ALTERNATIVE 007


Luke Quantrill reviews No Time To Die


WARNING - This review is full of spoilers so make sure you've watched No Time To Die before you read on. Well, it has certainly been a grim few years for the world but at least we can always rely on James Bond to raise our spirits and provide us with fun filled escapism. Can't we? As far as Bond films go, The Spy Who Loved Me will always be the one with the underwater car. Thunderball will always be the one with the jet-pack. Goldfinger will always be the one where the woman is covered in gold paint. Live and Let Die will always be the one with crocodiles. You Only Live Twice will always be the one with the volcano. As for No Time To Die, that will always be the one where Bond becomes a daddy and takes a cruise missile up the hooter because he's been infected with a nanobot virus. And they say the art of screenwriting is a lost craft? What nonsense.
The film begins with a tremendous Phantom of the Opera fan stalking a child across an ice covered lake. I like to think of this as an easter egg pertaining to Damien: Omen II. I wonder what happened to the kid who played Damien in that film? The film then cuts to Bond in Italy with some French bird. There's genuine drama and emotion in these scenes because Bond's clothes have shrunk in the wash. You really feel for Bond because his clothes are way too small for him and he must be in agony. It's like the wardrobe department went to some fancy fashion house but only the child's section was open. You can see the pain etched on Daniel Craig's face in these constrictive outfits.
The French bird tells Bond that he must visit Vesper's grave so he decides to do this but the grave blows up and all these people with Marty Feldman eyes keep trying to kill Bond and he's running away, jumping off bridges, riding a motorcycle, on roller skates, a pogo stick. And he's doing it all in clothes that are too small for him so it's taking even more effort. If he was wearing normal clothes it would probably be a lot easier.
Bond is angry now because he thinks the French bird might have set him up. Bond is confused. How did Spectre manage to recognise him? How did they know where he was? If I had to hazard a wild guess myself I'd say it probably had something to do with the fact that Bond is always driving around in a vintage Aston Martin. It's not exactly inconspicuous is it? We are about ten minutes into the film and the script is already making Bond look like a right old thicko.
So Bond and the French bird end up in the Aston Martin and all the Marty Feldman people are shooting the glass and it's beginning to crack. Bond isn't doing anything. He isn't sure he wants to live and no longer trusts the French bird. And on top of that he's thinking about how his clothes are too small and beginning to chafe. Bond eventually decides to use the Aston Martin machine guns to shoot all the Marty Feldman people and then he buys the French bird a one way ticket to Margate and shoves her on a train.
After a theme song by Billie Eilish (verdict: sonic cold Ovaltine), the film opens in London where a scientist named Valdo Obruchev is kidnapped from a lab. This all has something to with Project Heracles. Heracles is a virus with nanobots that, er, gives you a deadly virus with, um, some nanobot thingys in it. Hey look, I didn't write this film. Ask someone else about Project Heracles ok? Meanwhile, Bond now decides to go and live in the West Indies. Jamaica? No, she went of her own free will. Oh, please yourselves. Bond finds a nice gaff but the plumbing isn't brilliant so he has to shower outside in a rock pool like one of the contestants in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Bond likes it here because he has time to mope and the clothes aren't so tight.
Felix Leiter turns up out of the blue with some other CIA bloke we've never seen before. I'd watch out for the CIA bloke we've never seen before. I don't think I trust him. Felix wants Bond to go on a secret mission in Cuba but Bond is reluctant. Go away Felix, he says, I'm retired. Even though he's James Bond 007 in a James Bond film, Craig's Bond is always retired. He spends more time moping about retired than he does going on spy missions. Call me Mr Picky but I tend to prefer James Bond having adventures and going on missions than a James Bond who is always moping around all depressed and constantly retiring.
Somewhere around this passage in the film Bond meets Nomi. Nomi is pretending to be a local but she's really a British spy. It turns out that Nomi has inherited the 007 mantle and is a double-o. Nomi tells Bond to keep his beak out of any spy business and threatens to shoot him in the leg. She says Bond only has one leg that works and she'll shoot the good one. He really would be in trouble then because he'd have to spend the rest of the film in a wheelchair. I imagine it would have to be like the nifty motorised wheelchair that Blofeld has in the PTS of For Your Eyes Only. Bond would obviously have to be able to move around.
