By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2021
“An epic barnstormer…with terrific panache…pathos, action, drama, camp comedy, heartbreak, macabre horror, and outrageously-silly, old-fashioned action.” — Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.
“Extravagantly satisfying…often very funny…both improbable and outrageous…a sensationally-thrilling and sinister prologue…(with a) moving conclusion.” — Robbie Collin of The Telegraph.
“It’s better than good. It’s magnificent!” — Kevin Maher of The Times.
No Time to Die is the 25th official film, since 1962, featuring James Bond as British MI6 secret agent 007, marking the fifth (since 2006) and final time that British actor Daniel Craig, age 51 during the actual filming in 2019, would play the iconic, lead character.
Originally created by British author Ian Fleming in 1953, Bond is the kind of rugged, sophisticated, action hero that most men want to be, and that most women want to be with. The 007 film series is famously characterized by spectacular action sequences, innovative weapons, cool gadgets, fast cars, furious firepower, fiery explosions, beautiful women, improbable scenarios, exotic locations, wild escapism, and outrageously great fun.
Starring in this latest movie are Daniel Craig as the retired James Bond, French actress Léa Seydoux, age 34 during filming, as Doctor Madeleine Swann, Bond’s love interest (reprising her role from the 2015 Bond film, Spectre, as the first female lead ever to appear in two consecutive Bond films), American actor (of Egyptian descent) Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin, the show’s evil, terrorist villain, British actress Lashana Lynch as Nomi, the new agent 007, British actress Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, secretary to “M,” the head of MI6 (the British Secret Intelligence Service, formally the SIS, but informally MI6, for Military Intelligence, Section Six), British actor Ben Whishaw as “Q,” the head of MI6’s Quartermaster Branch, and Ana de Armas, a Cuban-Spanish actress, as Paloma, a young, CIA operative in Cuba, among other noteworthy actors.
It was filmed between March and December 2019, on location in Jamaica, England, Scotland, Italy, Norway, and the Faroe Islands (365 miles west of Norway, and 228 miles north of Scotland, but owned by Denmark), with a budget of about $301 million, $25 million of which was reportedly Daniel Craig’s salary. Actor Ben Whishaw noted that, “It was quite improvisational…we didn’t do many takes…Sometimes quite chaotic.” The movie runs a bit long, at two hours and 43 minutes, but that’s the main, detracting factor. Due to the worldwide, COVID-19 pandemic, the final release of No Time to Die was delayed until October 8, 2021, in the United States, although some theaters began showing it on October 6th. The film grossed $145 million worldwide on its very first day, however, so it was definitely a box-office success.
The basic plot, without revealing any critical details that might spoil it for film viewers, is that James Bond, who has been living alone in retirement in Jamaica (with an FN/Browning P35 Hi-Power pistol in 9mm) for the past five years, is initially recruited by the American CIA to help track down a kidnapped, renegade, Russian, MI6 scientist who helped to create a fearsome, new bioweapon, and has defected to the notoriously evil, Spectre organization.
In the opening sequence of the film, which takes place about 25 years ago, Madeleine Swann is a nine-year-old girl, played by young Coline Defaud, also age nine, living near Nittedal, Norway, where her French mother is killed by Safin, using a Czech Small Arms (CSA) vz. 58 Compact carbine in 5.56x45mm, with 7.5-inch barrel, long muzzle brake from the vz. 58 Tactical, and side-folding stock. Bond used exactly this same type of firearm in a gunfight scene at Spectre’s desert compound in the 2015 film, Spectre. It’s an interesting weapon, and I’ve written about the CSA vz. 58 Carbine before in a manuscript, with 12-inch barrel and long muzzle brake. Young Swann then shoots Safin repeatedly with her father’s (a Spectre assassin) pistol, which appears to be a Beretta 92FS, but he miraculously survives.
