a review by the Swan(!)
Hullo, Swan(!) here! After a year and a half (due to a non-consensual agreement with death, isolation and people coughing on each other), the 25th James Bond movie was finally released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago. This Swan(!), in his inebriated stage, hailed an Uber and braved through the crap weather to get to his local cinema. The adverts ran, the lights dimmed, and the movie started. As a Bond fan, the Swan(!) was going to be in his element watching a two hour (well, two-hour, forty-five minute) escapist adventure.
Was it escapist? Hmm. It certainly had a lot of fun bits, but this movie was quite different to all the other Bond movies I’ve seen. Even more so than Licence to Kill. One thing’s for sure: don’t expect a typical Bond movie like Goldfinger or any of the Roger Moore ones. It’s far different from the previous four Craig movies. But why am I saying all this? Well, let’s load up our Walthers, turn on our Aston Martin Engines, sip our martinis and get into this review.
NO TIME TO DIE
SPOILER LEVELS at …
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. THE SWAN(!) HOLDS NOTHING BACK!
MASSIVE SPOILERS ARE IN RED, BY THE WAY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
First off, good news. The gunbarrel is right where it belongs at the beginning like Spectre. Bad news… why do they keep making the gunbarrel look like some arty-farty pretentious crap? Can we not have the traditional Maurice Binder gunbarrel like we had in the first 20 Bond movies? Like, I get why the gunbarrel in Casino Royale looked the way it did. Quantum and Skyfall had no excuses. Apart from Spectre, hardly any of the Craig gunbarrels are any good. Jesus Christ. This Swan(!) is weeping blood.
Ah, whatever. The gunbarrel opens on a masked man walking through a snowy forest, carrying a machine gun. It’s different to what we’ve been accustomed to in a Bond movie, but I like it already. Turns out it’s a flashback to the early 90’s where the masked man comes to Mr White’s house to avenge the death of his family at the hands of Spectre. Meanwhile, we get a young Madeleine Swann (Coline Defaud) tending to her alcoholic mother (Mathilde Bourbin). Sure, as you’d expect, the mother is not being very affectionate and looks like she’d rather be left alone. The masked man turns up at the house, introduces himself to Madeleine’s mother as Luytsifer Safin (Rami Malek) in a scene that looks like it’s more suited to a horror movie. But it works fine and the actress who plays the young Madeleine really sells it with her fears and anguished reactions towards her mother’s death. Linking to the scene in Spectre where Madeleine tells Bond about the first time she used a gun, we see this in its entirety as she shoots Safin before dragging him outside.
Safin wakes up and chases Madeleine on the ice. Madeleine falls in and with a sudden change of heart, Safin rescues her. It’s a tense, well made scene and the actors pull it off brilliantly. We then cut to an adult Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) surfacing on the water and our hero, James Bond (Daniel Craig) asking if she’s alright. Turns out this scene picks up right after Spectre left off where Bond has retired from MI6. The next few scenes show them being loved up, as they’re travelling through Matera in Italy. We get a callback to one of the best Bond movies (OHMSS) along with an instrumental cue of We Have All the Time in The World. When I first watched this, I was on board with this as I consider OHMSS to be one of the best Bond movies. But then they shoehorn several other call-backs to said movie in future scenes, and I just feel that it’s nonsensical.
Madeleine is obviously in a distracted mood and Bond tries to ask her what’s wrong. Madeleine’s very cagey about it at first and at one point, tries to convince Bond to visit Vesper’s grave (Bond’s former flame from Casino Royale). Bond seems reluctant at first, but he decides to go. The next morning, Bond goes to Vesper’s grave to pay his respects and to drop off a note saying, “Forgive Me.” I like the way Craig plays it in this scene as when he says, “I miss you,” that got me. That really got me. Sure enough, this isn’t a romantic lovey-dovey movie. It’s a Bond movie with rollicking action. I digress. Bond finds another note next to Vesper’s grave and as soon as we see the symbol of the Spectre organisation, we know something’s wrong! BOOM! It’s a booby trap set for Bond. He wakes up and immediately he’s attacked by a gang of Spectre agents led by some dude with a bionic eye named Primo (Dali Benssalah). I love how Bond tries to escape them by diving off the bridge with a cable. We also get a short, brutal fight scene between Bond and Primo who reveals that Madeleine led him into a trap. Bond knocks out Primo and storms back to his hotel. Bloodied, bruised, angry. I like it when James Bond is angry. Hell, I’m a Timothy Dalton fan.
But anyways, I thought it was going to go back to the old Connery days of Bond slapping a woman for information. Thankfully, it isn’t, and we have James Bond aggressively asking Madeleine how Spectre knew he was in Italy. The phone rings and Bond decides to whisk himself and Madeleine away.