Think of the witty and entertaining games of one upmanship that Bond and Nomi will now embark upon. The thrilling adventures they will share. But they don't. The writers, having created this female 007 agent in the first place, then seem to find Nomi a pain in the arse to incorporate into their story. So they don't bother. They've got all this s*** with the French bird to cram in and they don't really have room for Nomi. So Nomi is left floundering on the fringes of the film.
When they turn up at the MI6 headquarters later, Nomi is just there hanging around with nothing to do. I honestly thought M was going to ask her to make the tea and fetch the custard creams. When Bond is on the island later and about to throw a seven, Nomi isn't even there helping him. Nomi is largely left valiantly trying to act cool in a stupid pair of sunglasses. To add insult to injury they give her the worst line in the film. What time is it? It's time to die! Yo' mama!
Cuba. Daniel Craig is at his lightest in the Cuba scenes. He seems almost happy. I think I know exactly why this is. The Cuba scenes were shot last. Craig is thinking - thank God this stupid film is nearly finished because very soon I can go home to my New York penthouse and count my money. Bond now teams up with Paloma - a young CIA agent. She's wearing the same dress that Barbara Bach had on in the desert in The Spy Who Loved Me.
I like Paloma. I would like to have got shot of the French bird and the female 007 and had Paloma as the lead. They could have done that in one of the old Bond films (you know, the ones they used to make before Barbara Broccoli went mad) but they can't do that here. They have all the baggage with the French bird to get through so there's no room for Paloma. And Daniel Craig would look even more like Mr Magoo if someone this young was his romantic lead for the whole film. So Paloma has to leave the film almost as soon as she is introduced - which is a shame.
Bond and Paloma have to infiltrate a Spectre birthday party for Blofeld. Bond just walks in with no disguise wearing a tuxedo. Even Roger Moore's Bond was more inconspicuous than Daniel Craig's 007. At least Roger's Bond slapped on a fake mustache or dressed up as a circus clown now and again. Craig's Bond drives around in a vintage Aston Martin and walks around in a tuxedo and yet he's constantly amazed that the villains keep recognising him. Bond walks around this plush Spectre function communicating through a hidden earpiece. True Lies already did this scene in 1994.
Bond has to kidnap the scientist Obruchev and deliver him to Leiter on a boat. He does this but the CIA bloke we've never seen before is a traitor and kills Leiter before escaping with the scientist. Bond has to watch the injured Leiter drown and this allows Daniel Craig to perform another scene where he has to be anguished while in a large body of water. This was something that Craig trained to do at acting school. They actually used to bring in a large tank of water specifically so that Daniel Craig could perform scenes in it. It seemed silly at the time but no one was laughing later when Craig became James Bond and got to perform a number of scenes where he's distraught and up to his neck in water.
So, it's RIP Felix Leiter. Craig's Bond is now Charles Bronson in Death Wish V: The Face of Death. He's cursed and far too old for this s***. At this stage I have a glazed vacant expression on my face but I'm still (just about) awake. We had some action in Italy and I liked Paloma. This is not a thrilling experience but it could be worse. It's almost as if the Bond people now read my thoughts and boldly took up the challenge of making the film worse.
You know how people sometimes say the first hour of Die Another Die was quite good but then it fell off a cliff? No Time To Die now falls off a cliff, sinks to the bottom of the sea, and then burrows into the ground like Doug McClure and Peter Cushing in At the Earth's Core. No Time To Die now becomes like a plane in rapid descent. Every stupid idea that anyone connected to this film has ever had about James Bond is now thrown into the story. Hold onto your seats. No Time To Die is now in complete freefall.
