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No Time to Die review

Ask Irish stout masters Guinness and they’ll tell you – good things come to those who wait. Ask anyone who ever ate at a Little Chef restaurant and they’ll confirm that somewhat average things can also come to those who wait. So which is it to be for No Time to Die?

Filming wrapped on the 25th James Bond film in the famous franchise at the end of October 2019. No Time to Die was originally due to be released in cinemas across the world just a month later. As it transpired, a global pandemic appears to be the only thing that can stop Ian Fleming’s usually very resilient secret agent. Covid restrictions now – mostly – behind us, movie fans have flocked back to the big screen in their droves.

Two years on from its original release date and now some six since the last 007 instalment and Daniel Craig’s final Bond film is quite literally overdue. It seems destined to be the biggest blockbuster released since Covid-19 took a sledgehammer to the movie business. And understandably so. It’s Bond. Does it live up to the hype, though? Well, that really depends on what you want from the film.

Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond has been revolutionary, not just for the canon, but for action movies in general. They’ve shown you can cast serious actors and have well-drawn characterisations, strong narratives and genuine pathos alongside your car chases, punch-ups, shootouts and explosions.

Casino Royale established it, Quantum of Solace reinforced it and Skyfall mastered it. SPECTRE edged slightly closer to the Bond films of old, with more high camp and humour, but – if anything – that just felt like a nice little change. No Time to Die feels like a greatest hits compilation of its four predecessors. Good news if you loved them all, perhaps not so good if you’re looking for something a bit more novel. That said, as Daniel Craig’s final outing, it’s a very fitting send-off. No Time to Die is nothing if not ‘on brand’ in terms of later Bonds.

Along to give Craig a send-off are regulars Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear and Jeffrey Wright. Series newcomers Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, Billy Magnussen, David Dencik and Dali Benssalah also star. It’s not the showiest cast ever, but it’s the film’s core strength.

The usual suspects of Fiennes, Whishaw, Kinnear, Wright, Harris, et al, are all in fine form. French actress Seydoux returns as Dr Madeleine Swann, giving a performance which forms the emotional spine of the picture, while Lashana Lynch’s fearless ‘new 007’ and Ana de Armas’ charismatic CIA asset Paloma both subvert the Bond girl archetype and arguably provide the film’s main highlights – de Armas in particular.

We’ll leave the plot for you to discover while watching. Suffice to say, it’s all very Bondian: betrayal, SPECTRE, deformed criminal masterminds, a plot to kill everyone, exotic locations… everything you’d expect. Plus one sizeable slice of heroic sacrifice we won’t go into for spoiler reasons.

All the action scenes are slick, sleek and beautifully filmed, even if none of them are that memorable. Caught up in the excitement and thrills and sucker-punched by the emotional hit of the finale, you’ll likely leave for home a satisfied customer. Go home and digest the thing and you might struggle to vividly recall many of the film’s set pieces.

Okay, that’s not strictly true. One action scene does stand out towards the end – there’s a gun fight on a flight of stairs shot in one long continuous take that brings to mind director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s terrific work on the cult hit HBO show True Detective. That aside, the car chases, shootouts and fights are a little Bond by numbers at times.

We’ve known for some while now that this was to be the final of Daniel Craig’s altogether more serious and moody additions to the series. Without going into too much detail and giving away the events of the final scene for those of you yet to see the thing, it’s safe to say that the franchise hasn’t left much of a way back in for Craig to change his mind. The 26th Bond film will have to pick up at some other point in the character’s mythos.

After five films skirting around the creaking and craggy-faced Retirement Bond, surely the next direction for the franchise is Young Bond. My casting choice? Unbroken and Godless star Jack O’Connell. And let’s have a wee bit more of a laugh in future additions, eh? Before 2006, the 007 flicks were infused with fun. While we’ve had some real cinematic quality in the past 15 years, we’ve lost a little of the playfulness that makes the series so endlessly watchable and enjoyable.

Okay, maybe we don’t need to return to the Octopussy days of Bond defusing a bomb while dressed as a Ronald McDonald-style clown, but after the past couple of years more light-hearted capers and fewer introspective portrayals of the nature of grief and loss could be just what the doctor ordered.

It may not be a time to die, but it looks like it’s time to change.

Seen No Time to Die? Agree or disagree with Steve’s review? Let us know what you thought of the latest Bond film in the comments below…

Want more Bond? Give one of these books a try – or find all James Bond books in order here.

Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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