rami Malek might want to call his agent as the key villain. But then again that’s been an ongoing problem since QoS. Perfectly cast baddies given undercooked monologues, disfigurement make-up and not a lot else to do but wait until 007 gives them that muscle memory half hearted slap.

Obviously we are now looking at another reboot of the franchise. When the neatest moments in a Bond are the legacy Easter eggs (a Safari suit here and painting of M & M there…) maybe it is time to switch the series on and off again. Please keep Fiennes, Whishaw and Harris but abandon all this secret character backstory gubbins. Let the villains go big again… and if they can be jokey yet threatening then so can the movies. Pretty please.

6

My Top 10 Bond Lists

Action Sequences

1. Arms Fair – Tomorrow Never Dies
2. Alpine Escape – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
3. Cello case toboggan – The Living Daylights
4. Rooftop Brawl – You Only Live Twice
5. Ski Pursuit to Union Flag Base Jump – The Spy Who Loved Me
6. “The first thing you should know about us is… we have people everywhere.” – Quantum of Solace
7. Scaramanga’s Lair – The Man With Golden Gun
8. Handcuffed bike chase – Tomorrow Never Dies
9. Cargo-net tussle – The Living Daylights
10. Rope knot torture – Casino Royale

Villain

1. Francisco Scaramanga – The Man With the Golden Gun
2. Xenia Onatopp – Goldeneye
3. Wint and Kidd – Diamonds Are Forever
4. Mayday – A View To a Kill
5. Red Grant – From Russia With Love
6. Oddjob – Goldfinger
7. Jaws – The Spy Who Loved Me / Moonraker
8. Mr White – Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace / Spectre
9. Franz Sanchez – Licence To Kill
10. Baron Samedi – Live and Let Die

Girl

1. Vesper Lynd – Eva Green – Casino Royale
2. Tracy Bond – Diana Rigg – On Her Majesty’s Secret Servive
3. Wai Lin – Michelle Yeoh – Tomorrow Never Dies
4. Tatiana Romanova – Daniela Bianchi – From Russia With Love
5. Pussy Galore – Honor Blackman – Goldfinger
6. Tilly Masterson – Tania Mallet – Goldfinger
7. Paris Carver – Teri Hatcher – Tomorrow Never Dies
8. Solitaire – Jane Seymour – Live and Let Die
9. Anya Amasova, Agent XXX – Barbara Bach – The Spy Who Loved Me
10. Miranda Frost – Rosamund Pike – Die Another Day

Theme Song

1. You Know My Name – Chris Cornell
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Main Theme) – John Barry
3. Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon
4. We Have All The Time in the World – Louis Armstrong
5. The Man With the Golden Gun – Lulu
6. Another Day to Die – Jack White & Alicia Keys
7. James Bond Theme – John Barry
8. The Living Daylights – A-ha
9. A View To a Kill – Duran Duran
10. Live and Let Die – Wings

Cold Blooded Zingers

1. “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!” – Goldfinger
2. “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.” – Moonraker
3. “The Job’s Done and the bitch is dead.” – Casino Royale
4. “You’ve always been a cunning linguist.” – Tomorrow Never Dies
5. “You’ve Had Your Six!” – Dr No
6. “Keeping the British end up, sir.” – The Spy Who Loved Me
7. “Shocking, Truly Shocking” – Goldfinger
8. “Well, at least he died happy.” – The Man With the Golden Gun
9. “Well, that depends on your definition of safe sex.” – Goldeneye
10. “I just showed someone your watch. And it blew his mind.” – No Time To Die

Gadgets

1. Jet pack – Thunderball
2. Submersible Lotus Esprit – The Spy Who Loved Me
3. Multipurpose Brief Case – From Russia With Love
4. The Golden Gun – The Man With the Golden Gun
5. Pen Grenade – Goldeneye
6. Poisoned Knife Shoes – From Russia With Love
7. The Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger
8. Anya’s Cigarette – The Spy Who Loved Me
9. Laser Watch – GoldenEye (Never Say Never Again)
10. Bagpipe Flamethrower – The World Is Not Enough

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and

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