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Arts & Culture

'No Time To Die' finally arrives in cinemas

NO TIME TO DIE
Eon Productions
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in "No Time To Die."

Daniel Craig's final appearance as Bond was worth the wait. (Spoiler-free review.)

Three delays and 18 months, but the latest James Bond, "No Time to Die" is finally opening in cinemas Friday.

'No Time To Die' finally arrives in cinemas

Speaker 1: (00:00)

The latest James Bond film, no time to die. Finally opened in cinemas after a long pandemic delay on the latest edition of cinema junkie host Beth Huck Amando speaks with bond officiant auto Gary Dexter about the final Daniel Craig double oh seven film. Here's that excerpt.

Speaker 2: (00:19)

So Gary, you went to England to see the new bond film. And before we talk about the film itself, tell me a little bit about the atmosphere in England right now.

Speaker 3: (00:31)

It's crazy. The way the nation has embraced bond. This time is very similar to bond mania. In the height of the Connery era, you can throw a stone in essentially and hit some sort of bond tie-in or promotion.

Speaker 4: (00:45)

And I was strong as that fairly strong. Haven't had the time to test it. Probably just be careful. This is

Speaker 5: (00:51)

Going to go brilliant. Great.

Speaker 3: (00:55)

Uh, mega shops have got the Gunbarrel motif on there. They've got prop displays inside. In fact, some of the props that are seen in the film and the portraits of the different AMS London had a gigantic [inaudible] sculpture in Leicester square ahead of the movies to view. And then I guess they moved that over to Al the Albert Hall for the actual premiere. It's really exciting. It definitely has a vibe unlike any bond that I've experienced here in the past,

Speaker 2: (01:22)

We're seeing bond in, what's probably the best conditions with all that excitement and mania going on, and you've already seen it twice. So what's your gut reaction to it?

Speaker 3: (01:33)

It's unique. I've never seen a bond lake. It it's its own beast tonally. It seems very different. That being said, uh, it has callbacks to so many aspects of bond in the past, both a cinematic and literary.

Speaker 5: (01:49)

If y'all, I'll find some tremendous clocks with having those bought savings bonds and a hassle that something terrible villain, if he can use a run light, I let say, or drive a bench and motor car or stay in the Ritz hotel. This all brings the veto back to, ah,

Speaker 3: (02:06)

There's a lot of Fleming that's been left behind over the years, but this one, I think more than any other, certainly at a time when they ran out of original titles to use for the movies anyway, really pays homage and draws directly from a lot of literary bond. It was very exciting.

Speaker 2: (02:24)

Well, I have to say that when I came out of it, I know that a lot of people are talking about the fact that it's almost three hours long, two hours and 45 minutes, but I have to say my first reaction to it was it moved fast and it felt like it had all the classic bond action. And yet it had this emotional weight to it as well, which was both surprising and a great way to wrap up the series.

Speaker 3: (02:49)

I agree. I agree. It was, it was very much, um, Daniel's interpretation of bond, um, and keeping really with things that we'd seen from the get go in casino, Royale, you're carried emotional half done like we've ever seen before in the bond. And it was all the better for it. I thought it was very much Craig saying goodbye to his tenure and the character. It reminded me a little bit of Harrison Ford and Han solo Craig's approach to this movie was kind of similar. He wanted a sort of finality to his, his arc. And I think we achieved that to,

Speaker 2: (03:24)

Well, you mentioned these callbacks. And one thing I felt when I was watching it is there were these nice touches. Some of them were very overt and some of them were more subtle, but you get like the very clear reference to honor majesty secret service.

Speaker 6: (03:42)

Um,

Speaker 2: (03:49)

And then you get other things that are a little more subtle where he's in Jamaica, which can reference both the location of a couple of bonds. And also the fact that Ian Fleming himself was in Jamaica. So it was like these Easter egg kind of things going on.

Speaker 3: (04:05)

I certainly was. And it, it began from the moment that credits dropped with the doctor, no style dots appearing on the screen. As soon as I saw that, I thought, oh, I think I know where we're going here.

Speaker 3: (04:28)

And as you say, it ran throughout yes, very much the, the loan from Magisters, but also a lot of, um, real frustrations of major cities soundtrack in there as well for, from that point and elsewhere in the movie. And then it was absolutely littered with callbacks. We had a copious amount of Aston Martins, including the BB five has almost become traditional Amanda's this era. But of course we had the living daylights era Aston appearing as well. What I thought was really surprising was the Cuba setting was almost a callback today another day. And I would have thought if you're avoiding callbacks, that would be the one to avoid, but I guess not. So it was embraced everything. I absolutely loved the production design of SAF lab because it was pure. Can Adam. I mean, it was just straight out of it can add and school of design and it was just absolutely fantastic. Would look beautiful on screen.