Bond goes home and sets up a meeting with Blofeld. What in the name of Victor Tourjansky is Blofeld blabbering on about when he meets Bond? Does this scene make any sense to anyone? In 1985, William Malone made a bargain basement Alien rip-off called Creature (aka Titan Find). The big coup of William Malone was persuading the German actor Klaus Kinski to appear in the film. Kinski (who they managed to hire for one week) gives, as you might predict, a very eccentric performance in Creature. You can detect that he has some degree of contempt for the film and having to appear in it. He rattles his dialogue off in a most carefree way as if he has better things to do with his time and wants to get off the set as fast as he can. So you have this (supposed to be) incredibly tense situation and Kinski is munching on a sandwich and looking bored by the whole thing.
Christoph Waltz in No Time To Die is Klaus Kinski in Creature! That's exactly what he is! Waltz has no idea what he is saying or what he is supposed to be doing. He's just bumbling through the scene and checking his watch to see when he can go home. While Waltz is sitting back and openly laughing at this film, Daniel Craig has decided that the Blofeld scene is the moment where he's going to let it all hang out and show us his acting chops. Craig murders this scene so badly that I wondered if he was drunk. It's like he's in the wrong film. 

I also wondered if Ralph Fiennes was drunk in No Time To Die. Fiennes seems to have decided that he didn't like playing Mallory in Skyfall and Spectre so he's going to create a completely new character for himself to play in No Time To Die. M in this film is like some oleaginous villain who has ended up as the chief of the secret service through some calamitous clerical error. I love the touching respect between M and Bond in No Time To Die. When Bond meets M in this film he barges in and says 'You still here dipstick? Lay off the sauce too you old drunk.'
Bond accidentally kills Blofeld during his questioning. That's death number two. Let me explain what is going on. Blofeld blew up Vesper's grave to make it look like the French bird did it. Blofeld knew that Bond would put her on a train to Margate and she'd have to spend five years playing penny slot machines and viewing Tracey Emin art. But Bond has been infected with the Heracles virus because the Phantom of the Opera man told her to spread it to Blofeld. It turns out the French bird is Blofeld's psychiatrist. What a stroke of luck that is for plot purposes eh?
Right, where was I? The French bird's father is Mr White. Not the snooker player but a character from Casino Royale. He was probably in other films but I can't remember now and I'm certainly not watching Quantum of Solace again so shut it. Anyway, Mr White killed the Phantom of the Opera man's parents and Opera man has a grudge against Blofeld. And probably a grudge against Bond and the French bird. And the virus you see, um, what happened with this virus is that, er, let me see, erm. Ok, I'll be honest with you. I have no idea what the plot of this film is right? I wasn't paying much attention after Paloma left. Go and read some other review if you want the plot.
Why is Bond so depressed and upset at the memory of Vesper. He didn't actually know her for that long did he? Why is so depressed about the French bird? Get a grip Bond. Stop moaning. Who cares? Bond now goes to Norway and tracks down the French bird. Turns out she has a young daughter. Oh great. Just when you think things can't get any worse we now have a kid in the film. A kid in a James Bond film! That's the stupidest idea in a Bond film since, well, since some berk decided to make Bond and Blofeld step-brothers. They should do a prequel where Bond and Blofeld are growing up together sleeping in bunk beds and playing pranks on one another.
At this stage in the film the story is now deeply and painfully boring. The MI6 scenes are tedious and I don't want a Bond film where Bond visits Q's house. Daniel Craig mugs this scene as if we are all splitting our sides with laughter. The electric comic chemistry of that legendary double-act Daniel Craig and Ben Wishaw. My sides are still aching. Was Moneypenny in this film? Naomie Harris feels like she had less to do than Caroline Bliss in Licence To Kill. Then they have a scene where the Phantom of the Opera man is a patient of the French bird and this scene goes on forever and he talks a load of mumbo jumbo really slowly. This is where the audience starts to become very fidgety. They keep checking the time to see how much more of this tedium they have to sit through. Gordon Bennett. This film is becoming an endurance test.
Anyway, the film is becoming dreary so they place a big action sequence in to make sure no one falls asleep. The action scene is a chase in Norway where Bond has to drive the French bird and the kid to safety with a load of helicopters and cars and bikes in hot pursuit. This is action by numbers. The car chases in umpteen other modern films are better. There's no elegance or wit at all to the direction in No Time To Die. Bond catches up with the CIA bloke we've never seen before in a forest and drops a car on him. Take that CIA bloke we've never seen before. Felix was my brudder.
