Plot: What’s it about?
Just imagine you’re waiting anxiously for a highly anticipated movie to come out only to find out it has been delayed several months. Then, just as the second release date (after being delayed) nears, there’s yet another delay. Ok, let’s try this again. Then, well you guessed it… yet another delay. We’ve all heard and know that the pandemic has taken quite a toll on many businesses, but the movie industry especially. Then, when this past October grew nearer and nearer, I admit that I had a feeling the film would be delayed yet once again, but indeed it did in fact come out. I could spend the better half of a review going over how I tried so hard putting the film together in my head. We had been teased with the film’s first trailer since December 2019, that there was always going to be a lot riding on No Time to Die. Hopefully no unfair pressure as the film shouldn’t have been looked at a certain way just because circumstances delayed it. I am happy to report that, while not perfect, it more than satisfies and is a fitting end to the Daniel Craig era that started with the excellent Casino Royale back in 2006. While this film and none of the previous entries have topped it, this one came awfully close and is my personal favorite since Craig’s debut. Even before the Covid related delays, there was the dismissal of Danny Boyle as director and an on-set incident as well as Daniel Craig suffering an injury. It was quite a journey to get here, but the film was very much worth the wait. I can still remember early images that leaked of a masked villain out in the snow that did send a few chills down my spine. I just couldn’t wait to see how the film would play out and how all the various questions it posed would be answered.
In a bit of an unusual move, the opening leaves James Bond out of it and instead offers a flashback sequence that feels like something more out of a thriller than a Bond film. Indeed, that is one of the many treasures is how this one toys with the formula while still trying to please devoted fans. I don’t want to reveal too much about the opening, but we see the masked villain (Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek) coming to the home of a character featured in previous films to exact revenge. This leads to a sequence where a character falls through the ice and we see Safin has major scarring on his face. We then cut to the present where we see James Bond and Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) enjoying their new life together. Since James has had some troubles in his life, he has a hard time with trust. Madeline tells him he needs to let go of the past, despite how hard that can be. He decides to visit Vesper’s grave only to find out that Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) may be putting him up to something. This leads to some intense action scenes as Bond chases some Spectre agents through Matera with Bond putting Madeline on a train only to tell her she’ll never see him again. After the opening credits, we flash forward to five years to find James enjoying his retirement in Jamaica, which is soon to be interrupted by the arrival of his pal, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who enlists his help in tracking down a kidnapped scientist named Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik). One of the film’s many highlights involves Bond teaming up with a female CIA agent played by Ana de Armas. We also meet Nomi (Lashana Lynch) who has inherited the 007 title following Bond’s retirement. We also find the familiar faces such as Moneypenny, M and Q, among others. I did enjoy seeing Felix again as well since he hasn’t been seen since 2008’s Quantum of Solace.
Before my review becomes too rambling in detailing the plot, it should be stated that the film does throw a lot at the audience. Thankfully the pace is fast and while it can be a bit convoluted, it never becomes too hard to stay on board. It has a lot to juggle, but it does so in an effective way. If it can’t quite maintain the momentum from the first hour, rest assured that it satisfies and keeps us with it. Like Skyfall and Spectre, it does keep its villain off screen for too long, but Malek does a decent job here when he does show up. While his character might have murky motivation, he at least has a clever enough plan to prove threatening.
You won’t get spoilers from me, but there has been a lot of talk regarding the ending, and the ads effectively told us that this film would change everything. There are at least 2 big surprises here in addition to a lot of the other plot twists and developments. I can understand the issue some have with the ending, but I also applaud the film for taking chances and trying to shake up the formula. While not all his films have been great, I have always enjoyed Craig in the role, and it will be interesting to see where they take the character from here. I can feel good saying that this film lived up to the hype and concluded Daniel Craig’s era on a high note. It is a busy film and has a lot going on, so having seen the previous 4 films and being familiar with them helps things. One might be a bit lost if not.
Video: How’s it look?
This is a James Bond movie. Let me repeat that – this-is-a-JAMES-BOND-movie. For it to look anything less than stellar (especially after the delay) would be an insult and, truthfully, a travesty. But Sony knows that this is a jewel in their crown, so thankfully I wasn’t let down. As anyone who’s seen Bond (played by any actor) we know that the globe will be spanned and it’ll look spectacular in the process. Bond will sport his Omega Seamaster, be able to shoot a few bad guys and be in a tuxedo in the next scene. And it looks great. Detail is top notch (to those that think Craig hasn’t aged in a decade and a half, go back and watch Casino Royale) showcasing some of the finest Europe has to offer as well as Bond girl (or two). Contrast is strong, black levels are on the mark and as I so often say – I was hard-pressed to find anything to really complain about. I’m curious how good the 4K version will look. This digital review set the bar pretty high.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Oh, there’s an amazing soundtrack as well? You bet. I watched this via Apple TV and it came bundled with a Dolby Atmos mix that showcased anything and everything that the “new” format is capable of. In short – it shook the room. By now we know what to expect: spacial surrounds, LFE that add some “boom” to things that explode (which is a lot) and an active front stage that’ll set the tone. Vocals are sharp and crisp. Craig’s deep voice resonates. Bullets whiz by, car tires screech – we know the drill. As I said above, this is a James Bond movie and it sounds divine.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This digital review has no supplements.
The Bottom Line
I am happy to report first that I got to see the film after seemingly endless delays, but I am even happier to report that it lived up to the hype. I found it to be the best James Bond film since Craig’s 2006 debut, Casino Royale, which I love and still watch regularly. It isn’t perfect, can be a bit long at times and maybe throws just a bit too much at us, but the very fact that it isn’t just a mess of a film is rewarding in and of itself. My hindsight will likely make me wish I said more or different things, but the film is well worth seeing and will certainly leave an impression one way or the other.