The Bond fan in me is happy as we get a gadget laden car chase between Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 and the Spectre goons. Madeleine tries to confess something to Bond, but he’s not having it. At one point, the car stops, and the baddies start shooting at Bond’s car. Madeleine begs Bond to save them, and I really like how Lea Seydoux plays it in this scene. Someone who’s very confused, traumatised, and desperate. Bond activates the machine guns hidden in the DB5 to blast the baddies to smithereens complete with the Bond theme in the background. He then puts Madeleine on the train, effectively dumping her. On first reflection, when I saw Madeleine holding her stomach, I chalked it down to pure heartbreak. But on my second viewing, it’s a vital clue that will carry the story forward. We then fade into the title sequence with Billie Eilish’s title song playing in the background. It’s hauntingly beautiful and that kid has some pipes on her, I’ll give her that.
After that, we cut to a MI6 laboratory five years later where Spectre agents led by Primo kidnap a Russian scientist Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), kill the other scientists (one of them played by Hugh Dennis – don’t ask me why) and steal a bioweapon called Project Heracles. We learn that M authorised the creation of this bioweapon which can be programmed to kill off bloodlines using their DNA. We also find out that M (Ralph Fiennes) is to blame for creating this superweapon and it’s confirmed when he acts a bit shifty when Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) informs him of the kidnap.
Meanwhile, Bond is living the high life in Jamacia by fishing, diving, and living his best life. Sure enough, his tranquil lifestyle is interrupted by his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and an accomplice of his, Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen). The three lads hang out over drinks and Felix asks Bond to help him find Obruchev. Bond declines and leaves. It’s also at this point he bumps into Nomi (Lashanna Lynch) who goes back to Bond’s house and tells him to stay out of the Obruchev incident. To further twist the knife in, she informs Bond that she is the new 007. Now, I’ve heard a lot of controversial opinions of the Nomi character being 007. I have no problems with it, as it makes sense. It’s just a codename, as Bond retired at the end of the last movie. I also don’t think she upstages Bond at all and even though the movie has its flaws, her scenes with Bond are well written. Anyways, this confirms Bond’s suspicion that M has some involvement with Project Heracles and once M hangs up on him, Bond decides to take Felix up on his offer.
The next few scenes in Cuba just reek “Classic Bond” to me.
Bond arrives in Cuba and meets a CIA contact called Paloma (Ana de Armas). I do like the Paloma character, as she’s just a fun character. She doesn’t embody any “snowflake”/”SJW”
lalalalaMagpie Minute: …
kinda characteristics: She’s just a kick-ass Bond girl, while still retaining a friendly nature. I digress. Paloma gives Bond his tuxedo and they go to a party that’s filled with Spectre members. Meanwhile, Obruchev and Primo are in a room programming Heracles to kill Bond using his toothbrush. How Primo got Bond’s toothbrush in the first place… we don’t know! We know that Primo was in Jamacia at the same time as Bond, but we don’t get a scene of how he got his toothbrush. It’s never explained and it’s just one of the many examples of lazy writing. But yeah, they’re gonna kill him using the DNA from his toothbrush. Obruchev (who’s working for Safin, as opposed to Spectre) alters the bioweapon to kill off every Spectre agent at the party.
Turns out the head of Spectre Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is still pulling the strings from her Majesty’s pleasure. Anywho, the Spectre agents drop dead, leading to a gunfight/hand to hand combat between Bond, Paloma, and the Spectre goons. Paloma kicks arse in this scene and I love how she’s shooting everyone with two guns in her hands. Same with Bond. He just looks great in a tuxedo, shooting baddies with a pistol before graduating to a machine gun. That’s the sort of stuff that’s made me a Bond fan since the age of young.
During the battle, Nomi shows up to fetch Obruchev, but Bond and Paloma get there first. It’s a shame that Paloma is only featured in the Cuba sequence, as she’s a great character. But, ah well. Still got a large chunk of the movie to get through.
Bond flies Obruchev to a boat in the middle of the ocean where Felix and Ash are waiting. Bond attempts to interrogate Obruchev, but we find out that a:) Logan Ash is a mole and b:) Felix dies in the middle of the struggle. Ash takes Obruchev and escapes, while destroying the ship with Bond and Felix inside. It’s a sad scene with Craig and Wright performing their lines well. I was surprised that they killed Felix off as apart from losing a leg in the original continuity, he has never died. But, hey. This won’t be the only surprise in the movie.
Bond escapes the wreck and returns to London. We see him driving to MI6 via the Aston Martin Volante car from The Living Daylights (the best Bond film in the Swan(!)’s eyes). We get the classic “Bond, James Bond” line while Bond introduces himself to the security guard. We get the classic banter between Bond and Moneypenny. Same with Nomi, who demands to know the location of Obruchev. Bond goes to see M and for the first time in yonks, he’s very antagonistic towards M. Usually in the Bond/M scenes, Bond usually has a certain amount of respect for M and although he’s rebelled against M in a lot of the movies, they usually see eye to eye. This time, Bond is angry with M for not shutting down Project Heracles. We get some great dialogue between two stubborn characters, before Bond storms out. I know I keep saying this. The acting in this movie is mint, especially in this scene with Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Craig.
