No Time To Die (2021)

The Greatest 007 Film Of All-Time, NTD is a zenith, event finale to a 25-film, 60+ year franchise; back to the beginning for the conclusion w. the best cinematography, score, cast/performances, fandom-service, villain, genres, characterization, & themes. 9.6/10.

Plot Synopsis: Bond is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving MI6 active service. This peace, however, is short-lived when his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, begs for resurgence on a mission like nothing they’ve ever seen before – one rooted in Bond’s very beginnings as 007.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A 25 Film, ~60 Year 007 Mythology

Casino Royale. Skyfall. Goldfinger. From Russia With Love. Dr. No. Goldeneye. On Her Majesty’s Service. Live & Let Die. Quantum Of Solace. Diamonds. Thunderball. Etc. A Ciné Icon & Post-COVID Studio Landscape

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

Casino Royale. Skyfall. Goldfinger. From Russia With Love. Dr. No. Goldeneye. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Live And Let Die. The Spy Who Loved Me. Spectre. Licence To Kill. The World Is Not Enough. Quantum Of Solace. Thunderball. The Living Daylights. Moonraker. Tomorrow Never Dies. Die Another Day. For Your Eyes Only. Diamonds Are Forever. You Only Live Twice. Octopussy. The Man With A Golden Gun. A View To A Kill. The Bond 007 movies boast a rich legacy in cinematic history: a shaken-not-stirred cocktail mix of masculinity, subterfuge, espionage, Aston Martin DB9’s, swanky tuxedos, noirisms, femme-fatales, cheeky one-liners, exotic locales, & aciculate repartée since their debut ~60 years ago. The 25th film and finale to the saga, No Time To Die, was scheduled for release back in 2020.. only for the world to get hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic. A scene out of Contagion [which saw a viral – pun intended – resurgence of rewatches for its impossible prophesization and parallels between MEV-1 and COVID, from Wuhan origins to r0 to antivax-precursors to bat-transmission] we’ve been stuck in a Groundhog Day loop for purgatoric ages within, one of the most stricken and tragic industries affected by the pandemic has been cinema. The already-dying theatrical experience’s landscape-shift to streaming was only catalyzed 10x over by the virus, and studios clutched onto the reels of their most precious big-ticket projects for dear life: delays of sometimes years in desperate futility/hope the world would return to the old norm. By the grace of the vaccine, our modern-day gladitorial conquests have finally shown the early signs of life and resurgence after this long winter – however many casualties and bankruptcy victims later, reopening again. We at CLC immediately made a road-map of release dates on new screeners like kids in a candy story or Christmas morning, and the first film we had to see in theaters was the conclusion to one of the greatest cinematic icons of all-time: Bond.. James Bond.

The Cinematography & Score

The Most Breathtaking A/V Canvas Of Any 007 Movie – Exotic Locales To Camera Technique To Avant-Garde Compositional Shot Frames To Aestheticization; Orchestral Reworking Of Classic Themes, Modernized

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

The Greatest 007 Film Of All-Time, No Time To Die is a zenith, event finale experience to a 25-film, 60+ year franchise – taking us back to Bond’s beginnings for his conclusion with the best cinematography, score, cast/performances, fandom-service, villain, genre-diversification, themes, depth, and character-driven, avant-garde, emotionally-powerful storytelling of the saga to breathtakingly close the cinematic icon’s arc with stylishly-modernized classicism. NTD is the definitive film of its entire filmography – the ultimate spy and 007 epic, the perfect film event to go back to theaters for the first time on, and a remarkable achievement of individualization in a collection of heavy-hitter crowdpleasers this extensive – beloved by generations dating all the way back to when polka dots and peace signs were in-vogue: the 1960’s. The film is the sum of masterpiece parts, come together to form something greater: metaphorically akin to the complex, beautiful sweeping-dial inner-mechanizations of a Rolex to synergize with its overarching leitmotif of time. No Time To Die [otherwise abbreviated NTD] boasts the best achievement of every tenet and aspect of filmmaking in its franchise. Visually, the film blows every other 007 project out of the water. In fact, it might just be one of the most ocularly-breathtaking and resplendent films of any category we’ve seen this year – and it’s a stacked year, from The Green Knight to Titane to Annette to In The Heights to Mogul Mowgli to ZSJL. This is due largely to the fact it was built specifically for IMAX – taking a page out of Nolan’s playbooks, the first of its franchise and spy movies in general shot exclusively featuring the Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 and ARRIFLEX in 65mm to infuse every frame with the optical grandeur and jaw-dropping spectacle characteristically signature of the brand.

