Beware – here be spoilers. Read no further if you want to remain spoiler free.
I suppose the gun barrel gives it away really (if you like that sort of metaphor).
In the traditional gun barrel, Bond is in the sights of an unseen enemy, he becomes aware of the enemy, he turns, he shoots, he hits his target. Defeated, the blood of the enemy trickles down the screen.
Bond turns. He shoots. He misses. There is no blood. Instead, Bond dissolves into nothing.
And that, I’m afraid, pretty much sums up the plot.
Because in this film, the producers bring us a James Bond who fails. Totally, utterly fails.
He loses his best friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), he loses the love of his life, Madeleine Swann, played once more by Léa Seydoux (sorry, I’m still not buying that relationship), he loses his daughter, Mathilde (we needed that in a James Bond film, why?).
Ultimately, he loses his life.
Daniel Craig’s Bond is James Bond, the failure.
The film’s villain, Safin, played by Rami Malek, wins against Bond because, we are expected to believe, he takes away his family (because Bond films are well known for being all about domestic family situations, right?). But this is undermined by the fact that earlier in the film, Bond was perfectly happy to say goodbye to Madeleine and not see her again for another five years, when fate brings them together once more. Why now, at the end of the film, does Bond suddenly find that thought unacceptable? Whatever. Safin delays Bond to the point where he cannot escape. Bond kills him, sure, but he would have died anyway. Ultimately, it is Safin who ensures Bond’s death. The villain wins.
No Time To Die is OK as far as action / adventure type films go, but a Bond film it is not.
And I suspect the producers knew this, which is why they filled it with so many nods to the past (“no look, it is a Bond film really”). But the truth is, you could take Bond out of this and substitute any old action hero and it would work the same.
On the subject of nods to the past, I’m not sure what they were doing with Safin.
There were clear Dr No vibes there – the mandarin type clothing in the Bond confrontation; the island lair; the barbs about people thinking they are gods; the Noh mask. The film titles even open with animated dots, as per the Dr No film. I mean, why not just call him Dr No and have done with it?
And then there’s Blofeld’s garden of death, borrowed from the novel You Only Live Twice. This was a great idea in the novel and could have been the setting for a brilliant climactic set-piece but they just piss it away. It’s a piddly little incongruous thing which they introduce and then don’t bother to use. Sure, the final confrontation with Dr No – sorry, Safin – is set there but it’s just background. Rather than using it as an essential prop in the climactic battle, they instead have Bond and Dr No – dammit, SAFIN! – resort to fisticuffs and bullets. A wasted effort and a missed opportunity for some distinctly Bond type action.
And while we are on the subject of Safin – why did he go after SPECTRE and Blofeld? At the start of the film, he comes gunning forMadeleine’s father, Mr. White, who we first met in Casino Royale when he was working for the Quantum organisation.
His reason for wanting White dead is that, when Safin was a boy, White had Safin’s family killed. But in this sequence, Madeleine is a young girl, a pre-teen. Safin is a fully grown adult (who, by the way, seems not to have aged one day when he later meets the adult Madeleine). Now, assuming Bond and Blofeld are not THAT much older than Madeleine (otherwise Bond and Madeleine’s relationship takes on a whole new extra creepy dimension), and given that this family murder happened when Safin was a boy (so presumably before Madeleine was even born – or, at least when she was still a toddler), Quantum, let alone SPECTRE, could not possibly have existed. Blofeld would have been far too young to set up one, let alone both, of these organisations. Mr White could well have been working for someone, but it sure as hell wasn’t Blofeld or SPECTRE.
And at what point does Safin pivot from an understandable desire to revenge the death of his family, to wanting to kill everyone in the world (which, even with a god complex, is a pretty stupid plan)? And where did he get the funds to buy the island, the processing plant, the people with all the sophisticated tech to steal the virus and nano-technology? None of this is explained. Rami Malek is wasted here.
Then there’s Nomi, the new 007 played by Lashana Lynch. Another waste of a character. She’s just there. The producers, I feel, missed trick here. Given the themes of the film and how they wanted to big up the characterisation of Bond, they would have done much better to have the new 007 played by a handsome young guy.
If this new 007 was a young male, he could have been used to hold a mirror up to Bond. Bond would have seen this younger version of himself on the road to making the same mistakes that Bond himself had made, forcing Bond to question his own choices, past and present. These would then have fed nicely into the main character plot of Bond, Madeleine and the daughter. We could have seen Bond make different choices that lead to the film’s eventual outcome. The script would have actually earned the emotional impact they were so desperately trying for. But no, another missed opportunity.
In general, the pacing of the film is incredibly slow and there are no stand out action sequences. In a Bond film there is usually at least one, but here the sequences are so bland and generic they merge into the background.
The soundtrack, this time composed by Hans Zimmer, is yet another soulless, generic soundscape, so typical of modern film scores. The strongest elements of this soundtrack are the constant nods to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – a soundtrack which is the epitome of everything this score is not.
In sum, this film is a series of missed opportunities rendering it a generic, over long, bland episode that lumps Daniel Craig’s Bond with the epitaph of the Bond who failed.
The end credits assure us that James Bond will return.
But why should we care?
Whoever takes up the role, it can’t be the same James Bond we have been following so far. Yes, we all know this clearly isn’t the same person we’ve been following since 1962, but we put that at the back of our minds and just go with the notion that James Bond is the same James Bond no matter who is playing him. It’s a conceit that we are happy to play along with. Or has been since 1962.
With No Time To Die the producers have made the cardinal error of mistaking James Bond films for character stories.
They are not.
Like Indiana Jones, the Bond films are about what James Bond does, not who he is. Bond faces many trials and tribulations but at the end of each film, his role is exactly what it was before; a blunt instrument, a hero sent out against the undefeatable bad guys to defeat them so that we can rest safe in our beds. The joy is not in discovering whether or not Bond wins, but how he wins.
But now they’ve killed him.
Our hero, our unfailing icon, has failed.
Why would we follow a new one?
RIP Commander Bond (CMG, RNVR) 1962-2021
What do you think? Has this movie killed the franchise for you? Do you care who they cast as the next Bond, or is the character now dead for you? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you think.
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