This article is a detailed SPOILER-filled discussion, so read on with care.
Click HERE for the non-spoiler review.
In a twist to the traditional gunbarrel opening Bond strides across the screen and fires towards us – but no blood trickles down, instead Bond dissolves into a snowy landscape.
PRETITLES – “HOME”
The pre-titles sequence starts in flashback to Madeleine Swann as a child, being terrorised in her home by a mysterious figure in wearing an eerie Japanese mask. He kills Madeleine’s mother, but Madeleine empties her father’s gun into the attacker before dragging his body onto a frozen lake. The attacker regains consciousness and the girl crashes through the ice. Just when you think he’ll let her drown, he reaches down.
PRETITLES – “MATERA”
Bond (Daniel Craig) and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), fresh from the ending of previous film SPECTRE, arrive in the ancient Italian town of Matera. The town is where Bond’s first love Vesper is buried so he heads to her tomb to finally say goodbye. A huge explosion almost wipes Bond out.
The next sequence is a highlight: Bond escaping pursuers on a bridge before a brutal fist fight with “Primo” (Dali Benssalah), a Spectre agent with a robot eye who growls that Madeleine is a “Daughter of Spectre”. A tremendous bike stunt later, and Bond is stunned to find Madeleine packed and ready to leave. Everything Bond thought was real has been turned on its head AGAIN.
Cue a terrific chase in his Aston Martin DB5, accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s pounding score. Surrounded by goons and in the town square, with bullets cracking the bulletproof windows, Madeleine is genuinely terrified. After a LONG pause Bond kicks the car into the donut spin, with hidden machine guns wiping out most of the goons.
Bond takes Madeleine to the station and puts her on a train. He says she’ll never see him again and she bursts into tears. The train slides away and the titles begin with a design recalling the first Bond movie DR NO.
Daniel Kleinman’s titles sequences are wonderful on the big screen, stunning imagery which subtly foreshadows the events of the film. Billie Eilish’s hugely successful song is mournful but makes sense in context – and surely the lyrics from the song are from Madeleine’s point of view?
Hans Zimmer‘s soundtrack is one of the best – paying clear homage to John Barry, and also to David Arnold and Thomas Newman – the composters of the other Craig Bond movies. And Zimmer fans will get plenty to chew on too, with lush orchestrations, pounding drums and heart breaking strings. Buy the soundtrack wherever you get your soundtracks – but Hans Zimmer showcased it on his youtube channel:
LONDON BREAK IN
Five years later, Primo and Spectre violently attack a secure lab in London, kill the staff and snatch a dangerous substance and a scientist named Obruchev (David Dencik).
BOND IN JAMAICA
Bond’s retirement looks incredible, sailing, fishing, and relaxing in his luxury cottage. The CIA’s Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen) from the US State Department approach him for help in grabbing Obruchev and the “Heracles” substance in Cuba. Craig gets some funny lines here, referring to Ash as “Book of Mormon” and feigning worry that as Ash smiles too much.
Bond then encounters MI6 agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) – the new “007” who warns him to stay away from this mission. He then calls M (Ralph Fiennes) to criticise him – for it seems that M is somehow responsible for the mess.
Bond heads to Cuba to meet Leiter’s agent Paloma (Ana de Armas) to grab Obruchev and Heracles at a secret Spectre meeting. Their dialogue is fun, and I love how she wrinkles her nose involuntarily when he drops a silly innuendo about them getting to know each other.
The Spectre meeting is being supervised by a goon holding Primo’s bionic eye on a platter, although Blofeld’s voice is inexplicably heard. Fans have noted the allusions to mythology (Bond calls Primo “cyclops”, the poison is named Heracles, the three goons with the eye like the Stygian witches). The Spectre trap is sprung as the attendees turn on Bond to watch him die from a release of Heracles. But Obruchev switched the DNA code and instead all of Spectre are killed. A terrific shootout between Spectre goons, Paloma, Bond, and Nomi is another highlight of the film, with stylish action, great humour, and a whole ton of cool.