Themes

The Overarching Theme Of NTD Is Time; Like Its Lumaria Showers Red As Tuscan Sky Over 07 Bliss Symbolize, Can We Just Forget The Past? Or Does It Grip, Reign, & Drive Life, Nature, Fate, Civilizé, Identity, Death?

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

The cinematography by Linus Sandgren [First Man, La La Land, American Hustle] is brilliant – avant-garde compositions that harken back to the globetrotting adventure, lush glamorization, and bombast of the early Bond movies, modernized with the crystal-clarity and hyperrealism gifts bestowed by modern technology yet without losing any of its tableau emotionalism even in the largest-scale of its action scenes. Technique-wise, the film employs a toolkit of proficient modus operandi: rotational multi-direction pans, quick-cut successions, deep-focus, vignettes, high-key/flood lighting, extreme long shots and long takes, old film splices, jump-cuts, etc. Heck, they even managed to fit in (twice!) a real-time gun-barrel shot; what could be more 007 than that?! Flawless VFX bewitch our eyes as well in the experiential action scenes and kaleidoscopic/expressionistic opening theme visuals to make the film easily warrant its reported $250M price tag by the ocular fluidity and eye-candy alone. Natural sublime is found in every one of NTD’s exotic locales, ranging from the snow-laden forests of Norway to Themyscira-evocative sea cliffs of Matera, Italy to city-streets of London to tropical beaches of Jamaica to Eden-like Old Testament islands of Faroe. This elemental awe is dichotomized by NTD’s technology – which it certainly packs the best exposition of the series on: guns, cars, and gadgets in action scenes of pure edge-of-your-seat, pulse-rattling adrenaline somehow executed with ballet-like grace from its new-genre-classic opening Spectre chase. The score helps tremendously in boosting the A/V horsepower beaneath No Time To Die’s hood – by the work of [whom else?] but the greatest living composer in cinema: Hans Zimmer. Not only does he do justice to iconic brassy-and-string theme by maintaining its ostinati, countermelody, and bridge complexity, but he re-engineers and deconstructs it too – remastering it with the crispness and clarity of modern acoustic mix-and-masters for maximum experience on IMAX subwoofer/tweeter-combos. This is while he peppers the classicism with epic modernized horn drops, dubstep ground-shaking bass crashes, and aggressive jungle-like drums to dial up the stimulation and BPM heart-rates, juxtaposed with soft minor key pianissimo quiescence in NTD’s many emotional scenes of heartbreak and tragedy.

The Action

A $250M Budget: The Biggest Ever In A Spy Movie & You Feel It In Every Frame; A Visceral, Pulse-Rattling, Edge-Of-Your-Seat Canvas Of Adrenaline-Fueled Experience As Powerful As Its Aston Martin DB V8 Roars

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

Of course, Billie Eilish’s theme deserves praise and singular recognition as well – exemplifying the somber, melancholic, bitter, languishing tone of its themes, character-arcs, and story as she hits remarkable falsettos in perhaps the best modern theme besides Skyfall. The story, to add a car metaphor to the watch one, is like if someone took parts of every Aston Martin DB ever made and reworked them into a love-letter chassis employing all design elements, body work, engine mechanization, interior craftsmanship, etc.: a new, modernized design of pure class and elegance that works just as much as a new luxury sportscar GT as it does as an homage amalgamation of the classics. NTD does this by its character-driven story and construction – one that feels like a curated museum tour of everything 007. There are direct continuations of arcs and references dating all the way back to the 1960’s-2010’s: Spectre, Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, Skyfall, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Quantum Of Solace, & more. This is not only in characters from Vesper Lynd to Madeleine Swann to Ernst Stavro Blofeld to M, Moneypenny, and Q juggled perfectly in screentime, but also in the milieu. The fandom-service is absolutely insane; sure, films like Casino Royale and Skyfall might have slightly-better and more intimate strictly-007 storylines, but no film ever encapsulated Bond like NTD does: what we would [easily] pick if someone put a gun to our head and made us play the desert-island game of choosing only one film from the saga to watch the rest of our lives. Gadgets, guns, girls, glitz-and-glamour, and glossy cars are omnipotently-weaved across the landscape – all the sexiness, shootouts, sparkling tech, and sleuthy thrills promised by its IP and more, while even evolving them. For the cars every man in the audience came to see, especially lifelong gearheads and fuel-junkies like we are here at CLC, NTD is easily the definitive Bond film.

