Bond evolution – No Time to Die (#25)

(*Contains some spoilers*)

And now we have it, after more than a year of waiting, the final Daniel Craig Bond film has reached cinemas.

When the last film ended, we saw Bond and Madeleine Swann walking away from London, from MI6, from the bad guys, the whole shebang.

But it’s still a surprise that the pre-credit sequence of No Time To Die focuses not on Bond and a killing mission, but on Dr Swann, and an episode from her childhood. A face from the past that haunts her. She surfaces from the sea she was swimming in and we can see that she and Bond are in Italy. He reassures her, “We have all the time in the world.”

(“Don’t say that!” I shriek. “Never say that!”)

The opening credits consist of a series of stylised cartoons similar to what we saw in Casino Royale. Amongst the images we see are a scuba diver with a spear gun (very Old School Bond that) and a helicopter. At least one of these images is a red herring.

The Billie Eilish title song is good. Its sultry and mournful and very much in the Bond theme tune canon and I want to like it, but where is the big soaring chorus? I wait for it but it doesn’t come, and without it, it feels like there’s something missing.

Bond’s relationships with women have always been complicated and with Madelaine it’s no different. In the beautiful Italian town (actually a conglomeration of the towns of Matera and Gravina), they join in the local tradition of burning papers to rid themselves of ghosts from their past. But can Bond ever escape the ghosts of the past? Especially when there are bad guys from Spectre are still after him. Or are they after Madelaine? We’ll never know because he puts her on a train and sends her away, and then sends himself away to live alone.

The exotic locations keep coming… Matera/Gravina really looks like somewhere you want to visit (just, you know, look put for bad guys with machine guns). Having abandoned his chance at a happy life with Madelaine, Bond is living a quiet retired life in a very swish seaside villa in Jamaica, until a visit from an old friend (CIA’s Felix Leitner) and a little bit of arm-twisting means he makes an unofficial visit to Cuba (also filmed in Jamaica) to help out on a CIA mission, before returning to London (re-acquainting himself with MI6) and then on to Norway, to Nittedal and the Atlantic Ocean Road – a great place for a car chase! And Sakhalin for the dramatic conclusion is substituted for by the Faroe Islands.

The villain in this film is not Blofeld, who is now in a high-security prison but still managing to run his criminal empire – how? MI6 are puzzled. The villain is Safin, the ‘masked man’ we saw in the opening credits with a young Madeleine. A poisoner by profession, he is looking to take his speciality to the next level with a DNA-targeted virus that can kill its target but leave others around untouched. (Bond is disgusted to find out that Her Majesty’s Government had put money into researching and developing this technology – so it’s unsurprising the bad guys stole it.)

Lyutsifer Safin (played by Rami Malek, and yes, haha very clever giving him the same first name as the devil in a poor attempt to make him scary) is very much underused as a bad guy. His back story is thin. His character is thin. His sense of menace is negligible if only because he’s not scary. Let me say it’s not Rami Malek’s fault, I think he’s good. I think he was given poor material to work with and that lets him down rather than him letting the role down.

The women: Oh yes, if you heard anything about this film it was probably that when Bond retired, the 007 number was reassigned. To a woman. And not just any woman. A black woman! (See far right brains exploding all over the world as they try to process this.) Lashana Lynch is another actor who was underused in this film. This woman is a top spy and killer, but she’s not given an opportunity to shine, to run scenes and look like she owns it. Admittedly the film series is not Nomi, it’s James Bond, but if you’re going to put a woman in the 007 spot then make her convincing. We don’t even get to know her surname, for heaven’s sake!

Nomi – 007 – please someone give the woman a chance to shine! Credit: universal

Then there’s Paloma. Another woman without a surname. She turns up to help Bond with his unofficial mission in Cuba. Despite her initial dialogue portraying her as ditzy (“Have you done this before?” Bond asks. “I’ve done a two week training course,” she replies), she knows her way around a firearm and proves she can fight in an evening gown and heels.

Then there’s Madeleine, the girlfriend. She’s still an ice queen (in some ways quite literally). When Safin kidnaps her and takes her to his factory in an old missile silo where his is producing the nanobot-DNA-targeting virus in quantities large enough to kill millions, it’s up to Bond and Nomi to break in, destroy the factory and rescue Madeleine. Well, Nomi’s job it to blow up the factory, Bond seems to have brought himself along just to get his girlfriend back. And despite him not being on the books anymore, he gets more of the backup support from Q, rather than Nomi who’s the actual paid-for spy. (She really is hard done by. Let’s not forget the threats by the scientist Obruchev, the evil genius behind the nanobot DNA technology, that he will develop a virus that will destroy her and her whole race. No wonder she killed him.)

The film ends with a surprising twist. I didn’t see that coming. But it certainly leaves no question that this is Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond.

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