The Phantom of the Opera man kidnaps the French bird and the kid and takes them to an island near Japan where he's got a deadly garden of death. You can tell this is a garden not to be trifled with because he's eschewed garden gnomes entirely. Bond has to go to the island and blow it up because the Phantom of the Opera man wants to use the nanobot virus to take over the world. Is that an accurate summary of the plot? I have no idea. Why the Phantom of the Opera man wants to take over the world is something that eluded both me and the many writers of this film. It could be that he's just bored. He must have thought - why not? There's nothing on the telly tomorrow so I'll take over the world.
Bond is not alone though because Nomi has gone to the island with him. Nomi decides to give Bond the 007 designation back. Nomi is redesignated as 007 ⁵/₃. The duo drop down into the Phantom of the Opera man's island in a glider. Bond and Nomi shoot some people and creep around a Spy Who Loved Me style set. Then Nomi kills the scientist geezer who has appeared in the film already. And Bond ends up encountering the Phantom of the Opera man and tries to persuade him to release the French bird and the kid. The Phantom of the Opera man says he can't because it's his duty to kill everyone and ban the sale of garden gnomes worldwide. And Bond says they are kindred spirits because they've both suffered a lot. Bond tells the Phantom man that only the week before his boiler went on the blink and it took two days for a plumber to come out.
Bond kills the Phantom of the Opera man by battering him to death with a garden gnome. I almost forgot to mention that Bond has been infected with the nanobot virus. What the side effects of this virus are I don't know. It could be that Bond is now allergic to cheese. Bond is in constant communication with Q and ends up pulling levers in a control room after shooting some people. It's been thirty years since the last Craig Bond film and the writers, who had (cough) all the time in the world, couldn't think of anything more interesting than Bond pulling levers in a control room and shooting people?


007 ⁵/₃ manages to get the French bird and the kid to safety and Bond tells M to ask the Royal Navy to blow the island up. It's the only way to stop the entire world from becoming allergic to cheese. Imagine the consequences. The entire pizza industry would be ruined. No one would ever be able to have cheese on toast for their lunch again. Bond has to open the doors for the missile strike and then goes outside to wait. Jump off the cliff then Bond. You have (groan) all the time in the world to escape. But Bond decides he isn't going to jump. He's got the virus and so that means he can't interact with the French bird or the kid. And the virus is incurable according to Q. Is Q a flipping doctor now? So Bond decides he's going to let the missiles kill him.
So they actually do it. The producers and the director, who seem to despise Bond films, blow Bond up like a character in a Benny Hill sketch. And they take forever to do this. They think this is the most heart-rending scene in cinema history. Everyone in the audience is dumbfounded - and not in a good way. Did these idiots just perform a scorched earth policy on their own franchise? Bond will be back but it's always supposed to be the same character - just in a different era. Why is Daniel Craig's era so elf-contained? The ego of this man - insisting that his Bond get a death scene. In a blimmin James Bond film. You don't kill James Bond - even one as dull and depressing as the one played by Daniel Craig in No Time To Die.
The people at MI6 have a drink in memory of James Bond and then go back to work. They've forgotten him already. So in this Bond universe, Moneypenny sits at her desk in the MI6 headquarters but James Bond is dead and will never walk through the office door again? Isn't that the most depressing thing you can imagine? I don't even like Craig's Bond and I'm annoyed by the ending of this film so I dread to think what Craig fans feel like.
The Craig era feels like an increasingly bizarre experiment in how far they can push the franchise away from Bond films while still calling them Bond films. The problem with this approach is that, as No Time To Die illustrates, you end up with Bond films that are largely Bond films in name only. No Time To Die, despite its title, offers plenty of time for everyone to kick the bucket. It also offers plenty of time to mope, make Bond a depressed embittered loser, and bore the audience to death. It could have been worse though. Look on the bright side. I'm just relieved that Q's cats made it out of this film alive.
- Luke Quantrill
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