The Greatest Cast Ever In A 007 Movie

Chrisoph Waltz, Ana De Armas, Jeff Wright, Léa Seydoux, Dencik, Magnüssen, Lynch; The Best Thespian & Oscars Pedigree Of 007 Saga, Led By Daniel Craig & Rami Malek; The Top Bond, Girls, & Villain In One Movie

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

Not only does it bring back the Greatest Movie Car Of All-Time: The 1960’s Silvery, Rear-Axled, ZF-Transmission, Machine-Gun Clad, Bulletproof-Windshielded, Luxury Coach Grand-Tourer 1964 Aston Martin DB5 to grippingly and instantly-remind us why it never has or ever will lose its crown or title, but it also fits into the plot cars from every era. From the 80’s DBS Superleggera to 2000’s V8 Vantage to 2020’s Valhalla hypercar amongst the most beautiful, expensive, and high-performance automotives ever crafted, NTD shows how far the brand of Aston Martin has come alongside Bond for the ultimate cinematic motor experience – well, outside of 2010’s Need For Speed [Bugatti Veyrons, Koenigsegg Agera RS, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Ferraris, Benzes, ’70’s classics, and $3M Shelby GT-customs racing across California; sure, it was mixed cinematically, but nothing compares car-wise] for a single brand. The gadgets are ridiculously-advanced, from electromagnetic pulse-watches to nanotechnology-hacking devices to yacht-cruisers to trap-doors on island lairs with libraries of weaponized toxins to jet-planes feeling almost like works of science-fiction or Batman comic books. The Bond Girls in No Time To Die manage to [impossibly] satisfy both male eye-candy appetites and feminist legions without offending the diametric-opposition extremes. Ana De Armas is perhaps the most breathtakingly-gorgeous Bond Girl we’ve ever had [& one of the most beautiful in the world right now], while also stealing the show with her comically-awkward spy-nescience performance juxtaposed with striking proficiency and aptitude to get the mission done [she deserves her own spinoff origin project just for how good she is in barely 5-10 minutes of screentime].

The Fandom Service & 007 Evolved

References, Cameos, Remixes, & Panegyrics To Bond History, Classical-Yet-Modernized: Gadgets, Girls, Guns, GT’s, Glitz-And-Glamour, & Genres Of Romance, Comedy, Drama, Action – Mixed/Balanced Perfectly

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

Léa Seydoux is beautiful-with-brains, being not only a possible femme-fatale betrayal arc of tragically-doomed lovers with 007 in the beginning of the film, but also a psychotherapeutic doctorate with important cinematic gender exhibition in high-IQ professional fields on-screen: a mother grappling with lost-love in Bond and childhood trauma herself in Safin [a brilliantly-scripted character-arc, becoming a psychologist to try to decipher and fix her, Bond’s, and Safin’s complex psyche’s]. Finally, Lashawna Lynch gives fantastic black woman representation, as well as Honey Ryder-vibes by her driver-guise introduction evoking nostalgia to the first Bond Girl extrapolated to Bond herself by dignitarily carrying the 007 mantle while Bond is off active-service. This was a major cancel-point for the series’ marketing teams when it leaked she was ‘the new 007’; people, rightfully, freaked out when they thought they were going to race/gender-bend a cinematic icon as the new Bond for the next wave of films: the laziest possible fake-diversity and faux-feminist superiority-complexing we’ve begun to see [tragically] many times in cinema, instead of just crafting a new character of that origin to give true representation and respect to its sex/culture by not giving them yt character sloppy-seconds. We’re happy to report it was just handled-poorly in marketing and not script-wise; Nomi is not Bond, just character who was given the 007 mantle [understandable, given Bond was away and presumed-dead for 5+ years, and there are tons of double-0 agent operatives] and is extremely-respectful it, proficiently a spy in her own right and merely poking lighthearted jabs with it in humorous oneupsmanship-gags when he returns – before growing to become a friend and even giving it back to Bond for the finale. No Time To Die’s women are far more than bimbos or misogynized sex-objects for Bond to plow in exotic hotel-rooms after instantly falling for him like many of the previous saga films have guiltfully characterized them as in reductionism – they [while still pleasing-to-the-eye] help drive the entire narrative and are full, multi-dimensional characters with their own arcs, depth, and individualism for the strongest-female 007 film since 1964’s Goldfinger and Pussy Galore.