Bond brings Obruchev to a fishing boat and Felix is delighted but when Ash is revealed to be working for Safin a tough struggle ends with Leiter shot and both he and Bond trapped in the hold. Explosives scupper the boat and in an echo of Vesper’s death, Bond suffers another terrible loss as Felix dies and drifts away.
Bond demands to see Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) who was running Spectre from his cell via another bionic eye, but the villain speaks to no-one except his analyst: Madeleine.
Madeleine has however just been visited by Safin, who has creepily revealed that he was the one who killed her mother and saved her life. So she owes him – or else. He gives her a small atomiser, a spray to be worn during her visit to Blofeld.
The prison scene has shades of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Madeleine and Bond meet again but it is a cold reunion. As Blofeld’s secure booth glides towards them through the corridor she insists on leaving. Bond touches her wrist, but she pulls away and leaves to go home.
Blofeld admits that it was HE who had tried to kill him in Matera, falsely implicating Madeleine to mess with Bond’s emotions yet again. Bond grabs him by throat “Die Blofeld, die” (a line from the novel You Only Live Twice). Whether it is truly anger, or part of a brutal interrogation technique we never learn, as Bond backs off when Tanner (Rory Kinnear) intervenes and seconds later Blofeld slumps dead, poisoned by the traces of Heracles on Bond’s fingers.
Bond arrives at Mr White’s Norway home we saw in the pre-titles, and his speech where he tries to explain his rejection of Madeleine is touching and full of regret. A noise upstairs startles reveals a young child, Mathilde, Madeleine’s daughter. Her bright blue eyes wrong-foot Bond, but Madeleine stresses “she’s not yours”.
Ash and Safin’s goons pursue Bond, Madeleine, and Mathilde in a great off-road car chase. The cat-and-mouse scene in the misty woods is especially tense, Bond improvising traps to pick off his pursuers one-by-one, and Madeleine reprising her gun skills by saving Bond and Mathilde from an assassin.
As revenge for the loss of Felix, Bond tips a car onto Ash. But Safin grabs Madeleine and Mathilde, escaping by helicopter.
THE Q SCENE
MI6 know that Safin was from a family of Spectre poisoners who were wiped out by White. The family owned an island in disputed Russian waters where they created the poisons which Safin has now reclaimed. On a plane, Q (Ben Whishaw) smartbloods Nomi and Bond, reinstated with the code 007 at Nomi’s request, and the agents head down to the island.
The agents discover that Safin is mass producing Heracles and targeting huge numbers of the population internationally. I admire Rami Malek’s cold, sinister portrayal of Safin, and despite having three crucial scenes in the final section of the film, it still feels like we needed more of him.
His initial face-to-face with Bond, sitting in his angular concrete room is a good scene, although I’m not sure it sells his twisted reasoning for planning to destroy most of humanity. Safin rushes to his docks to ensure four boats are loaded with Heracles to enable his grand plan and with this, the “ticking clock” finale begins.
Nomi gets some good action in the finale, including a brutal dispatch of Obruchev into a poisoned pond when he suggests his version of Heracles could be coded to target entire races.
Bond touchingly gives Mathilde his sweater, kisses Madeleine and says he’ll only be a minute before Nomi takes them to safety on a dinghy. Bond returns to the main silo and realises that to destroy all trace of Heracles, the blast doors need to be opened. A Star Wars reference perhaps? Missiles are launched from a nearby Navy ship as Bond, in first-person shooter mode, assaults the heavily guarded control room in a tough “one take” action scene.
OPEN THE BLAST DOORS
With minutes to spare Bond is fleeing the complex when the blast doors close again, and Safin reappears shooting, hitting him three times. Bond brutally disarms Safin by snapping his arm. But Safin gouges Bond’s face with a red phial and reveals his awful insurance policy: a strain of Heracles coded to the DNA of Madeleine and Mathilde.
