A James Bond movie is not just any movie. It is an event. It’s explosive. In Daniel Craig’s day, it’s also epic. And there are great expectations. You just have to ask Linus Sandgren, the director of photography for No Time to Die.
“It comes with a lot of responsibilities to make a Bond film,” Sandgren told me. “It’s a piece of history that you are a part of.”
The weight of this whole story hangs over No Time to Die for some time. This is the 25th film in a franchise that dates back to the early 1960s. It is also the long-delayed finale of the five-movie streak that stars Daniel Craig and which gave us a connection unlike any other. planes never seen before, with a storyline that continues from Casino Royale from 2006 to today, and an emotional resonance that had been virtually absent from the previous 007 films.
The film is now in theaters in the UK and will debut in the US on October 8. With a duration of 2 hours and 43 minutes, it brings a lot.
“No time to die,” Rich Trenholm writes in his review of the film, “has a distinctively Bond impact while taking huge risks with the aging character and decades-old formula.”
The stakes were high initially, following the emotional weight of Skyfall and the twists and turns of Specter. This is something that Sweden-born Sandgren working on his first Bond film and Bond newbie director Cary Joji Fukunaga were well aware. They had to offer fast-paced action, deep personal connections, and just the right number of callbacks to previous 007 movies.
The central question: what is at the heart of the Bond stories?
“We have tried to work in this vein of augmented reality,” Sandgren said in an interview Thursday, speaking via Zoom from Los Angeles. “Everything is just a little bigger than life. “
For example, when the Specter terrorists launch a devastating attack on London at the start of No Time to Die, the sky is an unlikely purple, suggesting that this is a fantasy world adjacent to ours, a half larger than life world of heroes and villains. .
Sandgren, 48, arrived in the world of 007 with an impressive resume over the past decade. Together with director Damien Chazelle, he served as cinematographer for Neil Armstrong’s biopic First Man, and for La La Land – Sandgren won the Oscar for the best cinematography for this color-saturated film. He also worked with director David O. Russell on American Hustle and Joy, and with Lasse Hallström on The Hundred Foot Journey. Films with distinctive looks, all of them.
But back to Bond. For all the action, Sandgren says, No Time to Die is an emotionally driven story.
As a cinematographer, he was looking for images and footage that would work like a soundtrack, conveying vibe and highlighting what’s going on inside Bond and the other characters. It’s kind of impressionism – not necessarily the first word that comes to mind when you think back to the times of Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.
For an experienced filmmaker, often a single location can serve a dual purpose.
Case in point: the scenes in Matera, Italy, where we meet Bond relaxing after leaving the Secret Service. It’s a quaint place, as befits a Bond movie, but there are layers to pull off. The romance between Bond and his sweetheart, Madeleine Swann, plays out under the soft light of the sunset as they arrive at their hotel with a spectacular view. But Matera is also where Bond meets a group of villains as the sun rises under a harsh, bright sky, and it becomes a much more difficult place – you may have seen the trailer with the Aston. Martin DB5 making donuts and taking care of Business.
Under the sunlight, Matera becomes a more visually contrasting town, and with its narrow, structured stone lanes, says Sandgren, “it kind of increases the risk of dying from any type of car accident.”
Matera presented tactical and logistical challenges as well as composition opportunities.
The filmmakers wanted to shoot in IMAX, but those big, bulky cameras – weighing around 80 or 90 pounds – weren’t exactly suited for high-speed chases down narrow lanes and relentless uphill and downhill action. The team performed extensive pre-production and R&D tests with motorcycle cameras, as well as shots with cranes and drones.
“We had to invent a bit of technique to be able to drive to Matera,” said Sandgren.
The thing with Bond is that everything is oversized, in overdrive.
While there is an experience common to all films in general, do you place your camera close to you to be intimate with the character? Do you pull back for a panoramic ladder? – Bond films work with much larger setups, much larger than what you normally encounter in film production, says Sandgren. At Pinewood Studios in London, they worked on 10 stages, and the team always built sets that they then had to figure out how to light.
Yet there is also an intimate scale. No Time to Die is concerned with asking what James Bond has left to give in the modern era, until the end of the film where he delivers what could best be described as a mission statement – in a suddenly filled close-up of goals on war-weary Craig face and steel blue eyes.
It all comes down to the fact that James Bond is no ordinary protagonist.
“Bond is such a big production, with big ambitions, like… let’s let him jump off a bridge,” Sandgren said. “It’s not like you work like this every day [on other films, so] How do we do that?”
CNET’s Rich Trenholm contributed to this story.