Image: Sky Editorial Asset Centre

No Time to Die: bold, risky and thrilling

Rating:

After a long 6 years, including nearly 18 months of delays and various cancelled release dates, No Time to Die has finally hit cinemas. The long-anticipated 25th official instalment to the James Bond franchise has generated a huge amount of media attention, grossing around £5 million on its first day of release in the UK alone.

The blockbuster has been praised for giving a much-needed boost to an industry hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic becoming the UK’s widest theatrical release of all-time – showing in 25 more cinemas than previous record-holder Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. With a star-studded premiere at the Royal Albert Hall and numerous five-star reviews, the question everyone wants to know is: does the movie actually live up to the hype? Having seen the film the moment it was released, I can confirm that it won’t disappoint fans that have been waiting patiently.

The latest 007 movie reminds us why the franchise is the gold standard – the crème de la crème – when it comes to spy films. Grammy-winning artist Billie Eilish’s haunting title song perfectly sets the tone for the coming events, and what follows can only be described as sharp, exciting and shocking. It seeks to wrap up the overarching storyline established in the previous 4 Craig films, with Léa Seydoux returning as love interest Dr. Madeleine Swann. Rarely does a ‘Bond girl’ (though I find the term ‘Bond woman’ more appropriate) make a repeat appearance and Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek joins the cast as Safin, the sinister antagonist in possession of a deadly biowarfare weapon.

It attempts real change by doing things that no Bond film has done before, leaving audiences breathless

No Time to Die offers all the elements that make for an exceptionally thrilling action film and is undeniably ‘genre-bending’; breaking many of the long-established rules of the series. Though it incorporates famous Bond traditions and follows the classic 007 formula, it feels fresh. It attempts real change by doing things that no Bond film has done before, leaving audiences breathless. If you are hoping to watch a generic secret agent movie with the same two-dimensional recycled plot, No Time to Die will disappoint.

Having played the titular role for five movies over the course of 15 years, Craig has remarkably shaped Fleming’s fictional character and his acting in this movie is exquisite. It is crystal clear that he poured everything he had left into it. He gives the most tender portrayal of the MI6 agent to date and ultimately, it all feels like a well-deserved send-off to his work. Cary Joji Fukunaga (007’s first American director) evidently gave Craig the freedom to take his final bow with his head held high.

The movie is exciting, well-crafted, funny and emotional: I never thought that I would shed a tear at the end of a James Bond film. It holds a certain gravitas, which is rare in cinema nowadays, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. It is the ultimate cinematic experience.

No doubt some fans will feel divided as to whether it is right to steer away from tradition so much, however, I personally loved the twists and was frequently taken off-guard. With No Time to Die, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson prove just how willing they are to take bold risks and the result is arguably the biggest finale in Bond history.

The film is full to the brim with spectacular action sequences, which are peppered throughout, as well as stunning cinematography and intense dialogue

With a running time of two hours and 43 minutes, No Time to Die also makes history as the longest ever Bond film. Although an excessive movie length typically puts me off, I must admit that in this case, it makes sense. The film is full to the brim with spectacular action sequences, which are peppered throughout, as well as stunning cinematography and intense dialogue, so much that it continuously holds your attention. The middle third could have been streamlined slightly, however I struggle to envisage a way to make the movie significantly shorter. The plot is thicker than your average Bond film but it is also fast-paced. The movie rarely stops for breath before the next big action sequence or startling revelation and it is clear that co-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge has left her mark on the franchise.

I particularly savour the refreshing introduction of strong women, such as new 007 agent Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch and CIA agent Paloma, played by Ana de Armas. Armas’ short but memorable appearance is arguably one of the stand-out moments in the movie – “three weeks of training” is the gag which made the theatre erupt into laughter after meeting the seemingly ditzy, untrained operative. Five minutes later and she is taking down a group of ‘bad guys’ with machine guns by herself, while dressed in heels and an elegant ball gown. “Three weeks of training…really?” Bond replies.

The increasing incorporation of these light-hearted ‘one-liners’ which release tension, as well as the addition of badass female characters (in a way that does not feel forced for the sake of ticking the ‘diversity box’ might I add) is a move that I welcome to the Bond world. No Time to Die proves that you can give homage to classic Bond traditions while still upgrading it to suit the times. I was disappointed that Paloma made such a brief appearance, which was quickly replaced by blander men, however this is likely down to the movie’s dense plot.

Though the plot is absurd, unrelatable and ridiculous, this is what comes with the territory of a great action film

No Time to Die is an epic, spectacular display of the grandeur of action movies. Though the plot is absurd, unrelatable and ridiculous, this is what comes with the territory of a great action film. Any criticisms attacking these aspects are ignorant of the genre as a whole. If I were to be picky, I would say that certain aspects were predictable (such as who the little girl in the first scene was), that much of the ensemble was undervalued and that Safin’s evil motivation was never fully explained. However, the film gives us so much besides this, so it would be unfair to focus on these gripes.

Skyfall has always been my favourite Bond film, with Spectre never living up to the former’s reputation, specifically due to its poor script-writing. No Time to Die, however, goes further than all of this… dare I say that it is my new favourite Bond movie.

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