(Warning- contains spoilers from the very first paragraph on)
Did you think Pierce Brosnan’s ’Die Another Day’ (2002) was the silliest Bond film ever made what with its invisible car, CGI surfing and giant space laser? Well how about a Bond movie where there’s a bionic eye, Blofeld has a birthday party and Daniel Craig literally explodes at the end like he’s a character in a Warner Bros. cartoon? Yep, with ‘No Time to Die’ (2021) Daniel Craig follows his predecessor’s footsteps in having his last Bond entry by far the silliest film he’s made. The good news is that I’m rather fond of ‘Die Another Day’ for precisely that reason and since I’ve not been a fan of Craig’s Bond films since ‘Casino Royale’ (2006) anyway I found myself surprisingly up for seeing him blown to bits simply for the LOLs. Why not? I mean, let’s have some fun here.
And ‘NTTD’ is kinda fun, until it isn’t, and with the exception of a couple of massive problems there’s more good than bad here so to overly criticise it would be purely to nitpick, although in an almost 3 hour long Bond film there’d be a lot to nitpick, right? Oddly enough, no. In fact, I only have one real nitpick with ‘NTTD’ and it’s this –
It’s the scene in Jamaica where Bond goes for a drink with Logan Ash and Felix Leit…
Actually, hang on a second. I do need to quickly address Felix Leiter in this movie because what the hell have they done to him?!
You see, Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal of Felix has, up until now, been stern, taciturn, serious and no-nonsense. Hell, in ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008) he practically scowls his way throughout the entire movie. Yet here he pops up and is suddenly Mr. “Whey Hey! Let’s party, dudes!” as though he’s not actually working for the C.I.A. at all but has just got back from spring break. All I’m saying is it’s hard to take Felix Leiter seriously as a character when in one film he’s emotionally struggling with the moral consequences of his government potentially funding terrorism and decimating Bolivia’s water supply whilst in the next he’s looking like he’s going to start downing Jagermeister and setting light to his farts. It just makes no sense.
Anyway, they’re all having a great time when Bond shouts “This round’s on me!”, walks up to the bar and orders a whiskey for himself. And nothing else. Nothing for Felix or Logan, just a drink for himself. What an asshole!
Anyway, that’s it. That’s my one main problem with ‘No Time to Die’ — never send Bond to the bar because he’s a dick.
Any other issues I can live with such as the excess of waffle (Rami Malek’s villain has obviously not paid attention to ‘The Incredibles’ golden rule of “No Monologing” because that’s pretty much all he does here), the inflated run-time or the fact that the bad guy’s evil base at the end is a little anti-climactic, feeling it’s less taking place inside some sprawling, deadly complex and more what I can imagine Denis Villeneuve’s living room looks like. Plus, there was only one time I came close to nodding off but that was less the fault of the movie and more because I’d eaten too much banana and needed a nap.
The rest is pretty much a string of positives. The first hour is exciting and nicely paced, the Austin Martin gets to show off its gadgets in Italy, the Cuba sequence is great and allows Ana de Armas to steal the entire movie (why couldn’t she have been the female lead here because she’s wonderful?!), the sound design is effective and Fukunaga’s directing has clarity and flare. Not only that but (hosanna!) the cinematography is beautifully crisp, sharp and clear again meaning finally there’s a Bond film devoid of those horrible, urine drenched yellows that plagued ‘Skyfall’ (2012) to the point they made me wonder if Roger Deakins had actually opened up his camera and pissed into it.
Hans Zimmer’s score leans heavily into Bond themes and cues I’ve been missing for years so even though it’s not the most original soundtrack it’s one that, texturally and tonally, I found appealing. I like it when a soundtrack can make me smile.
Although that’s nothing compared to the grin I had when SPECTRE throw Blofeld a birthday party, a concept I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around and giggling about now. Now there’s been a lot of daft stuff in Bond films over the years but the thought that SPECTRE get together every year and throw a party for Blofeld on his birthday, presumably with presents, a cake, a drinks kitty they’ll all have chipped into and a card that everyone will have signed saying things like “To the world’s greatest evil boss on his special day” might be the most hilarious thing in a Bond movie yet. And all this conducted through Blofeld’s bionic eye.
Sod the fact I have no idea how the hell Blofeld actually managed to acquire a bionic eye in the first place seeing as he’s locked in prison, let alone able to throw and host a fucking party via it (did he organise the catering through it, too?), as for me it was all worth it just to hear Ralph Fiennes’ M growl with total deadpan seriousness — “We still haven’t managed to hack into Blofeld’s bionic eye”. Why couldn’t we have had dialogue like this in a Bond movie years ago?
Yet even that pales in comparison to the absolute hilarity, the gut-busting laugh-fest that is seeing James Bond literally EXPLODE before our very eyes at the end. No death by slow acting poison, no gun-shot to a vital organ, knife in the ribs or dying in his lover’s arms. No. Instead, total on-screen obliteration as Bond is blown into a billion atoms. It’s an act so profoundly hilarious that each countless, individual atom could’ve been a double-take pigeon and the moment still wouldn’t have been any sillier.
Now I have no problem with killing Bond off. After all, if you’re to do that it pretty much gives you licence to do whatever the hell you want up until then because, again, fuck it and why not. My only problem is it should have been Blofeld who finished Bond off instead. This was my big grumble with ‘NTTD’, namely Rami Malek’s Safin is kind of redundant and his plan somewhat nebulous (he’s growing nanobots and wants to sell them to… bad people?). So it just felt a waste that this was the guy who ultimately takes out Bond, someone we’ve never met before and who bears no real grudge towards Bond either for that matter. If it had been Blofeld killing Bond it would’ve carried more weight as well as making Blofeld, truly, Bond’s nemesis and maybe salvaging some of the wasted potential of ‘Spectre’ (2015).
So Bond explodes, stoically facing his own demise and not bothering to even attempt to escape in time. This is because he has been infected with nanobots meaning he will never be able to touch either Madeleine or his daughter ever again. Accepting his fate he beholds the rockets raining down on him and, just before they blow him to smithereens, suddenly thinks to himself — “Shit! I could’ve worn gloves!”
The familiar words — James Bond Will Return — appear on the screen leaving me wondering if the next film is going to start with the gun-barrel coming to rest and opening up on Bond lying in hospital in a full body cast with puffs of smoke still rising up from between the bandages or if we’ll see him still standing on Safin’s island burnt to a crisp and looking like Wile E. Coyote after another Acme dynamite purchase.
No time to die laughing, indeed. Well, at least it was good to have some fun with Bond again.