No Time to Die Soundtrack Review

No Time to Die Soundtrack Review


When the original composer for No Time to Die, Dan Romer, departed the project in January 2020 amid reports of ‘creative differences’, it was reassuring to hear that Eon Productions had hired Hans Zimmer as his replacement. Hans Zimmer can be described as one of the most prolific film composers of the past twenty years or so and one of the most diverse in output. Some may have suspected that Zimmer would only get the chance to score a Bond film if his frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan was called upon to direct- but thankfully, this did not prove to be a requirement.  No Time to Die’s soundtrack is certainly better than Thomas Newman’s self-repeating musical contributions on SPECTRE in 2015, but how much better? The score begins with the gunbarrel music, which is included here on the official promotional soundtrack release for the first time since (checks notes) Die Another Day. It’s a brash arrangement which ends with the truncated ascending brass fanfare employed by David Arnold in Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough, a confident and traditional musical opening. The next track, Matera, begins with moody strings before moving into a romantic lush vein and quoting John Barry’s “All the Time in the World” theme. It’s a slightly derivative but nevertheless appropriate musical flourish that ominously foreshadows the danger waiting to ensnare Bond and Madelaine’s relationship. The piece closes with more of the same wistful strings, something of a Zimmer staple. Message from an Old Friend opens with a discordant brass passage that recalls elements of Newman’s work on Skyfall, before developing at the 0:55 mark into a slowly building Bond theme with intrusive moments of sinister Barry-esque menace, reflecting Bond’s frenzied efforts to avoid SPECTRE’s trap. Square Escape effectively combines pounding statements of the Bond theme with tragic violin strings which appear from the 1:08 mark, reflecting both Bond’s victory over the SPECTRE assassins and his heartbreak at Madelaine’s apparent betrayal.


Someone Was Here, meanwhile, is a commendably Arnold-esque cue, with a grandly sweeping travel motif at the 0:30 mark, laced with characteristic brass, followed by around a minute and a half of stealthy woodwind passages and then a dynamic reference to the Bond theme at the end. Not What I Expected is a slightly generic piece, with mournful brass to enrich proceedings, while What Have You Done? continues in a similar style, but with a vigorously triumphant Bond theme arriving at the 1:26 mark. Shouldn’t We Get to Know Each Other, like the scene it accompanies, is playful and energetic, with a brief but stylish statement of the Bond theme on guitar as Bond appears in his dinner jacket. Cuba Chase is the out-and-out action highlight of the score. It opens with softly chilling woodwinds, before bringing in a loud action motif at the 1:00 mark, backed by racing, dramatic Cuban instrumentation that recalls David Arnold’s use of Latin percussion in the Die Another Day score. As Bond and Paloma face off against the henchmen, at around 2:38 the loud action motif meshes with the Cuban influences to produce a highly entertaining, almost lighthearted rendition of the Bond theme at 2:51 before driving, bombastic horns accompany the impact of the climactic car crash, followed by a final building flourish of Bond’s theme. This is a great piece of action scoring, and a true throwback to David Arnold’s scores for the Pierce Brosnan era.


Back to MI6 starts with synthesised menace before moving into a traditional rendition of the Bond theme, which feels far more prominent in this soundtrack than in either SPECTRE or Skyfall. Similarly, Good To Have You Back employs a slow orchestration of John Barry’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme, a welcome homage which appropriately accompanies Bond’s briefing with M as he prepares to meet Blofeld. Lovely to See You Again quotes tragically from the main title song, which makes a sombre entrance on piano. Home features more of the same typically melancholy Zimmer strings to construct a rather solemn atmosphere. Norway Chase is more intriguing, with heavy brass and glistening woodwinds from around the 1:10 mark which put this listener in mind of the menacing and surreal tones of “Blofeld’s Plot” from Barry’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service soundtrack. At 2:05 we hear some functional action music, supported by a dramatic choir which builds into a statement of the Bond theme at about the 4:15 mark before descending into racing ostinatos as Bond flees through the forest. This is another strong cue, and representative of how Zimmer interweaves his own style with the Bond sound here. Gearing Up, meanwhile, puts the Bond theme on frantic, driving strings in a mode reminiscent of Zimmer’s work on the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Poison Garden moves into horrific territory with a low sinister choir, ambient chimes, and quiet, creepy percussion at the 2:50 mark as Safin explains his hideous schemes. The Factory is a lengthy action cue, with driving ostinatos and strings before disturbing, nerve-jangling percussion at around the 2:55 mark accompanies Bond’s discovery of the poisonous heart of Safin’s lair.  I’ll Be Right Back involves frenzied, developing brass passages as Bond fights his way through the base, while Opening the Doors gives prominence to Zimmer’s loud, brassily metallic version of the Bond theme as the spy rushes to save the day. Final Ascent is the longest cue on the album at over seven minutes in length, and is largely devoted to moody, pensive strings as Bond contemplates his ultimate fate. It’s a repetitive but nonetheless effective musical sequence. The album ends with Billie Eilish’s title track, a dark and emotional ballad of a song very much in keeping with those from Skyfall and Spectre.


Hans Zimmer’s No Time to Die’s soundtrack is a welcome improvement over Spectre’s, and while some of the action music is a little generic the musical quotations from John Barry are used well, and Zimmer adds a few interesting flourishes of his own to keep things fresh. Ultimately, No Time to Die is a diverting addition to the world of Bond scoring.


Standout Tracks:

Matera

Cuba Chase

Back to MI6

Norway Chase

Poison Garden

"The spectre of defeat..."

Comments

  • Unknown007Unknown007 Posts: 186MI6 Agent

    When I first heard the OHMSS Music I was half expecting at some point to hear Nobody Does It Better for some reason!?!?......

  • Akbar SharAkbar Shar LondonPosts: 56MI6 Agent

    I thought there were a lot of OHMSS references in the music, aside from All The Time In The World, for instance the middle of Poison Garden sounds like the hypnosis music. But I wonder why OHMSS is so heavily referenced? It might foreshadow tragic events, but there seems to be more to it. I find the references an unusual (but welcome) choice, given that of all the official Bond films, OHMSS strikes me as the one that is least like the rest?

    ...one hundred caratsh rough!
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 33,458Chief of Staff

    Well, it was until now....

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