James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. (from IMDB)
Delayed for the past year and a half, the long awaited fifth and final installment in the Daniel Craig-led James Bond 007 series is finally here. It should have released in April of 2020, 5 years after the previous installement, 2015's Spectre, but now six years have passed and the end has come. What results is a Bond movie long worth the wait and possibly one of the best in the whole franchise.
Spectre was long considered to be most likely Craig's final outing as Bond, and upon its release, he infamously said during an interview that he'd rather break the glass table in front of him and slit his wrists than make another Bond movie. But the actor has since back-pedaled and admitted that it was like having just crossed the finish line of a long race and being asked when the next race would be; he couldn't imagine doing it again. Thankfully, Craig changed his mind, and No Time To Die is arguably his best Bond outing since 2006's Casino Royale.
I'm not shy in admitting that 2006's Casino Royale -- Daniel Craig's first time as James Bond -- is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's by far my favorite James Bond film (I have since seen them all, if you're curious), and I do think it's the best entry of all of the Bond movies. Everything from the characters to the direction to the surprises, action, and David Arnold's memorable score all check the right boxes for me. LeChiffre is a fantastic Bond villain -- and a surprisingly grounded one -- and Eva Green is a brilliant Bond girl (and definitely my favorite). The story showed Bond becoming the 007 fans have come to know, while explaining why he is the way he is, and showing that the man can not only love but experience true heartache (and heartbreak) as well. Casino Royale made James Bond... human. Its follow-up, 2008's Quantum of Solace was the first time a Bond movie picked up where the previous film left off, and it continued the story launched by Casino. Sadly, poor editing and a director who just wasn't right for the series turned in a less than successful sequel. Fans would later find the 2012 third outing, Skyfall, to be one of the best of the franchise, but I've found that repeat viewings have made certain aspects of the movie irk me (including the fact that he was already being treated as "old" and a "has-been" in the first movie to follow a previous two-part origin story. C'mon, guys!). And I'd be remiss to not mention that replacing Arnold's cinematic score with that of the far more bland Thomas Newman for this entry (and 2015's Spectre) to be a truly disappointing move. But while repeat viewings have soured my feelings on Skyfall some (I do like aspects of it still, don't get me wrong), repeat viewings have warmed me to Spectre, a movie that many found to be a terribly disappointing follow-up to Skyfall (much like Quantum was to Casino). This fourth in the Craig series continued the story from the first three films and tried way too hard to tie them all together, with the organization Spectre -- and a reimagining of the villain Blofeld -- being behind all of the villains we'd seen so far. It was convoluted at best. However, this conclusion, No Time To Die further builds on Spectre (and makes it a more enjoyable film for me because of it), continuing many strands established since 2006's Casino Royale, and aims to close the book on Craig's tenure as the famous British spy.
When we saw James Bond rise to Double-Oh status in Casino Royale, we were not quite seeing James Bond as "James Bond 007" just yet. Quantum of Solace continued the character as kind of a rogue agent, also still not quite the Bond we knew yet. Skyfall opens with Bond as we think we know him, but in the opening gambit, he gets shot and plummets to the waters below and is presumed dead for months. He then comes back to service in terrible shape and has to prove himself again as not just damaged goods. I mean, we last saw him on his first big mission (and its continuation)! Spectre shows him back to work, but he has to work under the radar on a secret mission for Judi Dench's M (who died in Skyfall) and so he's working as a rogue agent yet again. No Time To Die is the Bond movie I've been waiting for from Craig. While he starts the movie retired and, my goodness, working kind of as a rogue agent again, he gets to do a lot more spy stuff and really get some serious chances to shine as the ultimate secret agent he's supposed to be. The film's finale gives us some of the best Bond butt-kicking yet and it makes for a really satisfying last time out for Daniel Craig's James Bond. It's also neat to see that all five of his films make a very complete story from film to film, which is something that hasn't happened before in this Bond universe on the big screen. Spy series like Mission: Impossible and Bourne have all worked as their own serial series as well, and it's satisfying to see James Bond get the same thoughtful treatment. It's certainly hardly perfect, don't get me wrong, but I appreciate what they tried to do here. No Time To Die also re-humanizes Bond in ways we haven't seen since Casino Royale, so it especially makes this final chapter have a punch that sticks with you.