Two decades later, Bond and Madeleine arrive in Matera, Italy, shortly after his 2015 retirement from MI6, now deeply in love with each other, and Spectre assassins try to kill him there. Driving his bulletproof, MI6-modified, silver, 1964-vintage, Aston Martin DB5 sports coupe (one of 10 custom-built, carbon-fiber DB5s used in the filming), James takes part in a wild and reckless car chase, and his headlights retract downward in order to deploy a pair of DillonAero M134D Gatling guns in 7.62mm NATO. Whirling the DB5 around in a tight, donut maneuver, he mows down most of the bad guys, puts Madeleine on a train, and bids her farewell.
Moving forward to the present day, when the Russian scientist is kidnapped from an MI6 laboratory in London, the black-clad, Spectre gunmen employ Russian-made, Kalashnikov AKS-74Ucompact carbines in 5.45x39mm, with 8.1-inch barrels and laser aiming devices. This was the favored weapon of Russian SpetsNaz commandos, helicopter crews, and vehicle crews, as well as noted, terrorist leaders Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The AKS-74U was also famously used by James Bond (actor Pierce Brosnan) in the 1995 film Golden Eye, as well as by the movie’s female villain.
Arriving in Santiago de Cuba (but actually filmed at Pinewood Studios in London, England) soon afterward, to infiltrate a raucous meeting/party thrown by senior, Spectre members and attempt to recover the Russian scientist there, James Bond is ably assisted by the stunning Paloma, possibly one of the most-beautiful, Bond girls ever, who innocently claims to have just “three weeks training.” She wears a sleek, very-low-cut, midnight-blue gown that fits her to perfection.
De Armas aptly described her character as “irresponsible” and “bubbly,” but once the shooting begins, she is revealed to be a very fast, accurate, and deadly agent, surprising Bond. De Armas added for CNN that, “Bond women…They’re highly skilled, they’re powerful, (and) they show it in their own way.” The Guardian wrote in their review that, “Ana de Armas, who only has a brief appearance in No Time to Die, has 10 times the charisma of (Léa) Seydoux…She’s a lot more fun.”
During this raging, high-action gunfight, Bond uses his blued, Walther PPK pistol (See my recent article for Gunpowder Magazine, “The Walther PPK: A Timeless Classic,” published on April 26, 2021), apparently in 7.65mm (.32 ACP), while Paloma has her own Walther PPK, with a blued frame and stainless-steel slide. In constant production for the past 90 years, the PPK is probably the most-recognizable handgun in the world, thanks largely to the James Bond film series. It has only been manufactured in three calibers, however, all of them very marginal for self-defense purposes. 7.65x17mm (.32 ACP, holding seven rounds) was the most popular in Europe, followed by the 9x17mm (.380 ACP, with six rounds) and .22 LR (with nine rounds) versions.
The 007 film series began in 1962 with Dr. No, immediately introducing the Walther PPK as Bond’s issued weapon, and instantly making it the most-famous handgun in the world. The PPK has been featured in most, but not all films in the series, and it’s the only gun used by all six actors who have played the role of James Bond over the past 59 years. James Tarr recently wrote for Handguns magazine (October 10, 2019), while testing and reviewing a Walther PPK/S, that, “The Walther points so naturally and has so little muzzle rise that all I had to do was get my sights on target, and the hits took care of themselves. Four shots, four hits...the pistol ate everything without a hiccup.”
There are certainly newer, lighter, smaller, more-powerful, polymer-framed handguns on the market now, such as the Walther PPS M2 (described by the manufacturer as “the most-accurate, controllable, and concealable handgun available on the market”) in 9mm or the Ruger LC9s Pro (which is slightly shorter, narrower, lighter, less-expensive, and probably a bit better overall) in 9mm, but the Walther PPK carries a definite mystique due to its past association with Nazi Germany, James Bond, and the real MI5, MI6, and CIA, making it an incredibly-tough act to follow. It still remains one of the finest, compact, pocket pistols ever created.
