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Harry Mount - No Time to Die

Arts | By Harry Mount

No time to wait: Harry Mount gets his 007 kicks from Bond's fashion sense

Bond is back – and he’s in a three- button suit!

In the opening set piece – a car chase through the ancient streets of Matera – Daniel Craig wears a beige cotton jacket with that old-fashioned, stylish number of buttons.

It’s a signal that this is uber-conventional Bond. The Broccoli family didn’t get where they are today – making a fortune out of the Bond films ever since the first one, Dr No, in 1962 – by playing around with a winning formula.

So all the old ingredients are here. That car chase in Matera is agreeably heart-stopping – so heart-stopping that I moved back four rows from the front row, where I normally sit for full, smack-you-in-the-face action.

There are the divine Bond Girls: Léa Seydoux, with a winsome, subtle performance as the love of Bond’s life, Madeleine Swann; Lashana Rasheda Lynch as the new, understated 007, who’s taken over Bond’s job now he’s theoretically gone into retirement.

There are two terrific baddies. Christoph Waltz is wonderfully creepy as Blofeld. Rami Malek, as Lyutsifer Safin, is reminiscent of his last big part as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, though this time more like an evil Freddie Mercury with a terrible skin problem and a strange desire to attack the human race with a deadly virus.

No Time to Die was filmed before the pandemic – which endlessly delayed the movie’s launch. But it is spookily prescient in its plot: the deadly virus, Heracles, spreads from person to person and is impossible to cure altogether.

The Crown – everyone knows the history and the characters already. There’s no need to waste time explaining who M (a sympathetically depressed, worried Ralph Fiennes) and Q (a neurotic, quirky, camp Ben Whishaw) are.>span class="Apple-converted-space">

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Or, as director Cary Fukunaga has done here, you can stick to the stereotypes and drench them in nostalgia. That produces its own pleasure, with Bond driving his old Aston Martin and returning to his beloved Jamaica. The most poignant moments are when Louis Armstrong’s We Have All the Time in the World – the best thing in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – is played at the beginning and end of this Bond film.

But sticking to the stereotypes produces its own longueurs, too – and the film is altogether too long, at two hours and 43 minutes.

The final scenes are particularly dreary, played out in, yes, a concrete hangar beneath the island lair run by Safin. This cliché is brilliantly lampooned as Dr Evil’s Secret Volcano Lair in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999). But here it’s played completely straight – with Bond tackling his adversaries in a series of concrete rooms that look like 1970s school gyms.

Still, Craig looks perfect – not just in the three-button suit, but also in black tie and a cable-knit Royal Navy jersey, topped by that angular face, carved out of granite. If anything, he is a little too expressionless and measured – on the verge of becoming flat. But the script, co-written by the normally very funny Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is so unflashy – with only one or two touches of Roger Moore eyebrow-raising irony – that Craig’s downplayed style suits it. His under-powered approach also paradoxically heightens the extreme violence when Bond turns rough.

Craig has been a fine Bond, but here’s hoping his replacement will be allowed to grapple with the franchise clichés in his next outing.

This story was from November 2021 issue. Subscribe Now