Moneypenny takes Bond to see Q (Ben Whishaw). They try and arrange a meeting between Bond and Blofeld in prison to gain information on Obruchev whereabouts. Meanwhile, Safin visits Madeleine in London and blackmails her into killing Blofeld using a sample of the nanobot dose. Man, Rami Malek does a great job playing someone creepy and menacing. Lea Seydoux is equally brilliant, as we understand her distress towards Safin intentionally triggering her when he shows her the mask. This perfectly links the memory of Safin murdering Madeleine’s mother all those years ago.
Bond meets up with Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and the MI6 gang to discuss more information about Project Heracles. We find out that M authorised the project to take out potential enemies, but thankfully doesn’t want the weapon to fall into the wrong hands.
M gives Bond permission to visit Blofeld in prison, which is one of my main bug bears. Nomi also gets permission to track down and kill Logan Ash. So, why do I not like the Blofeld prison scene so much? Right, to start with, Bond reunites with Madeleine. It’s an awkward scene and Madeleine somehow backs out of meeting Blofeld. Bond goes to stop her and unwittingly infects himself with the nanobots. We then get the confrontation between Bond and Blofeld. Bond is surprisingly erratic and animated while speaking to Blofeld. It has some great dialogue, but why is Blofeld only in a few small scenes?
Secondly, why can’t they have a proper showdown? We have never, ever had a proper showdown between James Bond and his arch nemesis. It’s either played for laughs or dealt with in unsatisfying ways. Why am I saying this? Another spoiler, screw it. Turns out that Blofeld was the one behind the ambush in Italy (surprise, surprise).
I really dislike how Bond reacts to this confession as I know Bond can get angry and vengeful. I usually dig that sort of thing. However, Bond loses his cool and tries to attack Blofeld before Tanner stops him. Because Bond infected Blofeld with the virus, he dies. Ernst Stavro Blofeld is dead. What a waste of that incarnation. Man, I feel sorry for Christoph Waltz. He’s a great actor, but how they dealt with that Blofeld incarnation was stupid. Don’t even get me started on the stepbrother BS from Spectre. The Crow and I have some choice words to say about that movie!
Bond travels to Norway to meet up with Madeleine and make amends with her. We also find out that Madeleine has a child called Mathilde, whom Madeleine claims is not Bond’s child. *coughs* Bullshit *coughs*. Anyways, we get the next few scenes that look like they’re from Daddy Day Care or some shit, while Bond cooks the child breakfast. I can see what certain Bond fans and critics are saying when they say that this is a different kind of Bond movie. During these scenes, Madeleine tells Bond about Safin and why he’s after her family. Bond calls MI6 as he needs a plane for Safin’s Island. Turns out Logan Ash and co are in Norway to ambush Bond and his family (Yeah, we all know that the child is Bond’s and Madeleine’s). So, there’s nothing like a nice family day out when they are chased through the forest by Ash and his men.
Predictably, Bond kills off Ash in a scene that I dub “Brutal Bond.” I love it. Reminds me of Roger Moore kicking the car off the cliff in For Your Eyes Only or when Timothy Dalton coldly kills the henchmen in his movies. It’s pure Ian Fleming and one of the reasons I’m a fan of this franchise. I just love it and it also symbolises his loyalty to Felix Leiter, who he considers a “brother.” But hey, the Logan Ash character deserved it. Safin shows up (somehow, another convenience) and kidnaps Madeleine and Mathilde.
Bond encounters Nomi again and they fly to Safin’s Island. On the way, Q supplies Bond with an electromagnetic watch. It’s a cool gadget and it comes into the play during the final sequence of the movie, along with a cheesy Bond one-liner. Bond and Nomi arrive at Safin’s Island which is being used as a factory to store the nanobots capable of killing millions worldwide. Standard Bond villain plot. We understand that Safin wants to wipe out Spectre, but who’s he’s targeting next with the nanobots, we don’t know! Just another plothole among a few other plotholes in this movie. As much as I enjoyed many things in this movie, I’m despairing for the future of screenwriting in film and television.
The final sequence of the movie goes as much as you’d expect:
- A standoff between Bond and Safin. Craig’s performance in this scene reminded me of how Ethan Hunt from the Mission Impossible movies tried to negotiate in tricky situations.
- Explosions, shootouts, and fistfights galore
- Madeleine and Mathilde are saved.
