In March, No Time to Die, the 25th installment of the James Bond franchise, became the first major Hollywood production delayed over coronavirus concerns and the subsequent closure of American movie theaters. The announcement came a new release date: Nov. 25, 2020.
Per tradition, 007 will return, but because everyone on the planet thought No Time to Die would debut globally in April, he won’t do so under the veil of absolute secrecy. To properly launch a blockbuster of this magnitude, the press cycle engines started revving months in advance. A GQ cover story gave star Daniel Craig the send off he deserved ... shortly before MGM and Universal made the decision to bump the movie seven months.
While most other press was suppressed, a few craft-focused features, set to publish alongside the film’s release, also made their way into the stream, offering a rare glance at how movies this size get made. According to the April issue of American Cinematographer, now available for free thanks to the magazine’s sponsor (who is aware we’re all trapped inside and need things to read), No Time to Die went to great lengths to widen the scope of Bond, through both story and photography. Yes, these are secrets that would be under lock and key in most normal cases, but they’re catnip for those waiting patiently to see the return of Craig’s Bond.
[Ed. note: this story contains spoilers for No Time to Die.]
In profiling director Cary Joji Fukunaga, the first American to helm a series entry, and cinematographer Linus Sandgren, whose credits include First Man, AC sheds light on the purposes of the various locations in the film. After the events of 2015’s Spectre, Bond has relocated to the Ian Fleming-approved Jamaica. He’s drawn back into action by Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to rescue “a kidnapped scientist” and ward off a “mysterious villain (Rami Malek) armed with dangerous new technology.” The mission takes him to Italy and Norway, but despite a slew of trailers, we don’t really know why.
But that’s not where things start, according to AC’s new look at the film.
The production was captured on a combination of 35mm and 65mm film negative. The filmmakers wanted smooth transitions between the two gauges, so entire sequences were designed for one format or the other, with no intercutting. The extended pre-credit sequence (shot in Norway), in which Safin hunts down victims on a frozen lake, will play in IMAX in theaters that are so equipped, and then the first scene following the credits is anamorphic widescreen. Other IMAX sequences include a car chase in ancient Matera, Italy, and an action scene in Cuba involving Bond and Nomi (Lashana Lynch) — a fellow double-0 agent with elite skills, who’s promised to give the super spy a run for his money.
Confirmed: the action in No Time to Die will be big.
As AC probes the aesthetic choices of the film, we also learn a bit more about how the leftover pieces from Spectre fit together.
The filmmakers certainly wanted to emphasize the contrast between the warmth of Jamaica and Italy, and the cold, nearly monochromatic feel of Norway and of such institutional interiors as the chamber where former SPECTRE head Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) speaks with Bond.
The first trailer for No Time to Die reintroduced Waltz’s take on the classic Bond villain, who appears to be in full Hannibal Lecter mode. But why does Bond need his help? After mixed-negative reactions to Spectre, one might think the Craig run was done with the criminal organization. Not so fast. As AC notes:
One notable crane shot featured in a scene where Bond, showing up at a SPECTRE party in a dark ballroom, is revealed by a spotlight to be surrounded by unfriendly figures. The first portion of the scene was covered on Steadicam and dolly as Bond moves about, and then a high-angle setup revealed the sea of opposition he faces.
Casino Royale introduced an unnamed shadow organization into the rebooted lore. Quantum of Solace gave it a name: Quantum. Spectre gave it a new name: Quantum, a division of SPECTRE. And while 007 took down the group’s chief executive officer, they apparently continue to plague him five years later to the point where he’ll need to infiltrate their parties. Evil will not be social distancing this holiday season.
Bond geeks may have mixed reactions to the the continued importance of SPECTRE in the new continuity, but with the throwback comes a surprising amount of art, according to production designer Mark Tildesley.
Perhaps the biggest-scale nod to the franchise’s storied past is a gigantic underground set. The set might bring to mind production designer Ken Adam’s creation of Blofeld’s base inside a volcano in You Only Live Twice (shot by Freddie Young, BSC) and SPECTRE’s colorful garb in that film.
“We had Ken Adam’s book [Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design] firmly opened on our desk throughout the whole process,” Tildesley says. “As this is Daniel’s last film in the franchise and the 25th Bond film, we thought hard about how to evoke some of the best bits and pieces from the previous films.”
With half a year to go before No Time to Die, these may be the last morsels of Bond news we get for awhile. So savor them. Luxuriate in their glow. Sip them up — shaken, not stirred, of course.