No Time to Die Review (With Spoilers)
If you have not seen the movie yet, you can view a review without spoilers here.
I was really anticipating the release of this Bond film after multiple delays. The trailers presented this film as an epic conclusion that would tie up the previous four parts, and I have to say that the producers succeeded in delivering a powerful and emotionally impactful finale. No Time to Die combined multiple aspects of what made the older and newer Bond films great. This ended up being my favorite film overall in the series and I thought there was just so much of it that was well thought out and executed.
I chose to see this film in the 4DX format and I highly recommend that if you want to re-watch and had previously seen the film in a standard format. 4DX is a very immersive way to view movies with moving chairs, air jets, smoke and weather effects, and smells. The 4DX format also comes with 3D. Unfortunately it was 3D done in post-processing and not native 3D, but native 3D is pretty rare for films in general at this time. However, I felt the depth effects did add to many of the scenes, especially the opening one where Safin hunts down Madeleine. These theaters are still somewhat of a new development but they seem to be in most major metropolitan areas.
I feel that the 4DX format is such an immersive experience compared to the standard formats, and many of the driving and action scenes were heavily enhanced through the effects. One scene I remember to be truly visceral was the part where Bond and Madeleine are in the Aston Martin and the Spectre assassins are shooting at the windows. The sounds combined with the 4DX seat effects here created some real tension. You can almost feel Madeleine’s fear as one of the bullets impacts the bulletproof window and you can see that it was aimed directly for her head.
Since I saw this in 4DX the first time, I want to re-watch it in IMAX. I think that this was the first Bond film to utilize the IMAX format, and about 40 minutes of footage was shot with 15/70 mm IMAX film cameras. I do not believe I have actually ever seen in IMAX film before but as far as visual quality goes this should be the best format.
Cinematography and Sound Design
I felt fully engaged when watching this film, and thinking back to it after my finished viewing, I realized how well the cinematography was done.
Cary Fukunaga was really an excellent choice for this, as his choice of close-up shots and angles captured the deep emotions of the characters. The shots of Safin and Madeleine in the opening sequence built up tension and displayed Safin as a horrifying figure. Following that, the entire parts in Matera prior to the title sequence were absolutely stunning, with great scenery all throughout as romance moves back to tension and action.
The cut to the title sequence was done at the perfect time after a really emotionally impactful moment. I liked how they used the dots for Dr. No here and how they started the instrumental part of the theme while the train was leaving. I had really loved the theme when I first listened to it on YouTube, but listening to it in the theater after the emotional moment between Bond and Madeleine was was a completely different experience. The opening notes were hauntingly beautiful and really reflected the sacrifices and pain that had taken place in the previous movies and that were to come.
Daniel Kleinman’s visuals went well with Billie Eilish’s vocals here. A memorable part for many was when the pistols were lined in the shape of DNA and firing. The statues as ancient and mysterious symbology were a good choice, but upon thinking of it more I realized it was connected to the idea of the film’s plot, because the deadly weapon was named Heracles. I was expecting for the palette to be a big darker, but overall these were amazing visuals. Billie Eilish has been known for her somber and depressing songs and she was the perfect performer for the main theme. The lyrics and tone capture Bond and Madeleine’s story well and you can really feel the tragic and grand nature of the story through Eilish’s vocals.
Another great choice by the producers was picking Hans Zimmer for the music. I feel that his music adds a similar feel that some of the Christopher Nolan films had, which for me was a big positive. It was also amazing here how they incorporated music from OHMSS, another epic and tragic Bond film which is a parallel to this one. Hans Zimmer is great at elicitating emotion through his music and his pieces really added to the atmosphere of those important scenes.
I really liked the overall plot of this film. The idea of a weapon that targeted specific DNA really sets the stakes high for the finale and it has been theorized by real life scientists that such a weapon could be a reality in the future. I felt that the producers did make the right decision to delay this film because of the extreme parallels to COVID-19 that was in the plot. With a year after though was the perfect time to release it because many could relate to the idea of a destructive contagion afterwards. M’s character especially had depth in this film because of the questionable decisions he made in order to ensure security. You could tell that he was operating out of good intentions, but his project allowed the situation to spiral out of control in the first place. I like how they explored the ethics of developing such a deadly weapon and the internal conflict that resulted because of it.
One thing I thought they should have done more is to show more of Safin’s motives. Whenever Safin was on screen, we received an amazing performance by Rami Malek. I thought that he appeared too late in the film though and wasn’t given enough attention. In this film they definitely tried to fit a lot in and it may have been hard to add more, but possibly some of the CIA stuff could have been cut out or made shorter. Overall both Blofeld and Safin could have been developed more as well as there relation to Madeleine. What we did see were some extremely memorable scenes. I just think they should have expanded on them more.
It was cool to see Q return with more advanced gadgets. The Q Glider and EMP watch reminded me of some of the more advanced gadgets we saw in the pre-Craig era. The villains even had some advanced technology to in the form of bionic eyes, although it was kind of hard to believe that Blofeld could get some kind of wireless signal while imprisoned. It was still nice to see these elements though. Not only did they hearken back to OHMSS but just the old Bond films in general and what made them good.
Beyond the main conflict of the film, it was amazing how much emotion was present throughout. I think that writer Phoebe Mary Waller-Bridge played a large part in adding more emotion and depth to Bond and I really hope that she returns for the future movies. I believe that she had a strong part in shaping the role of Mathilde and potentially Bond’s death at the end. Bond having a daughter and dying are two first-time events for Bond films, both of which were written extremely well for No Time to Die.
It was theorized that Bond would possibly die on Reddit, and when he was poisoned by Safin I realized that it was actually something that would happen. I was actually in tears as the missiles rained down on him in that show of destructive beauty. It was a truly tragic ending for Bond reminiscent of OHMSS, as he finally got the family he wanted, but this time it would be him that would have to die to not live to see it. However, there was a great joy to the ending as well, as in Bond’s final sacrifice he saved the world and allowed Madeleine and Mathilde to go on and live happily.
This was an absolutely amazing film and had everything that made the old and new Bonds great. There were beautiful set pieces, amazing performances by the actors and actresses, cool gadgets, but most importantly very in-depth emotional moments.
I really hope that they keep making them like this. Now that I think of it there was just so much amazing work to make this move happen. Cary Fukunaga’s directing, Phoebe Mary Waller-Bridge’s writing, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, and a great final performance by Daniel Craig.
The producers really pushed the innovations with this film both technologically and on the level of storytelling. It is very rare to see films like this, even for a Bond one. I very much hope that filmmakers can find inspiration from this film and continue to produce emotionally moving pieces like this one.
A quote by Léa Seydoux, the actress that played Madeleine Swann, described the movie very accurately for me:
“There’s a lot of emotion in this Bond. It’s very moving. I bet you’re going to cry. When I watched it, I cried, which is weird because I am in it”