The Greatest Bond Of All-Time

Craig’s Rustic Machismo, Brutality, Suave Repartée, Aciciulate Focus, & Cold/Steely Demeanor With Blue Eyes Of Depth & Life 007 Taken On A Journey Of Developmental Growth; Womanizer To Father In Love, Mission-Obsessed To Retirement.. Cancelled

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

The women comprise a sizable portion of what’s easily the greatest cast ever assembled in one Bond movie, even more impressive of Academy Award thespian perspicacity in its male counterparts. From the Mad Hatter, purely-evil batsh*tisms of Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld to David Dencik’s goofy sarcasm as Dr. Valdo to Jeffrey Wright’s teddy-bear huggability of tragically brother-lost Felix Leiter to Billy Magnussen’s comically-maladroit MAGA/GOP privilege-wreaking daddy’s political appointee turned shocking double-agent Logan Ash to Rami Malek as perhaps the best 007 villain of all-time [will definitely get to him later] to Daniel Craig as, without question, the greatest Bond we’ve ever had. Craig’s Bond ushered in a new era of the world’s preeminent super-spy with his rugged machismo, suave clean-cut repartée, aciculate mission-focus, and ice-cold/steely demeanor – juxtaposed with blue, captivating, life-bursting eyes to metaphorize the humanity lurking beneath. His version of the character’s journey from a brutal, vicious, empathly-deprived ‘hitman’ for the UK government perpetually looking-over-his-shoulder for his many enemies of omnipotence to self-discovery and finding love, family, purpose, heroicism, and peace in life is unequivocably the definitive and greatest cinematization of Bond – and one that’s made his trajectory so evocative, leading to the finale. For all the death, betrayal, tragedy, heartbreak, and darkest corners of humanity and villainhood he’s experienced across his 25-project filmography, we see 007 at the happiest we’ve ever witnessed him at the beginning of the film’s screenplay; he drives the beautiful roads of Amalfi Coast Italy at sunset in his classic DB5 with his new love, Madeleine, by his side in the passenger seat. Reaching a village hotel, Bond carries her in newlywed bliss as a shower of flickered burning papers red/orange as the Tuscan Sky rain down on them: a cultural tradition proclaimed luminaria, the lighting of the past through written anecdotes on fire for new beginnings just as 007 is trying to with Madeleine. This lights the fuse and torch of the major theme of No Time To Die: time. Can we just forget the past, or is it forever-tied to our souls with an existential grip on us from personal, cultural, sociological, and historical perspectives? Does it reign supreme over life, nature, fate, civilizé, identity, death? Is it linear, or a loop we’re doomed to repeat wherein everything comes full-circle?

