Daniel Craig’s final contribution to the Bond legacy trips over itself trying to do too much while slyly winking at the audience.
This review of No Time to Die is spoiler-free.
Well, it’s the end of an era, and there are no spoilers here when I say that Daniel Craig has officially retired from the role of 007.
No Time to Die is Craig’s 5th entry in a franchise that has been a rollercoaster ride for fans of the character. The films seem to have in equal parts been praised and vilified, and there have been many that divided fandom quite dramatically. However to say that there has ever been a truly bad Bond film would be silly, as the character and world-building in the last four have certainly taken the series in a new direction. Craig and co certainly breathed new life into Fleming’s creation, but I’m afraid that this final outing left me a little deflated by the end.
It seems that the film has had numerous rewrites, and on an initial viewing some of the clunky material seems too apparent in the final draft.
Things start off quite brilliantly, and the first act is without a doubt the best part of the film. There is a nice cold open, and a great car chase and battle in the beautiful scenic hills of Italy. Characters are introduced and the mystery builds well — unfortunately a lot of this is spoiled in the trailer, but I guess when you wait two years for a movie, stuff is gonna spill out. However, it’s after the initial build-up that things slow down, and they slow down quite a lot.
At over two and a half hours, this is already a long sit-through, and the exposition and dialogue-heavy scenes really bring the pace down. It’s a shame, as the opening gambit is really terrific, but that only makes the quieter moments seem so dull.
By the third act, which follows all the Bond tropes that you can imagine, things seem to go off the rails, with characters behaving oddly, and some ridiculous decisions that are made by key players, that so mind-numbingly stupid that it’s hard to reconcile them.
The production also decides to take a leaf out of the MCU by littering Easter eggs throughout the script. I’m sure that long-time fans will appreciate the fan service, and I know that I probably only noticed the really obvious ones, but by the time we get to Rami Malek’s turn as bad guy Lyutsifer Safin, it almost becomes a parody of itself.
Hans Zimmer was on call for the score, and again it plays out more like a homage than an original production. Zimmer is a genius, but the weight of all that continuity, and the knowledge that this was Craig’s final entry, seems to have stifled a more creative tone. Even the opening credits and Billy Eilish’s dreadful theme were disappointing.
Perhaps the hype got to me. Let’s face it since lockdown there hasn’t really been a film released that has this amount of coverage. The media was all over No Time To Die, the marketing budget must have gone through the roof, and the film was covered by every outlet imaginable. It was truly Bond mania, and that’s a good thing. This is the film that will get the great film viewing public back into cinemas. Our Friday night screening was nearly full, and the film was on multiple screens and shown 32 times that day. Perhaps that’s the takeaway from this movie. However, a slow middle section, a tonally awkward rewritten screenplay, and an underwhelming conclusion left me feeling slightly down when I left the showing, and for me, that’s a failure in a franchise that has endured so long, and meant so much to generations of loyal fans.