No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Now that I've seen No Time to Die for the 007th time, I feel like I can finally form some words about why it is not only, in my eyes, the greatest James Bond film of them all - and, yes, I still feel silly about how I was steadfast just one day before the premiere that Casino Royale could never be topped - but one of the absolute greatest films ever made, a distinction which only Casino Royale comes even close to matching.

Filmmaking-wise, no other Bond film comes close to what Cary Fukunaga is doing here. This thing is a constantly pored-over composition, from the way the image of the first shot reflects into the opening gunbarrel, to how we end the film on THE greatest Aston Martin of the series (yes, the V8, not the DB5) speeding into a tunnel, the light behind it diminishing into a white dot a la said gunbarrel. The work the second-unit are doing to deliver Fukunaga's vision in every single action sequence - most of all during that amazing oner in the stairwell, which has overtaken the parkour chase in Casino Royale and the tanker chase in Licence to Kill as my favourite of the series - is unparalleled.

Madeleine Swann, for as great as Léa Seydoux is, was one of my least favourite Bond girls in SPECTRE, a hollow and rushed effort to create another Tracy or Vesper. Right from her first scene - and I mean her FIRST scene, before we even see Seydoux reprise the character as an adult - No Time to Die does a monumental course correction for her character, as well as her romance with Bond, which is the most emotionally affecting of all of Bond's relationships for me. I might shed more tears when Vesper dies, but I don't shed tears during any of her other scenes with Bond; I have consistently had a profound emotional reaction to Bond throwing Madeleine onto the train before the credits, and an even stronger one to Daniel Craig's career-best scene where he lays all of his feelings on the table to her. That's to say nothing of the ending, but while I've marked this for spoilers, I want to hold off on talking about the plot details around this film's climax.

Daniel Craig is doing work here as Bond that I can't ever imagine another actor will best. In fact, I don't think a Bond performance even NEEDS to be this sublime, nor does a master-class, Oscar-worthy performance lend itself to most other Bond films, so I don't think it will ever be challenged. He gets to do everything here and he fully commits to every scene, even when he's toying with Blofeld. People have criticized that scene without understanding that it's not Craig chewing the scenery, it's Bond, building an emotional facade for himself and beating down Blofeld so that he won't lose control, a facade that only lasts for so long before Blofeld inevitably breaks it. Regardless of your feelings about that scene, every single other scene Craig performs in this movie should be shown at the Actors Studio.

I have a lot more I want to talk about, but I don't really know how to bring all of that home without tying it into the ending. Oh, Hans Zimmer's score is absolutely terrific and I think Linus Sandgren's cinematography is my new favourite of the series, too.

That's right: No Time to Die not only did the impossible by besting Casino Royale, it doubled down by besting ROGER FUCKING DEAKINS.

10/10
BEST FILM OF 2021
BEST FILM OF THE 2020s

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