James Bond fans have had to wait a long time for the latest 007 movie. But was it worth the wait?
Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond has now lasted 15 years, and the movie landscape has changed a lot in that time. The Bond movies themselves have also changed, from the stunning “reboot” of Casino Royale, to the divisive but action-packed Quantum of Solace, to the world-beating Skyfall, and to 2015’s ambitious, but equally divisive Spectre.
Craig’s time as the British secret agent has also had two notable departures from the usual narratives. Quantum of Solace was the first direct sequel in the almost 60-year-old franchise, and now, No Time to Die marks the end of Daniel Craig’s self-contained story arc.
Over the years, the films that experimented with the tried and tested Bond tropes with varying degrees of success. The gun barrel, elaborate pre-title sequence, luxurious titles, the tuxedos, card games, women, gadgets, and guns. This experimentation has been controversial. For how do you strike a balance between tradition and cliche? Between well-loved trademarks and contemporary innovation? The weight of expectation on the new 25th spy movie has been greater than ever.
NO NEED TO FEAR
NO TIME TO DIE is a confident, sure-footed action thriller, well handled by director Cary Joji Fukunaga. It’s a long ride almost two hours and forty-five minutes, but the script is full of great character moments and narratives that link all the way back to Casino Royale. And the movie never drags.
The pre-title sequence is the longest in the franchise and is a suspenseful and thrilling introduction before Daniel Kleinman’s excellent title sequence with nods to previous movies. The stakes are high for Bond and the world in an eventful adventure which should please fans old and new.
The film looks fantastic, with a range of locations, colours and environments shining through the big screen. And it’s a minor point, but even the MGM and Universal logos are fresh.
The returning cast are uniformly excellent, with Léa Seydoux really fleshing out the character of Madeleine Swann. Newcomers Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas and Rami Malek are great additions, bringing great characters.
This is also Daniel Craig’s most assured and nuanced performance as Bond, with a perfect blend of emotion, humour, and cold-hearted ruthlessness – even better than his excellent Casino debut – for Bond is now an older, wiser agent, with the weight of experience informing his every move.
The soundtrack by multi award winning Hans Zimmer is stunning, with moving passages of lyrical strings reminiscent of original Bond composer John Barry.
Yet Zimmer also acknowledges the stellar work of David Arnold’s lush romance and hectic action beats, as well as Thomas Newman’s tense rhythms. It’s great to listen to Zimmer’s interpretation of the Bond themes, the romance, the suspense, and the thrills. Two tracks pay direct homage to earlier Bond movies which may prompt tears and his final track on the album is a slowly ascending, highly emotional finale.
The film does straddle that gulf between tradition and innovation with ease – something for die-hard fans to love, and to those who simply want to see a great action movie. For me, there were several emotional moments that caught me by surprise as Bond films often prioritise spectacle over character. This story deftly carries the emotional baggage that has haunted Bond since 2006, and this makes it a better movie – arguably the best in Craig’s era.
Bond is back. And it’s a five star movie. Don’t miss it.
Oh, and #NoTimeForSpoilers.
NO TIME TO DIE was released in the UK and Europe today, in the USA on October 8, and November 11 in Australia.
And a full, spoiler-laden discussion will follow soon…
Starring Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Ana de Armas, Billy Magnussen, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah.
First Published on Reel Anarchy.