Tuesday Review – No Time To Die (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I remember when it was announced that Daniel Craig was going to be James Bond. I have to admit, I didn’t particularly mind. Sure, I appreciated the films but I can’t say that I was that invested in the choice of actor. However, a friend of mine was really annoyed with the announcement. At the time, he was a huge fan of Clive Owen and was really annoyed that Owen hadn’t been picked. The fact he cared so much was weird at the time and it’s, obviously, even weirder now. After all, it’s 15 years since Casino Royale came out and Daniel Craig has proved to be a great choice. Clive Owen? He might still be working but he’s not exactly making headlines. You can’t quite imagine, had he actually been chosen, that Owen would have made it until 2021 in the role.

Although, I guess Daniel Craig only really made it to 2021 because of Covid. It was a complicated journey getting to Craig’s final Bond film. After he was quoted as saying he would rather “slash [his] wrists” than keep playing the character, the actor had agreed to one final outing. Then there were the usual creative difficulties and departing directors to contend with. Finally, there was Covid. It’s not necessarily the swansong that Craig’s bond deserved but it’s the one he got. To be fair to everyone involved, the film itself tries really hard to be everything it should be. It looks back on Craig’s own history as well as referring to Bond films past. It’s not exactly Skyfall levels of fan service but there’s enough here to remind everyone that we’re 25 films into this franchise.

The film starts with Bond living a retired life in Jamaica. He’s convinced to step back in after the kidnap of a scientist. A scientist who just happened to create a bioweapon containing nanobots as sanctioned by M. When Dr. Madeleine Swann, is drawn into the saga, Bond is forced to come out of retirement and deal with the problem himself. The former spy must work together with plenty of old faces along with the new one that has taken over his 007 number. But what secrets will he uncover about his own past and Madeleine’s? Will Bond be able to save the day and the girl before walking back off into the sunset?

It’s weird how many references there are to Craig’s Bond being over-the-hill here considering how good he still looks. Yes, he looks a little more tired than he did in 2006 but, let’s face it, he looks great for his age. Plus, he’s going all out to prove that he’s still got what it takes in the role. There is a slight maturity in this Bond and it’s clear he’s learnt from his past. For his final time as this character, Craig isn’t trying to keep up with the young guys but is trying to show that he’s grown. He’s more human and more passionate here. It’s the most emotional the normally rather stoic spy has come. There’s a different feel to this film and I really enjoyed watching the actor explore a different side of the character.

No Time To Die might not be the best Bond film during Craig’s time in the franchise but that’s not to say it’s bad. There is plenty to enjoy no matter what kind of 007 fan you are. There’s the traditional silliness of the franchise and a couple of nostalgic one-liners to keep the old boy happy. Then there are the contemporary action elements, which rival the most recent Hollywood blockbusters. It’s all very exciting and director, Cary Fukunaga, does a great job of balancing every element. He even manages to bring in the right level of emotion to proceedings. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t in tears for parts of it. There are times when it feels a bit messy but I think it just about works.

I would say that there is something rather self-indulgent about this film. Its runtime isn’t quite justified by the narrative. The script doesn’t feel as slick as it should considering Phoebe Waller-Bridge was drafted in. There seems to be quite a lot of exposition and maybe a few too many strands to the story. Then there’s the kind of boring bioweapon angle that doesn’t seem as fresh or interesting as this film deserved. Add that to a rather dull and underdeveloped villain and it’s another classic Hollywood blockbuster. And I know this is Craig’s final film but you could also say that we’ve seen a lot of this before. Should it have pushed itself further?

Yet, I do think this is a fitting way for Craig to bow out of the franchise. He’s done so many wonderful things in the last 15 years and No Time To Die lets him show us how far the character has come. There’s a vulnerability in the way Craig and Fukunaga are showing the well-known figure that we’ve barely ever seen before. It not only gives the actor a chance to do something different with his performance but show how much room there is for further growth. That we can have a Bond who is in touch with his emotions a bit more but still manages to race around town in his fancy car. Will it change the way he is portrayed in the future? I doubt it but it’s nice to see a slightly more grown-up Bond on our screens.

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