The Villain: Lyusitfer Safin

From A Bone-Chilling Intro Of Violence In The Synergizedly Frosty Mountains, A Mystery, Phantasmagoric, Devil-Etymology, Broken, Geisha-Allegorical Villain & Best V. Performance Since The Dark Knight’s Joker

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

The bliss and happiness doesn’t – and can’t – last long; just as 007 lights his own luminaria to let go of the past at the tombstone of his previous love: Vesper Lynd, he finds another paper with only but a squid/ghost-like symbol we instantly-recognize from the past as the tomb explodes. One of the most shocking jolts of a moment I can remember this early in a film, it does more than elevate your BPM/heartrate – it begins a tour-de-force of braggadocio by the VFX, stuntwork, and actor teams in the city-chase scene and paves the way for the rest of the story. Before that, we get a bone-chilling introduction of violence and revenge in the aesthetically-synergized snowy mountains to the antagonist who carries out the inexorable malevolence of the story of No Time To Die: Lyutsitfer Safin. From the second he promenades onto screen, Rami Malek’s Safin absolutely steals the show – the mystification and phantasmagoria of his presence, subtle nuances of his actor’s unflinchingly-cold megalomaniacal/sociopathological performance, and haunting white sphinxlike, crytographic, emotionless mask make him absolutely unforgettable and a villain to haunt your nightmares without any special powers or tricks beyond realism, theatre, and pantomime. Safin is one of, if not the best villain I’ve seen in a major title since Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. The villain of NTD is a complete mystery and Kubrickian/Da-Vincian puzzle – and this is by design: what makes him so fascinating todecipher and unravel the [purposely] left-blank subtextual elements behind every one of his actions, lines, backstory implications, and motivations. The Geisha Safin’s aesthetic is clearly-modeled after is allegorically-brilliant; he, too, is unattainable, emotionally-complex, and – by the looks of the sizable proportion of IQ-deprived imbeciles who somehow hate NTD – an entertainment figure only appreciable by evolved cinematic palates and acumen.

Sympathy For The Devil

The Name & Iconography Evokes Primal Fear Of Malevolence Across Time & Culture, But The Fallen Angel Wasn’t Always A Figure Of Evil; Maybe A Prometheus-Figure Cast Out Of Heaven To A Lake Of Fire For Power-Exposure Just As Safin Is By Spectre & Bond

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

We never really get a full backstory outside glimmers; we’re told he is the only surviving member of his family – a little boy who manages to just escape a hit-job placed on his kin and life-blood by a Spectre he’s more-than-justified for wanting to bloodthirstily-end and get revenge on: depth, empathizability, rationale, the ability to evoke compassion even through violence, and internalized morality-wars, as the best villains have. The emotional complexity of his actions captivate: even if acquitable by recompense, savagely machine-gun rapid-firing defenseless mothers at close-range, but also going out of his way to spare a few lives – the child and sole surviving member of the family who killed his in Madeleine as a child [perhaps because she is exactly who he was in that same situation of being the last of their family left for magnificent character-dynamics] and her daughter Mathilde by refusing to keep her prisoner if she doesn’t want to be (not exactly full-villain behavior, again perhaps because of parallels of her reminding him of a young Madeleine). Over time, he grows colder even in warmer climates – becoming increasingly-megalomaniacal, yet always begging to question the real possibility of if he’s going to use his power and infrastructure for good.. or evil? There is certainly evidence of the hypothesis he’s really an antihero with benevolent intentions – prismatized through The Heracles Project arc. The world’s most powerful bioweapon, The Heracles Project is nanobot biological warfare so surgically-precise, it’s able to navigate around people in the same room to hit its DNA-target and hijack their body’s systems to [sadistically] rot them from the inside out. The very existence of this system brings themes of mad science into play and evokes nostalgia of comic books and classic spy/monster movies, now, not just fictional concepts with bad VFX and acting; they’re possible in real-life by the evolution of S.T.E.M. No Time To Die thus scares us with the very power of movies as a movie itself, as well as ourselves and our governments. Greenlighting and hiding experimentation this vile and repugnant against every semblance of ethics in the pursuit of power, conquest, warfare/weaponization and unknown causes (hinted by the revelation the hacked govt. file had thousands of names in its database; were there more targets they had in mind besides clearly-defined ‘criminals’?), governments are just as much the villain as Safin is for [inevitably] being the person who eventually steal it. Though he wields the power of God to wipe out anyone and any group of people on the planet at the flick of a whim, the only victims Safin actually kills are the scourges of humanity – the patriarchs of the world’s largest terrorist organization: Spectre. Oh, and Bond.. as we’ll definitely get to later on.

