“Bond will leave you shaken, if not always stirred.”
Ah, Mr Bond. We have been expecting you, although your arrival is a little late! Well over a year late in fact, as No Time To Die was originally due for release in March 2020.
With a scenario that could have come straight from a Bond movie, the world was thrown into chaos, and Daniel Craig’s final Bond movie was delayed. Fans were understandably perturbed, with a “no time to wait” level of impatience as they counted down the days to the movie’s eventual release.
Of course, now that Craig’s swansong has finally been released, the question people are asking is this: Has the movie been worth the wait? For this reviewer (and long-time Bond fan), the answer is yes. While it might not be the best movie in the 007 franchise, it is certainly a movie that left me shaken, even if I wasn’t always stirred by the events that happened on screen.
The film begins in a less-than-traditional fashion as we have not one but two pre-credit sequences. The first features a backstory for Bond’s latest love interest, Madeline Swann (the daughter of SPECTRE member Mr White), who we last saw in 2015’s Spectre.
The second sequence focuses on Bond and Swann in South Italy as they seemingly begin a new life together. Now in retirement, Bond certainly looks very happy, but it’s when he tells Madeline “we have all the time in the world,” that fans of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service will start to realize that things are about to go south for the romantic couple. And things do go south in typically explosive fashion, as we are treated to some of the best action sequences of the entire movie.
Bond rides both a motorbike and his famous Aston Martin through some stunningly choreographed chase scenes on the roads (and staircases) of some fabulous Italian locations. Such scenes give fans exactly what they want from a Bond movie and as the opening credits finally start to roll, there is much anticipation for what is going to come next.
Sadly, what does come next isn’t always top-grade Bond.
Daniel Craig is certainly very good, once again proving that he has what it takes to be 007, despite the protestations of the media and armchair critics who disapproved of his casting when he was first announced for the role. He delivers on both the acting and the action front, as adept at delivering a killer one-liner as he is a killer punch. It’s his performance that elevates this 25th entry in the Bond franchise as he brings a surprising amount of world-weariness and emotional depth to the character. It’s because of this that we really root for Bond in this one, and that helps to paper over the fact that there is a distinct lack of action during the lengthy mid-section of the movie.
Other familiar faces return, with M, Q, and those traditional characters that aren’t characterized by a single letter of the alphabet (including Felix Leiter and Miss Moneypenny), making their presence known throughout the long-running time of this sometimes bloated film. We even have a new 007, commendably played by newcomer to the franchise, Lashana Lynch. Blofeld also makes his presence known throughout the film, despite his incarceration.
In one standout scene, we are reminded of one famous scene from The Silence Of The Lambs, as Blofeld, confined to a prison trolley (probably not the correct term), is wheeled out in sinister fashion for a revealing one-to-one conversation with Bond. Blofeld isn’t the only villain of the story of course.
The film’s primary villain is Lyutsifer Safin, as played by Rami Malek. Sadly, despite altering the course of Bond’s life forever, he is rather ineffective. His is a tale borne of revenge from a tragedy he endured as a child, but never do we consider him a real match for Bond. This might be because Malek underplays the character’s villainous traits but it might also be because the script doesn’t give him enough to work with. Malek is a fine actor to be sure, but his character is a villain that won’t go down in Bond history as a foe worth remembering.
Safin isn’t the only weak point in the film. As we suggested, there is nothing on the action front that pumps the adrenaline as much as those in the opening chase scenes. This isn’t to say there is a shortage of action though. Director Cory Joji Fukunaga manages to overcome the meandering nature of the story with some pretty good fight sequences. However, the film does drag at times, an issue that could have been resolved with a tighter story and shorter running time.
Still, this is Craig’s last film as Bond, so we can forgive the indulgences of the script team. The more we get to see of him on screen the better, and as we said, his performance makes up for the lack of action in the middle of the film. This movie has a great sense of humour too, and this also helps to lighten those moments where conversation and exposition take precedence over thrills and spills.
By the end of the film, fans will be shaken by the events that happen on screen. Without giving away any spoilers, it is clear that the franchise will have to go in a different direction after Craig’s departure. Despite the occasional longueurs in the script, there are some bold creative choices here, and Craig’s final moments as Bond will long be remembered.
So, while this isn’t a perfect film, fans of 007 will have much to revel in and talk about after the credits have rolled. Both Craig and his character go in new directions here, which makes the film a far better swansong for the actor than the lacklustre final films that marked the end of Connery, Moore and Brosnan’s final go-rounds as Bond.
Verdict - 7.5/10