Bond shoots Safin three times and staggers back to the control room to open the doors again – blood dripping from his wounds.
THERE’S NO POINT IN LIVING IF YOU CAN’T FEEL ALIVE
Hans Zimmer’s desperately emotional music imbues the final scene on the island with tragic dread. Bond is badly wounded, the missiles are near, and Heracles cannot be cured or removed from his body. Bond can never again be near or touch Madeleine or Mathilde or anyone around them.
It is almost unbearably sad as, on comms, Bond and Madeleine profess their love, which works so well compared to their rather hollow proclamations in SPECTRE. He says that she and Mathilde have all the time in the world. She confirms that Mathilde does have his blue eyes. The bombs fall.
And EON does the unthinkable. James Bond is dead.
M, Moneypenny, Tanner, Q and Nomi drink a toast to Bond in London. And in Matera, Madeleine, and Mathilde drive along the winding roads. “Let me tell you a story about a man called Bond, James Bond.” The car enters a tunnel and the film irises out to the song “We Have All the Time in The World”.
NO TIME TO DIE has a swagger like Craig’s own, and technically impresses with the practical effects and stunts, the highly emotional and evocative music, the stunning cinematography, and pacy editing which means two hours forty-five minutes fly past. This is Daniel Craig’s most accomplished performance as Bond, with brutality, charm and humour. However, Léa Seydoux is brilliant in this film, finally allowed to develop Swann from a remote and unrelatable character in SPECTRE, to be the emotional heart of this film.
Is the film “perfect”? Well, what film is? It’s not a movie to watch if you haven’t viewed the other Daniel Craig Bonds. Equally, it’s not the film to recommend to a friend wanting to watch their first Bond film.
I would have liked more of Rami Malek’s Safin, a stronger ticking clock finale, with more Leiter, Nomi, and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). Like many I’m sad that Paloma is on screen all too briefly – but let’s not be sad that we didn’t see enough of her, lets praise Ana de Armas, the writers and director for making her so significant in a small role.
The film is daring. It gives fans many of the Bond tropes, that they have enjoyed, or missed, over the years. Yet for some, the twists in the format are frustrating. No casinos, no bedhopping, no invulnerable superspy – although the Craig movies have avoided these anyway. To top this, NO TIME TO DIE adds a love story, a child, and the death of the hero.
Some fans, desperate for new Bond material and having waited six years are sadly disappointed, and that makes me sad, for I was one of the fans who thought NO TIME TO DIE was the PERFECT conclusion to Craig’s era and well worth the wait.
BOND, JAMES BOND
The unfeeling blunt instrument who lost his parents and was targeted by his foster brother; who lost Solange, Vesper, Fields and Mathis; the Bond who failed to save his mother-figure M, who found then lost Madeleine; the Bond who lost his “brother” from Langley, Felix Leiter, stands fatally bleeding in the sunlight, but still succeeds.
After all that pain, Bond finally saves his real family: Madeleine and Mathilde. He gets his solace. And his name goes down in legend.
The Bond of Daniel Craig’s more grounded narrative finally gets a story where he genuinely saves the world.
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN
EON have done themselves and fans a favour – for this film ties everything up into a neat package. It leaves a blank page, a new start, with the potential for ANYTHING to come next. And Daniel Craig won’t have to dodge future questions about the possibility of his return.
The last thing on screen before the lights come up in the auditorium is immensely reassuring for worried fans: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.
It is the end of an era. Bond is dead. Long live Bond.
Roll on Bond 26. The search for the new actor begins next year.
All James Bond 007 GIFS from GIPHY.
|Produced by: EON Productions|
Presented By: Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Screenplay: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Composer: Hans Zimmer
“No Time to Die” by Billie Eilish
Production Design: Mark Tildesley
Costume Design: Suttirat Anne Larlarb
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
Editor: Tom Cross, Elliot Graham
London Premiere September 2021
Ana de Armas