Speaker 2: (05:24)

One of the things that I enjoyed about this is I felt it moved bond into a more contemporary era in terms of how the female characters were. But without that kind of in your face way, that they did it in some of the Pierce Brosnan ones where, you know, I think em calls them out for being a dinosaur,

Speaker 7: (05:42)

Because I think you're a sexist, misogynist, dinosaur Relic of the cold war whose boyish chums. They wasted on me, obviously appeal to that young woman. I sent out to evaluate you, not quite

Speaker 2: (05:55)

WCM at him for being a chauvinist pig,

Speaker 8: (05:59)

Behavior qualifies.

Speaker 2: (06:03)

This was much more kind of organic. You just have female characters who seem to be about to behave in the way we typically expect in a bond film, but then they don't, but they don't do it in this way of this kind of very strident, oh, we're going to make a feminist statement. It's just like, Hey, you expected me to be one thing. And I'm another

Speaker 8: (06:26)

Amanda Bond to, yes, Nomi is highly skilled, slightly cocky. You get in my way, I've offered stability.

Speaker 9: (06:35)

[inaudible] lady in Santiago. I want you to meet

Speaker 8: (06:42)

Hello. You're late

Speaker 3: (06:44)

Very much. So I think none more so than a Adom, his role or character is set up to be extremely depth. See just the way she communicates and where she tells bond and her style. And, um, we find out that, yes, that might genuinely be the character's nature, but it's no reflection on a competency. Yeah, I agree. It was very much defining expectation leading you one way and then taking you somewhere else. It was, it was very, very good. And I, I really enjoyed knowing me as well and the way she interacted with bond and the evolution of the relationship on screen, it was much more credible for a male, female character interaction. She was forthright and a confident character in her own, right, without being sort of obnoxious or, or undermining Bond's fundamental nature, which really can't be to modern era. I think it's got to be bond has to be true to his nature and then confronting and interacting with 21st century women characters. Um, and, and that reality defining the direction that the plot goes in. And I think they did a fantastic job with that. I really enjoyed it.

Speaker 2: (07:58)

Yeah. Because a couple of times we have instances where he thinks women are coming on to him, or he thinks that he's going to be in some sort of sexual situation. And it's completely diffused with a bit of humor and kind of the sense of like, yeah, you're getting a little old and, and this whole kind of trope is going away, but we'll play with it still.

Speaker 9: (08:21)

[inaudible]

Speaker 1: (08:38)

That was Beth haka, Mondo speaking with Gary Dexter to hear the full podcast that explores the bond cinematic and literary universe go to kpbs.org/cinema junkie.

I have to confess: At the press screening for the film last month, when the opening music for "No Time To Die" began to play under black on a big screen in a cinema, I got goose bumps.

'No Time To Die' proves worth the wait
Spoiler-free review of Daniel Craig's final mission as 007."No Time To Die"
NO TIME TO DIE
NO TIME TO DIE
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) drive through Matera, Italy in "No Time To Die."

As a lifelong fan of Bond, I’ve been in a heightened state of anticipation waiting for Bond 25, the final entry in the Daniel Craig cycle of 007 films. I was excited but also sad that Craig’s tenure as Bond was coming to an end. The wait, however, was totally worth it. To summarize Bond’s final mission: it delivers all the action and excitement you expect from a 007 movie but with an unexpected emotional weight. As with "Skyfall," you might even shed a tear.

CASINO_ROYALE_CR_12008_rgb.jpg
Eon Productions/MGM
To make sense of "No Time To Die," you do need to know about Bond (Daniel Craig) and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from the 2006 "Casino Royale."

Backstory

The film continues with the narrative started with the reboot of the franchise in 2006 with "Casino Royale" and Craig assuming Ian Fleming's James Bond character. From that film you need to remember Bond's tragic relationship with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a woman he fell in love with, quit the service for, and then discovers she betrayed him. She dies in "Casino Royale" and her death and betrayal haunt Bond and color his relationship with Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), a character introduced in "Spectre" as Bond's new love interest.

From "Spectre" you also need to be aware of Blofield (Christoph Waltz), who reappears in "No Time To Die" to enlighten Bond on some history about Swann.

So while you don't necessarily need to re-watch these films before seeing the latest Bond, you do need to know who these characters are for it to make sense.

