No Time To Die ****
Action. With Daniel Craig, Rami Malek and Léa Seydoux. Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga.
Years after the events of Spectre (2015), British spy James Bond (Craig) has retired alone to Jamaica. But when old friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) asks him to help rescue a scientist (David Dencik) who holds the key to a dangerous bioweapon, Bond reluctantly agrees. This leads him to the sinister Lyutsifer Safin (Malek), who has a connection to Bond’s former flame Madeleine Swann (Seydoux).
With this being Craig’s final outing as the iconic spy and the release date being moved many times, No Time To Die arrived weighed down by stratospheric expectations it couldn’t possibly meet.
Bond films are always a tricky proposition: they must surprise viewers with new, fresh elements but not stray too far from the tried and tested formula fans expect.
But Fukunaga (True Detective) delivers the required pulse-pounding action sequences, stunning and unusual locations and beautiful people wearing killer outfits while also allowing room for the most character development the series has ever seen.
Throughout his run, Craig – the best actor to play Bond – has added layers to the two-dimensional superspy, creating the impression of inner turmoil kept in check under a cold exterior even when performing the requisite glib quips, seductions and killings.
Bond has a character arc throughout Craig’s five films and in No Time To Die he’s the most human and emotionally vulnerable he’s ever been. His interactions with colleagues, friends and lovers are nuanced and endearing, adding a tinge of sadness because this will be the last time they’ll all be seen together.
Thankfully, the “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” is no more. The returning supporting cast is solid, though Ralph Fiennes as the new M still can’t outshine Judi Dench. Seydoux is given much more to work with than in Spectre while Lashana Lynch and especially Ana de Armas as Bond’s fellow secret agents are welcome new additions.
Unfortunately the plot is convoluted, some of the humour falls flat and Safin is a damp squib, but with nostalgic callbacks to previous films and a truly moving finale, the good far outweighs the bad. A fitting end to Craig’s take on 007 that reinvigorated an almost 70-year-old franchise.
2021. 163 MIN. 13DLV. AT THE CINEMA OR AVAILABLE TO BUY ON GOOGLE PLAY.
The Goop Lab season 1 *** 1/2
Documentary. This series is an extension of actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle and wellness company Goop. In digestible 30-minute episodes, The Goop Lab explores controversial wellness topics. Labelled pseudoscientific by critics, the show does come with fair warning at the start of each episode: “The following series is designed to entertain and inform – not provide medical advice.”
Operating “from a place of curiosity and nonjudgment”, Paltrow interviews various experts at the office while employees go out into the field. Their experiences include getting high on psychedelic drugs, trying out painful facial threading and vampire facials, and even talking to the dead!
In a much talked-about episode, 90-year-old “women’s guru of self-pleasure” Betty Dodson guides women away from body-shaming toward sensual wellness. The Goop Lab goes all the way with her, filming a woman reaching orgasm in real time.
Carefully and tastefully shot, executive producer Shauna Minoprio says the goal was to explore this in a way “that felt not exploitative, not clinical, not cheesy, but powerful”.
The show relies on anecdotes and shared experiences to “crack open taboos”. It offers a different perspective on wellness while introducing viewers to possibilities they might not even know existed. Not for the squeamish and best approached with an open mind.
– NATALI VARNEY
2020. 6 EPISODES. 16NS. AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX.
A: All ages D: Drugs H: Horror L: Language N: Nudity P: Prejudice PG: Parental guidance S: Sex V: Violence