With this week’s edition of tv and film column Square-Eyed, HUNGER Editor Ryan Cahill dives into the latest instalment of the Bond franchise.
This article contains spoilers for the James Bond film, No Time To Die.
In a change to planned scheduling, I’m doing things a little differently this week. Usually, I’d be dedicating this space to the joys of television, but I couldn’t not venture into the world of Bond. It’s all you’re going to be hearing about for the next week anyway!
Strangely, I had the privilege of attending the premiere this week, courtesy of master watchmakers Swatch (thanks Swatch!). I’ve never been to a film premiere before so it was quite the experience, full of celebrity sightings, free champagne and a performance of the national anthem while two generations of the Royal Family descended upon the Royal Albert Hall. Not your average Tuesday, and definitely worlds away from my modest upbringing in rural Yorkshire.
It was quite an exquisite moment for me. I’ve been a fan of Bond for years, raised on the thrilling car chases, glamorous settings and a string of Bond Girls from Honey Ryder to Jynx (a firm favourite!) So it comes as no surprise that I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Daniel Craig’s final outing for quite some time… and far longer than I’d expected thanks to covid-induced pushbacks.
Once the Royals had been ushered in and after Craig had wrapped up his introductory speech, the lights went down and we were finally given the chance to (finally) see No Time To Die. The opening sequence immediately set it aside from other Bond films in the franchise. It was much more menacing, with horror-genre undertones and a troublesome back-story, which answered a lot of questions from the previous film Spectre. The credits alongside Billie Eilish’s track were probably some of the most uninspiring of the Craig era… but it still received applause and cheers from the audience.
As with all Bond flicks, it’s strength is in its divine cast of characters. Truthfully, there’s a lot of Lea Seydoux and not enough Ana De Armas, who offers up a concise and pleasing performance as Paloma, a new-to-the-field spy who has a few tricks up her sleeve despite her alleged inexperience. Perhaps she’s a fitting figure to take on the role following Craig’s departure? Rami Malek feels criminally under-used, and the core plot-line sees him more at odds with Seydoux’s Madeline as opposed to Bond himself. It feels that the team were keen to make sure the women in the film were front at centre, which came through in Lashana Lynch’s portrayal of the new 007 – another worthy winner of the role, in my opinion!
The film heavily benefits from it’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge-isms, which are pretty evident throughout. You can clearly see where the Fleabag writer has had her hand in creating something a bit more comedic for the script. Without those, it would be laden in dence dialogue, which would leave viewers fatigued when the film comes in at 2hr 45mins long.
Without giving too much away, there’s a level of emotional complexity that is often lacking in other Bond flicks. Family ties mean that Bond has something to fight for, beyond the usual “save the country” narrative. That emotional depth means you are rooting for the lead in a way that you never have before, and that entirely changes the viewing experience. It’s much more human than what we’re used to.
As for the ending, it was all a bit confusing really. The sound at the poison garden sequence left viewers scratching their heads, unsure of what exactly it was that Malek’s villain was alluding to. And then for the grand finale, where do we go next? Is he really dead? How do you bounce back from that finite annihilation? The talk at the premiere was that it was time for a reboot – as has become all too familiar at the moment. It does seem that this is the only way forward!
Overall, it was a worthy watch, and a totally unique Bond film that will go down in history for being one-on-its-own. It wasn’t the best film in the Craig catalogue. Much more confusing and less plot-focused than Skyfall (arguably his best) and less slick than Casino Royale (his second best), but it probably sits in the middle-of-the-field – on level pegging with its predecessor Spectre, and far better than the fundamentally flawed Quantum Of Solace (does anyone even remember that one?) But, Craig was given the swansong he deserved, but I’m keen to see what comes next.
No Time To Die is in cinemas now.