NO TIME TO DIE
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond and Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann in "No Time To Die."

Bond's final mission

"No Time To Die" picks up with Bond having left MI6 and attempting a life of retirement with Swann. But the first scene we see with them driving happily in a car in a beautiful locale, Bond says "we have all the time in the world." And if you are familiar with "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," then you know this does not bode well.

Spoiler-free review of 'No Time To Die'

Bond suspects Swann too has betrayed him and he ends up — after some shenanigans with Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and a delightful Paloma (Ana DeArmas) — back with MI6 and working, sort of, with a new 00 agent Nomi (an impressive Lashana Lynch).

His nemesis we eventually discover is a man with a vendetta that involves Swann's family history. The man is Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) and like all Bond villains he has an evil plan that involves a high-tech scheme for world domination and wiping out a lot of humanity with increased efficiency.

So there's a lot at stake both personally and globally for Bond.

NO TIME TO DIE
"No Time To Die" gives us some of the expected 007 trappings — Bond in a tux, sexy women — but with a twist. Here James Bond (Daniel Craig) meets Paloma (Ana de Armas).

Creating the Bond universe

Barbara Broccoli, whose father Albert, helped launch the franchise in the 1960s, has done for Bond what Kevin Feige did for Marvel — create a cinematic universe.

When Albert Broccoli died in 1996, Pierce Brosnan was already in place as Bond. But with "Casino Royale," Barbara Broccoli got to exert influence on where Bond could go and saw a chance to reboot the franchise in a fresh direction by fighting to cast Craig and pushing the films into a grittier and more contemporary arena.

Before the Craig Bonds, the franchise gave a collection of films that tapped into the same characters and occasionally referenced other films but never with a real sense of one continuing narrative. But ever since "Casino Royale," we have been following one continuing storyline involving Craig's Bond and while the films have been inconsistent, it has given the films an engagingly new appeal.

NO TIME TO DIE
Lashana Lynch as a new 00 agent Nomi joins Daniel Craig on the set of "No Time To Die."

I also think Broccoli has been key in getting women us to female characters like Nomi and Paloma. And for this film she is aided by adding Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of "Fleabag") as one of the writers. During Brosnan's era there were attempts to call out Bond for his sexism and antiquated ways but it always felt forced, included solely to deflect criticism. But in "No Time To Die," the film doesn't have characters comment on how women should be treated or depicted, it simply gives us characters who challenge the stereotypes and don't make a fuss about it.

In "No Time To Die," Nomi and Paloma enter the film with all the superficial trappings of a Bond girl (sexy, flirtatious, mysterious) but quickly prove that all are standard assumptions about such women in a Bond film are wrong and they cleverly and humorously shatter the Bond tropes. It also helps that Lynch and DeArmas are just fabulous in the roles and I hope they can come back as the franchise continues.

NO TIME TO DIE
Rami Malek as the villainous Safin on location shooting "No Time To Die."

No time for villains

While I have heard a lot of people complain about the film's nearly three-hour running length, that did not bother me as much as Rami Malek's turn as the film's supposedly central villain Safin.

A great Bond film needs a great villain for Bond to face off against and Malek does not give us that. Waltz, in his brief reprise of Blofield, is far more fun and interesting. Malek's character is supposed to be driven by revenge and loss but we see none of that in his flat, bland performance.

It's a shame that while Bond is surrounded by both old familiar characters we love (Leiter, M, Q, Moneypenny) and new characters that excite us with possibilities (Nomi, Paloma) for his final film, he does not get the final villain that he deserves.

Malek doesn't ruin the film, but he does keep it from being great. In this Craig cycle, "Casino Royale" still ranks at the best (it also in my top three of all Bond films) with "Skyfall" and then "No Time To Die" following closely. "Quantum of Solace" and "Spectre" were the weak links.

But all in all, "No Time To Die" delivered a satisfying resolution to the Craig Bond films.

The script is credited to a large contingent of writers — Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge — which may have contributed to its length. But the team does give us a story that gives Bond an emotional narrative that has run through the five films, taking us from his initiation as a 00 agent licensed to kill to a retired agent. For this film they also provide a ton of Easter eggs referencing past Bond films and even Fleming himself. So we return to Jamaica, the location where Fleming created Bond as well as the location for multiple films, there are musical cues from past films, as well as a host of other things that I look forward to uncovering with multiple viewing.

And while Craig’s contract is done and he will not be assuming the role again, the film ends with the assurance that James Bond will return. I’m game to see how.