Shaken but not stirred, Gemma Creagh takes a look at Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond in No Time to Die.
Staying true to the franchise, No Time to Die features exotic locations, action-packed chase sequences, fast cars, beautiful women and despicably deranged villains. While it’s certainly a suitable big splash for Daniel Craig’s final portrayal as Bond, it’s not quite as satisfying as some of his other offerings.
The film opens to an ice-filled flashback, where we see his current beau, Madeleine as an adolescent. Young Madeleine watches her mother dramatically die at the hands of a relentless, scarred Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Then we leap forward in time, to where Spectre left off. Bond and a fully grown (but still comparably young with a 17 year age gap between the couple) Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) share a romantic trip to a rocky, hilltop city in Southern Italy. When Bond goes to visit his former lover Vesper’s grave, he’s ambushed, leading him to believe that Madeleine betrayed him. After this, another leap in time to five years later – the present day, where Obruchev (David Dencik), a curmudgeonly scientist, is kidnapped from an MI6 laboratory by terrorists, as they hijack the deadly top secret weapon he’s working on.
Meanwhile, Bond is enjoying his retirement alone, fishing and languishing in his lavish pad in Jamaica. But just when he thought he was out, his old CIA buddy Felix (Jeffrey Wright) reels him back in, convincing Bond to go one one final mission to Cuba. Bond infiltrates a raunchy Spectre party, where the captive Obruchev reveals the devastating potential of the weapon. From there, it’s a race against time. Can Bond stop the malevolent forces from unleashing this weapon on the world?
If that sounds complicated, oh boy – just wait. Plot wise, that’s only the set up. The run time is a sprawling mass of two hours and forty three minutes. While the film does look at themes of betrayal and forgiveness, in a very vague way, it’s mostly a series of unrelated action sequences, interspersed with rather dry office politics. In many ways, this film suffers from a bad case of Spider-man 3 syndrome. There are just too many villains – Lyutsifer, M (Ralph Fiennes), Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) – which dilutes any real sense of foreboding.
Perhaps this lack of cohesion is a historic problem with the production. Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre, True Detective), stepped in after director Danny Boyle left the project, citing the classic phrase: “creative differences”. According to Empire magazine, Boyle said that the producers had not warmed to the screenplay he had been working on with regular writing partner John Hodge, and left altogether rather than get another writer on board. Also to note, although Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a writing credit, it’s difficult to see her distinctive style and wit anywhere in this old-school story.
This film excels at what Bond films do best, great stunts, striking visuals, a powerful orchestral score – and remains a classic cinematic experience. However, when it comes to pushing the boundaries of Bond, No Time to Die just plays it far too safe.
No Time to Die is in cinemas from 1st October 2021.