- The villains die with little fanfare. Obruchev gets a “shove” in the nanobot filled pool after slagging off Nomi and her racial features. Yes, the filmmakers are shoehorning the “Black Lives Matter” trope into this. I don’t mind it if it’s done well. I’ll get to that when I discuss Obruchev’s character. Also, Safin gets a couple of bullets in him courtesy of Bond. Yeah, just a very unsatisfying death. Primo dies when his bionic eye gets fried by Bond’s electromagnetic watch. The one liner that Bond delivers after his death got a massive laugh in the cinema. Cheesy? Yup, but it is a Bond movie.
However, all these things are overshadowed by one shocking and depressing moment in the movie. You knew this was coming. The Swan(!) can’t believe he’s typing these words.
James Bond dies. That’s right.
James. Bond. 007. Dies.
Before Safin dies, he infects Bond with the nanobots programmed to kill Madeleine and Mathilde. If Bond touches his family again, he will effectively be murdering them. So, Bond decides to stay on the island while the Royal Navy ships blow one of my favourite protagonists to smithereens. They killed James Bond. James Bond. I’ll get into why this bothers me. Bond as an institution or entity, if you will, represents escapism and survival. You can have lots of dark moments in the Bond movies. Casino Royale and OHMSS had their main love interests killed off in them. Licence To Kill (the darkest Bond movie) had a lot of violent bits in it. But who comes out on top? Bond, James Bond. He’s the unkillable protagonist and represents how he overcomes dangerous situations. For many fans, we take comfort in knowing that a sharply dressed guy will run around shooting people, sleeping with women, saving the day, and staying alive (Ha – Ha – Ha -Ha – Okay, why is Bee Gees in my head?).
It’s not entirely been the case in the Craig era, but I would have preferred a bittersweet ending where Bond watches his family from afar knowing that he can never see them again. I would have preferred that ending. Killing him off makes no sense and by doing this, the filmmakers have decided to take a massive dump on the fandom and why we love Bond so much. I left that cinema on Saturday feeling deflated and in the mood to get completely plastered. Which I did, and the Crow never heard the end of my rant on why my beloved franchises are getting shat upon. They did it with Star Wars, they did it with the last season of Game of Thrones, they did it with a handful of the live action Disney remakes and now they’ve done it with the latest Bond movie. Why take a formula that has worked for so many years and do something unthinkable with it? It’s destroyed what James Bond means to me as an unkillable protagonist and again, it just makes me despair for the future of films/television.
No Time To Die isn’t a bad movie. I’d put it somewhere in the middle of my list of favourite Bond movies, as there’s lots to like in it. The action, the car chases, the Cuba sequence and there’s lots of funny one liners. To some extent, I don’t mind the continuity in the Craig movies. I just feel like at times I’m watching a Marvel film, as opposed to a standard Bond movie. Daniel Craig provides a brilliant performance as James Bond, and I like seeing how he makes the character experience different emotions to what we envision James Bond to have. If anything, it’s as good as his performance as Bond in his first outing Casino Royale. The other cast are brilliant too. Lea Seydoux is given lots to do in this entry as opposed to Spectre and her acting range is incredible. The MI6 regulars (Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear) are on fine form too. Rami Malek provides a creepy performance as Safin. He’s a great actor. I just feel Safin is underdeveloped and needs more substance as opposed to just wanting revenge/wreaking havoc. The other cast members are entertaining also. Jeffrey Wright is great as Felix Leiter; Billy Magnussen makes Logan Ash a decent Bond villain and gives Bond a run for his money during their first fist fight. He’s no pushover, that’s for sure. I just felt that his reveal as a traitor was written in for the sake of it. David Dencik does a fine job as Obruchev. I do feel that the filmmakers don’t know what to do with him. Either make him the silly comic relief of the movie or make him a villain. Again, the latter trope was just shoehorned in there: Obruchev’s a bad guy because he’s a racist. It just came out of left field. If the filmmakers were going to go down that route, they should have done so when first introducing the character. As I said before, Lashanna Lynch did a great job as Nomi and wasn’t intrusive as a lot of the fandom originally predicted. As for Ana De Armas, that one sequence wasn’t enough for her. She needed more scenes. As much as I enjoyed lots of things in this movie, the obvious plotholes and conveniences were hard to ignore. Plus, I’ve already ranted about how I hate the gunbarrel sequence and the downer ending. I suppose now that this iteration of Bond is dead, they can just reboot the character in a different timeline when the next Bond movie comes around. I’ll definitely get it on Blu-ray when it comes out, being the loyal Bond fan I am. Anyways, I talked to much. So, the Swan(!) will float away now. Bye!!!
— Peace out!
THE SWAN(!): 5.5/10
The Crow: Here are a few brilliant fan posters by Mark Murphy (@thrice_champ on Instagram; please remember to support the artist):