The Heracles Project

Themes Of Mad Science & The Evils Of Governments By The Very Existence Of A Bioweapon Like THP; As Much A Villain As Safin, Evoking Classic Science-Fiction Movie Nostalgia Now A Reality By STEM Evolution

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

This also plays off his name. L[y]u[ts]cifer Sa[f]t[i]an clearly gets its etymology from Lucifer Satan. The mere glimpse or mention of he-who-shall-not-be-named, the moniker [whether it’s either of the above, Beezlebub, Mephistopheles, etc.] and red, horned iconography evokes primal fear and chills down spines across cultures and times, evolutionarily and historically coded into our cultural and civilizational DNA like the kind The Heracles Project targets. However, we have to remember: according to research, archeological excavations, and the Book Of Isiah in The Bible and against societal preconceptions, the devil was not always bad. There is subtext he was a beautiful, fallen angel called ‘son of the morning’ who once ruled by God’s side.. but was cast out of heaven to the Lake Of Fire for defying him – for, as our research brought up (though we’re not theological historians), reasons variable but not conclusively known.. maybe-just-maybe there’s another side of the story in need of proper journalistic excavation that never got its side told. Maybe.. the devil was a sympathizable Prometheus-like creature who simply refused things like false idol worship and subjugation as an angel to man (as its rules/law can be interpreted to support), doomed to the universe’s biggest punishment out of exposing a power-trip and pointing out hypocrisy, fueling his hatred for God and his creation of mankind to become evil afterwards. The devil’s lore is brilliantly connected to Safin – he, too, is not always bad, has a mysterious backstory origin that fuels his hatred for those responsible, operates from the shadows rarely seen on-screen, visually-intimidates by appearance, is introduced to us by a lake only here elementally-dichotomized: fire-to-ice] in the morning sunrise, defies and rebels against godlike power [here: Spectre] while also questioning that given to Bond in his consequence-less freedom in a licence to kill (one of the interpretations of the fallen angel’s rebellion was over the concept of free will), exhibits pride and ego in a God-complex, and is metaphorically cast out of the heaven of proper childhood happiness/development by the life-shaking event shaping his origins.

A Remixed And 10x Better Dr. No

Back To The Very First Bond Movie & Villain 007 Ever Faced In 1962’s Dr. No For The Conclusion, A Megalomaniacal, White-Coat, Eastern, Garden/Pool-Dying, HAZMATed, God-Complexed, Private-Island Remake & Prism For The Real Life Horrors Of Two Eras

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

All of these are just nuances and [brilliant] design-touches that alone culminate to catalyze Lyusitfer Safin’s rise as one of the best new villains of 21st century moviemaking, but what fully coronates him is history and lore; he’s a remixed and 10x better version of the very first villain 007 ever faced: 1962’s Dr. No. An adventure epic disguised as a romance film masquerading as a horror-comedy with a pervasive atmosphere of espionage thrills, calculating masculinity, gadgets, girls, and gunsmoke, we still vividly remember the first time we ever watched the movie that introduced James Bond – by the grace of Sean Connery [R.I.P.] – to the world. Despite every cinematic intangible it had going for it, the film’s early prototypical version of Dr. No was ~mixed: directionless motivations, whitewashing, and bordering too much on somnambulence-over-intensity in performance. Though the film did more than enough right to inaugurate a new cinematic icon for generations, mega-fans still wished DN’s incredible concept-pitch [we diagnosed back then as perhaps the best 007 ever dreamed up in its island-malevolence] got a film as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall – and, now, it finally does! The decision to go back to the very beginning of the franchise 25 films and 60 years ago to evolve, properly-execute, and modernize the ~exact same film with perfect intangibles this time around for its grand finale is quite simply the zenith finale ever conceptualized – one that dropped our jaws firmly to the ground the second we realized what it was doing and saw that island again for the first time in decades. This is the event-feeling, epic-scale, full-circle finale conclusion for the movie history books Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame so wanted to be – executed, contrastively, with cinematic grace, class, depth, and IQ for grown-ups, not children, and without the possibility of rectification and the franchise’s continuation hereafter. Exactly as 007’s first-ever villain, Dr. No, was back in the spy’s first movie in 1962, Lyusitfer Safin is too an enigmatic, megalomaniacal, white-coated, Eastern-cultural, gardening, black-haired, hazmat-farming, God-complexed, pool-dying, private-island mastermind villain who matches his predecessor down to even the damn minimalistic aesthetics of their lairs.