The content for the movie continues what you'd expect in a Bond film. Skyfall offered up the series first-ever "F" word, spoken by Dench's M, and now No Time To Die includes the second one, this time spoken by Ralph Fiennes' M. Bond speaks the movie's lone "S" word (is this a first for James Bond himself in all 25 movies?), and there are a few uses of the Lord's name in vain, including "J-sus Chr-st" and "For Chr-st's sake" both said by Bond at some point. Otherwise, language is thankfully used rarely. The sexual content is also pretty tame for a Bond movie. We see him and his girlfriend Madeleine making out and in bed together a couple times, but he isn't shown womanizing like in the Connery or Moore days. The movie also strongly hints to Q being gay (another first for the entire series) as Bond and Moneypenny go to visit him at his home and he complains about cooking for his date and that "he" will be showing up shortly. Lastly, Ana de Armas' character Paloma wears a beautiful dress during the action sequence in Cuba that reveals most of her bare back and dips extremely low in the front, showing a great deal of cleavage for all of her screentime. Violence is heavy with lots of intense scenes where characters are executed just off screen or shot at point-blank range just off screen. Most of it is bloodless, too, but the plot involves a mysterious bioweapon that attacks a target based on their DNA, and we see the victims, in many scenes, suffer boils on their faces and bleeding from the mouth as they scream in pain and then quickly die. We also get a quick glimpse of a character's arm being bent backwards, accompanied by the sound of it breaking, and see some bullet wounds causing victims' clothing to be soaked in blood in a couple different instances. Finally, one of the villain's thugs, nicknamed Cyclops, has a mechanical eye, and we see it popped out and on the ground a couple times, with the man having an otherwise empty eye socket (there's also a prolonged scene where we see Blofeld with an empty eye socket as well).
The movie teases a new Double-Oh that stepped in while Bond was away, and this character, named Nomi, is played by Captain Marvel's Lashana Lynch. Honestly, I didn't like Lynch in Captain Marvel at all -- she was too prickly with too much attitude -- and her character is ten-times worse here. She's arrogant, charmless and grates on the nerves. To contrast, Armas' Paloma is funny, charming, and fun to watch -- especially with her interactions with Craig's Bond -- and it's unfortunate that Lynch got way more screentime than Armas. (Harris' Moneypenny is also far more likeable, and I much rather would have seen her fill that role instead of Lynch). I get that we're probably not supposed to like Lynch's character all that much, but she's not even a likeable foil for Bond; she's just annoying, and it makes her scenes a chore to watch.
Hans Zimmer makes his Bond franchise debut on the music here, and he does quite a good job bringing a booming, more ominous sound to the score. However, when there's a need for the emotional angle to kick in, he delivers, and his soft swells during the finale set the tone beautifully (Think "Time" from Inception, but not quite as epic). His treatment is closer in feel to what David Arnold used to bring to the series, and I'm happy he was brought in to close out Craig's series with a bang.
While it's certainly not a perfect film, and it has some of the usual (moral) problems frequent with the Bond franchise, No Time To Die is a solid spy thriller and Bond film that honors the character and its legacy as Craig hangs up his holster and signature watch from Q branch. Daniel Craig is at the top of his game here as Bond, giving a really fine performance and bringing more life and feeling to the character than in some of the previous entries. No Time To Die is the Bond movie Craig fans have been waiting for; it's certainly been worth the long wait.
No Time To Die is available now on disc and digital. We received the 4K UHD copy which includes a Blu-Ray disc and an iTunes digital copy. Here's what else is included:
No Time To Die in 4K UHD - No Time To Die was one of my favorite films of 2021. (In fact, it was the top for me until Spider-Man: No Way Home.) It's had a mixed reception since its release, but I think it's a solid story, wonderfully acted, and a good send-off for Daniel Craig's Bond (And, for me, the second-best in his series of 007 movies). I also like how it bookends his 5-movie series with an emotional ending, while it began emotionally with his romantic tragedy in Casino Royale. This movie looks great in 4K and makes the transition to this Ultra High-Def format beautifully. There is still not a huge difference between HD and UHD these days, but I do think the color vibrance alone is noticeable in No Time To Die. And since director Cary Joji Fukunaga clearly has an eye for beautiful imagery, the visuals really are enhanced with this format.
