James Bond was my Tony Stark
NO TIME TO DIE (2021)
James Bond has been in my life since what seems like day one, but in all sincerity has been highly connected to me since 2006’s Casino Royale when I was only ten years old. Some people have a deep connection with the MCU due to them being around a similar young age with the man that kicked the whole thing off, Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man). James Bond was my Tony Stark, and this conclusion to Daniel Craig’s era as Bond was truly my Endgame and similarly drew a few tears.
Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction is damn near pristine. Every shot is carefully curated to leave you gasping for air with some gorgeous views and all around fabulous cinematography. From minute one to minute 163, the audience is in store for a spectacle of a feature film and an iconic outing for 007. With the longest opening sequence (prior to Billie Eilish’s 'No Time To Die' playing), it could have felt like a drawn out action sequence, but in all honestly it felt like a true action focused Bond going back to his roots from the original Casino Royale; if you love Bond like I do you’ll adore the opening for being one of the greatest setpieces ever placed in a Bond film.
There’s a new 007 in town and Bond has been recruited by the CIA for a new job - one that directly competes with MI6. Banter and conflicts at hand, Bond takes it upon himself to outdo his replacement and capture the target, a scientist who has developed a poisonous weapon that could kill the masses. As his initial mission comes to a close, things quickly go awry and Bond is sent on a personal mission to not only protect himself and the world but also his secret wife whom he’s been separated from (Léa Seydoux). Action packed and thrilling with every scene (besides leaked spoilers), you won’t be able to know what’s coming next. While I do wish the plot had focused a little more on the villains and less on just Bond this time around, everything moves at such a brisk pace that it never feels awkward when certain characters join the film late in the game. Personally No Time to Die is leagues above its predecessor and comes close to competing against the greatest of all the Craig films (Skyfall). The only thing holding it back is it’s underutilization of its villains (Christoph Waltz’ Blofeld and Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin).
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Bond has truly developed over the years from a womanizer with almost no backstory to a man with a solid foundation behind him. Craig has brought about most of this through his tremendous performance over the course of the last five films - while still maintaining what we all love about the legacy of James Bond.
Léa Seydoux has gone from one of the worst Bond girls to a much more fascinating character in her own right; she continues to be Bond’s “girl” but she has her own fleshed out backstory to draw you in deeper into why she plays such a pivotal role in the story of No Time To Die. One of those pieces of her puzzle is the connection she has to one of our villains: Rami Malek’s Safin, who is criminally underutilized. I’ll remember Rami’s performance from this, but not even close to the level of remembrance of Javier Bardem in Skyfall or Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale. However, he will be remembered unlike whoever the villain was in Quantum of Solace.
Ralph Fiennes’ M remains an impressive successor to Judi Dench, and his key part in the film is welcome. What drags the film down besides the main villains are the newly established side characters that are used as comic relief and feel entirely out of place in the world of Bond. Ben Wishaw’s Q and Noamie Harris’s Moneypenny are welcome returns. While Lashana Lynch as the new 007 was a fantastic competitive element for Bond to directly and indirectly compete with, not every scene with her is golden.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
As I stated earlier this film is an absolute spectacle, and director Cary Joji Fukunga knows where to lay his shot. The cinematography is second to none and Linus Sandgren who worked previously with Damien Chazelle on La La Land and David O’Russell on American Hustle delivers a gorgeous film from beginning to end. If you don’t have an absolute focus on the beauty of this film within the first twenty minutes, your expectations might be somewhere they shouldn’t be.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Hans Zimmer takes on Bond. Is this a dream?! Zimmer has created some of my favorite film scores in history with past work alongside the likes of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder. He takes notes from the classics while utilizing the style of Billie Eilish’s titular song. With that in mind, the timing of Eilish’s track works well within the 007 legacy, although it doesn’t rank supreme above Adele’s 'Skyfall' or Chris Cornell’s 'You Know My Name'. The sound design in general is something truly special, and in a theater with patrons that also want to experience the thrilling conclusion of Bond, nothing beats the sounds of 007.
Daniel Craig’s era as James Bond has now come to a close and honestly I’m emotionally vulnerable at the moment. While the 163 minute runtime may seem daunting for some, the film as a whole might have benefitted shockingly from being longer. Rami Malek is downgraded to a side character for a more Bond centric story with villains that just happen to orbit him. Out of five films, two are great, two received mixed receptions, and there is one conclusive close to connect them all and bring about a satisfying ending for the James Bond so many knew as their introduction to the world of Ian Fleming’s 007.