The Greatest Finale Ever To A Franchise

To Experience Classic Franchise Beginnings Again, Modernized & Perfectly-Executed W. 25 Films & 60 Years’ Worth Of Cinematic, Technological, Storytelling, $, Character/IP Evolutions. What More Could A Finale Be?

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

Rami Malek analyzes every subtle nuance, cue, mark, and facial expressionism [+ lack thereof] of Joseph Wiseman’s original performance of stoicism, equanimity, composure, and sobriety as Dr. No – and surgically-recreates it, while improving it on every level with the acting pedigree characteristic of the golden Academy Award/Emmy duology every actor/ess dreams of one-day achieving as exemplification of pure dominance over their craft. Heck, even other plot, setting, and character details exactly-parallel Dr. No’s – the setting of Jamaica, introduction of Nomi as a driver-in-disguise like Honey Ryder, and both end with the destruction of the island the major strokes of its plot operate on. However, there are differences as well – and we love the decision to not just remake the original scene-for-scene but instead rework ingredients of it into a new Michelin chef’s dish. The biggest difference is not really one at all; both characters are prisms for the real-life horrors of their era, and only those have changed by civilizational landscapes. Back in the 1960’s, Cold War era paranoia and news of nuclear warfare were the biggest fears and topics of global conversation – which Dr. No seized and cinematized with brilliance in the most sadistic, privatized way to typify its era and endear itself to audiences’ fascinations, laying the foundations for franchise-growth culminating today. No Time To Die is true to that legacy – the world has become more technologically and scientifically-evolved than anyone from that era could’ve possibly imagined, by the double-edged sword of STEM-advancements in experimentation: able to realize once-dreamed sci-fi concepts limited to the movies like Artificial Intelligence and biological weapons on cellular levels in real-life. The fact that both villains’ themes and mechanizations are completely realistic and characteristic of their times only further elucidate the brilliance of them as antagonists – only Safin’s are not only darker, scarier, and deadlier, but his backstory, motivations, characterization is much more fleshed-out and multi-dimensionalized than Dr. No’s. Safin has an entire arc and justification for wanting to get revenge on Spectre, plus exhibit control over the world as recompense for having none when it took away his parents when he was just a defenseless, innocent little boy: a pseudo-Rosebud Citizen Kane reference in case the villain wasn’t already genius enough in construction. Oh, and he’s more accurate to Fleming’s original Dr. No 1960 source material, as well – down to even the mask that graces the novel’s cover art. Not only is he one of the most accomplished and proficient antagonists in cinematic history: bringing down an entire damn organization of the most powerful worldwide magnates of crime and tricking the world’s greatest spy by merely pulling strings with phone-calls and double-agents from behind-the-scenes, but he’s the only villain ever able to *SPOILERS* actually kill 007 – not just killing, but psychoanalytically demolishing him to the core of his soul – just when he’s completed his journey of self-growth and discovery, ready for the happy ending fairy-tale storybooks promised us.

The Death Of James Bond

One Of The Most Heartbreaking, Greek-Tragic, Avant-Garde, Perfect Finales Ever, A Cinematic Icon Is Broken, Deconstructed, And Killed By His Own Government, Fate, Inevitability, & A Villain Who Finally Does The Unthinkable; Realism Over Fairy Tales