Surprisingly, the Extras are on the 4K UHD disc (and the Blu-Ray, I believe), while all but the Being James Bond documentary are absent from the included iTunes digital copy. I found that to be rather odd. Usually, the digital copies include everything on the discs as well (and sometimes exclusives). The making-of featurettes here are great, but I can definitely imagine they held back some more bonus features for future re-releases or box sets of the Bond movies.
Anatomy of a Scene: Matera (11:33) - I loved the opening chase through the streets of Matera, and thought it was a very grounded, yet entertaining, kick-off for a Bond movie. The filmmakers talk here about going for a big opening. They talk about building a large ramp in Matera for the motorcycle jump, and show some great behind-the-scenes footage of it. The also talk about the Aston Martin DB5 car chase scene, and how they had 10 (!!) versions of the car on set for the sequence. They also show us how they rigged charges around the streets of Matera for explosions and gunfire during the sequence. It's really pretty impressive.
Keeping It Real: The Action of No Time To Die (6:15) - Although short, this segment covers how they tried to do the stunts as real as possible. They show how both Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas trained for their physical fights during the fight scenes in Cuba, and then show how they were able to make an explosion happen on a real boat without harming it. We then get a look at a rig they built for the sinking of the boat, the Norway car chase, and Bond's epic gunfight at the end of the film. I definitely think this segment could have been longer and more extensive, though.
A Global Journey (7:50) is focused on the exotic locations seen in the film, like Norway for the icy location in the film's beginning, the chase in Matera, Scottish islands that stood in for Norway later in the movie, and Bond's retirement home in Jamaica. The filmmakers also talk about how the first-ever Bond movie, Dr. No, was shot in Jamaica, and how author Ian Fleming had created Bond while writing Casino Royale in Jamaica. They also used Jamaica to shoot the Cuba action scenes.
Designing Bond (11:05) - The final featurette focuses on the design of the sets and the style of the movie. We see Bond's house in Jamaica (Jamaica being his "spiritual home," as they called it), including a recreation of Ian Fleming's desk in Bond's bedroom (Which, c'mon, you have to admit is a pretty awesome detail). They also show how they built the buildings and street set of Cuba from scratch in Jamaica! It then concludes with a look at the villain's base in the finale and the design of MI 6.
Being James Bond (46:45) - Last, but not least, is a documentary about Daniel Craig's run as Bond from his casting announcement to his tearful final day of shooting No Time To Die. Apple had released this documentary back in September as a free rental, so I first watched it then. (And rewatched it here so I can report on the content for you.) It's a good documentary, which is ultimately a roundtable discussion between producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig, laid over footage from the five movies. We never see the trio talking in person, but just hear their voices while seeing news footage, still images, magazine covers, behind-the-scenes footage and scenes lifted from the movies. It's a pretty in-depth and candid discussion, and an honest look at Craig's career as Bond. Craig talks about his struggles as Bond, his injuries, how difficult it was to handle the sudden fame, the criticisms, and wrestling with whether or not to do the fifth movie. The imagery we see can be violent at times, showing scenes from all of his Bond movies, as well as some quick clips of his pre-Bond movies. And Daniel swears from time-to-time in his voiceover (and occasionally in interview clips or scenes from the movies), which include at least two uses of the "F" word uncensored, and some news articles that show the word written out on screen. Overall, it's a good documentary, but probably best for the more diehard fans. (Content includes 2 "F" words and 1 muttered in an interview clip. Also 2 more "F" words written in news reports shown on the screen; 1 "S" word, 2 "G-d," 4 "Oh my G-d," 1 "t*ts" from Daniel jokingly referring to his own physique, 1 "d*mn," 1 "a" word, 1 "h*ll")- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 12/31/21)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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