During this same fight sequence in Cuba, James takes an AKS-74U from a Spectre bodyguard and uses it, then he acquires a Heckler and Koch MP7A1 personal defense weapon (PDW) in 4.6x30mm from another bodyguard, fires it, and tosses it to Paloma, who begins firing her Walther PPK with her right hand, and the MP7A1 with her left hand. She also uses an H&K MP5A3submachine gun in 9mm out in the streets.
The H&K MP7 is a fine weapon, designed in 2001 as a small-caliber PDW for penetrating enemy body armor and ballistic vests. It’s currently in use by SEAL Team Six, and various special forces units in Albania, Algeria, Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Russia, Turkey, and many other nations.
Later, James goes to Norway to check on Madeleine, after not seeing her for the past five years and nine months, and she has a five-year-old daughter named Mathilde, played by young Lisa-Dorah Sonnet, with bright, blue eyes, just like Bond’s (not too hard to figure that one out.) Safin is accurately tracking them both by now, however, and as Bond tries to drive the three of them to safety in a Land Rover Defender 110, Safin’s henchmen arrive in several Land Rover Sport SVR vehicles, and a helicopter, and there’s another thunderous car chase, off-road and into the Norwegian forests, but actually filmed in the Scottish Highlands.
During the fierce fight in the dense forest, Bond (and Madeleine) employs his trusty Walther PPK with lethal effect, as well as a Beretta ARX160 A3 Special Forces carbine (See my recent article for Gunpowder Magazine, “Italian Special Forces and Their Weapons,” published on October 3, 2021) in 5.56mm, with 11-inch barrel and Beretta GLX160 A1 40mm grenade launcher, but despite everything, Safin’s men swoop down aboard a very-dark-blue, AgustaWestland AW109S Grand helicopter and kidnap Madeleine and her daughter.
By this point in the complex plot, Bond has returned to active duty with MI6, and been officially reinstated as agent 007, with Nomi still a 00 agent, but no longer bearing Bond’s old number. Safin and his massive, bioweapons lab have been located on a “disputed island between Japan and Russia,” actually filmed in various segments in Norway, the Faroe Islands, and at Pinewood Studios in London. In fact, the massive construction of the underground lab on the island took up nearly the entire, 007 set at Pinewood, leaving only five feet of overhead space for studio lighting.
Bond and Nomi infiltrate the island together by air and sea, using another cool gadget (I’ll let it surprise you.) On Safin’s island, the two MI6 operatives wear dark-blue, assault uniforms, and Bond is armed with a Colt Mk. 18 Mod. 0 compact, assault carbine in 5.56mm (the favored weapon of U.S. Army Special Forces), with 10.3-inch barrel, EOTech holographic sight, and suppressor, and a SIG P226R pistol (the standard, British armed forces pistol until 2013, when they adopted the Glock-17 as standard-issue) in 9mm in a nylon, thigh holster on his right leg. Meanwhile, Nomi is carrying an H&K MP7A1 PDW in 4.6x30mm, with 7.1-inch barrel, red-dot, optical sight, suppressor, and an ample supply of spare, 40-round magazines.
Together, they manage to rescue Madeleine and Mathilde, and Nomi spirits them away in a boat to safety nearby, while James remains on the island to hunt down Safin and try to destroy the bioweapons lab. He does kill Safin, with the villain’s own Beretta 92FS pistol, but that’s about as much detail as I can offer without spoiling the very dramatic, emotional, and cataclysmic ending. James Bond films are always wildly entertaining, especially for firearms enthusiasts, often utilizing the latest weapons and gear, and No Time to Die certainly delivers grandly in that regard.
The Guardian’s review of the spy film noted that, “James Bond is James Bond because he is an army of one, who can parachute into any situation, save the world, and sail off into victory with a comely, young woman by his side.” Despite the truly spectacular ending, which was shocking to many, at the very end of the credits after the film was the cryptic phrase, “James Bond Will Return,” certainly not in the guise of Daniel Craig, but the search for a new Bond is set to begin in 2022. And that will surely be worth waiting for.
Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, is an NRA member, and has seen all 27 Bond films (25 official, and two unofficial.) He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.