By Cormac McCarthy
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s a new Bond film out. They’ve been keeping it very quiet. Luckily, I caught wind of it and headed down to the Gate Cinema in Cork City on Friday.
No Time To Die has had a very tumultuous production process, with Trainspotting and Yesterday director, Danny Boyle, slated to direct originally but was subsequently replaced by Beasts of No Nation director Cary Joji Fukunaga. The writing process was also steeped in delays with Phoebe Waller-Bridge providing rewrites in late 2019. Nevertheless, after a year and a half of a delay it has finally reached our screens.
From the outset, this Bond outing is rather different from the rest. Gone is the flamboyantly bombastic stunt generally expected. Instead, it opens with an almost horror-genre inspired passage that demands the viewers attention. Praise must be given to the cinematography as every scene shines with an effervescent glow, giving life to a series that many thought be on death’s door.
While the runtime of just under three hours may put some viewers off, the film more than manages to keep the audience’s attention. The film manages to balance its breathtaking action sequences with its more poignant moments effortlessly. Here, we see a Bond that is more than ready to be vulnerable to those closest to him while remaining stoic in his duties.
A delightful departure from the film is the rampant sexism that has often plagued the series as the female cast more than command the attention of the viewer. Ana de Armas delights as the hotshot rookie eager to earn her stripes, as she steals every scene she features in. Likewise, Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swan is not willing to be the damsel for her knight, and more than holds her own against Bond’s vigour.
While it is only one criticism, it is a large one that looms large over the film; there are just too many villains. Rami Malek’s scenery chewing is not enough to save the film from this plight as the title of the main antagonist gets passed around between four different characters, including M at one point. It leaves for a rather muddled second act where not enough time is given to either villain for them to be truly menacing.
REVIEW: First Cow
From a 250 million dollar film, to a two million dollar film, First Cow is almost the opposite to No Time to Die’s ostentatious scope. Here, the only star of the film is the unspoiled American landscape, and the only action is a brief chase scene towards the climax of the film.
The plot is simple. It concerns the arrival of the first dairy cow to the American frontier in the 1820s. Even then, the film doesn’t really concern itself with such things as the cow does not arrive until after an hour has passed in the film.
Instead, the director chooses to linger upon the naked beauty of nature’s most simple treasures, be it a mouse scurrying over the mossy fields or the lapping water of the river on which the cow arrives. Kelly Reichardt keeps the pace of the film intentionally slow, pointing out all the things you don’t get in a Bond film. Even the aspect ratio of 4:3 has a painting-like quality to it, as the camera sits still, voyeuristically watching the action unfold in front of it.
Instead of a daring caper, the film’s main objective is to portray the theme of friendship and the new beginnings that come with it. The setting of the 1820s as a perfect canvas for this theme as the landscape itself is seeing an influx of enterprise and trade. The friendship in question is between a young cook and a man falsely accused of a murder, who cross paths multiple times before meeting properly at a settlement in a primitive version of Oregon. The two men strike up a business arrangement where they sell cakes to the villagers whose palettes have not experienced such sweetness in quite a long time. They steal the milk to make the cakes from the local governor, the owner of the titular cow.
I must admit that I did not think very highly of this film at first, as the lack of discernible plot and runtime of two hours left me in a tired state. However, a rewatch allowed me to truly slow down and appreciate the magnificent pastiches of what life was like 200 years ago. While slow in pace, the relationship between the two characters drives the film forward. The film is not commenting upon anything other than that sometimes it is best to have someone to trust than to be alone in the vast world.
No Time to Die: 3/5
First Cow: 4/5