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

The Author Of All His Pain in Blofeld & the lifelong organization of Spectre gone, the film wraps up that 20+ year arc with a bow and evolves 007 from the empathy and compassion-less womanizer pawn for the hit-job missions of the UK government into a man ready to finally settle-down and retire into a life of peace, fatherhood, quiescence, and suburbia with his wife and daughter – trading in guns for gummies, martinis for baby-bottles, reparatée for dad-jokes. Tragically, Safin and the cruelty of fate have different plans: heartbreakingly weaponizing him to become the instrument of mass-destruction he previously used on others to the thing he loves most: his family. The idea of being prevented from ever seeing and holding your wife and daughter again by becoming a biological vector that would kill them on the slightest breeze or touch is unconscionable: more than enough to prompt him to commit suicide and sacrifice himself to keep them safe by staying on the island when the nuke [even further connecting No & Safin] comes. Jesus. F*cking. Christ, that’s dark: one of the darkest, most soul-wrenching, Greek-tragic endings that could’ve been ever scripted for a cinematic icon, and we love love love the decision to be avant-garde, unpredictable, artistic, and expectation-subverting instead of the uber-clichéd happy-ending arc that wouldn’t have made sense for a character of a world like 007’s. The ending is one of perfect cinematic realism to its franchise and overworl: one of the darkest corners of humanity, villains, and terrorism, not one you’d find a rose-field beneath the grimy underground concrete in or happy ending for a character with as red a ledger or deep a rogues’ gallery of enemies and demons gunning for and inevitably catching up with him as Bond’s. 007 is metaphorically killed by his own government just as much as Safin extrapolationally; M and the U.K. were the ones that greenlit The Heracles Project that poisoned, weaponized, and sacrificed him – here literally as they did allegorically when he was on his missions. Still, even through all of that, he sacrifices himself to save his family and the entire world – a death on active-service of selflessness and duty to queen and country even when it betrays him; if that isn’t heroicism and a perfect arc ending, we don’t know what is.

A Real Ending & Textbook Franchise-Clinic

The Kryptonite/Antidote To MCU-Type Blockbuster Purgatory Of Exec., Formulaic, Artless, Neverending Franchises Poisoning Cinema Like Safin’s Plants; Finally, A Rebuke Of Box Office, Manifest Destiny, Plot Armor

Photograph Courtesy Of: MGM & Universal Studios

One of our favorite things about No Time To Die, however, is that even with one of the darkest plots and finales in the history of cinema, it never verges into a doom-and-gloom, overly-dour type aesthetic like Batman v. Superman. It also isn’t overly-airy or tonally-discordant with its events like Avengers: IW/Endgame. The film deftly balances more genres than have ever been achieved in one Bond movie to-date – perfectly-mixing abd balancing each one with pure cinematic grace, class, and elegance. Of course, there’s the classical drama, spy/noir thrills, action, and romance signature of the [modern] 007 series, but there’s also heavy romance and hilarious comedy [quite possibly, and impossibly given its events: the funniest Bond movie ever] injecting old-fashioned, refreshing wacky light-heartedness, fun, airiness, and innocence back into a series that had long since forgotten the days 007 went to space, fought voodoo, had shootouts on ski-mountains mid-luge, foiled Fort Knox gold-heist plans, or drove cars underwater as in Moonraker, Live And Let Die, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, etc. Beyond evocative nostalgia and a full-circle cinematic journey, do you know how damn nice and satisfying it is to be told a narrative with a clean, clear, closure-filled ending? Forgoing blockbuster purgatory of endless sequels, prequels, spinoffs, and reboots like the MCU [false-promising endings like Endgame, only to have 20+ projects announced and slated the very next year afterwards], No Time To Die rebukes the plot-armor, manifest destiny, and shareholder-corporatisms poisoning the soul of cinema like Safin’s plants to be the kryptonite/antidote to franchises.. to really and truly end one of the longest-running and most sacred cinematic sagas of all-time. Literally one of the only flaws is not even one of the film itself cinematically: we wish there was [& were pretty shocked there wasn’t] a one-line obituary and eulogization of the original Bond: Sean Connery, who tragically passed away last winter. Overall, No Time To Die is the perfect finale to 007’s story – one franchises need to take notes and deconstruct in textbooks for the ages on how to do a swan-song curtain-call finale to a cinematic icon perfectly in ~every way. The Greatest 007 Film Of All-Time, No Time To Die is a zenith, event finale experience to a 25-film, 60+ year franchise – taking us back to Bond’s beginnings for his conclusion with the best cinematography, score, cast/performances, fandom-service, villain, genre-diversification, themes, depth, and character-driven, avant-garde, emotionally-powerful storytelling of the saga to breathtakingly close the cinematic icon’s arc with stylishly-modernized classicism.

Official CLC Score: 9.6/10