Getting a great score from Hans Zimmer isn’t exactly unexpected. When the prolific composer was announced as the man behind No Time to Die‘s score we all knew we would be getting something good. What we didn’t know is that we would be getting what amounts to a second narrative for the film, tying it back to the history of the franchise while pulling every ounce of pathos from a character often believed to be devoid of any emotion.
Bond scores aren’t always the most complicated things. You play the Bond theme during the action, you adapt the opening credits song into part of the score, and you riff on a few other things. Craig’s tenure as Bond has changed that a bit with the Bond theme actually taking a back seat as Bond was reborn. Zimmer is aware of this, but also aware of No Time to Die‘s culmination of not just Craig’s Bond but James Bond on the whole and so he plays with expectations and history throughout. It is a masterstroke of composition weaving together over 50 years of filmmaking, storytelling, and history.
You may be surprised to hear that the Bond theme gets very little attention here, at least in full. Instead, Zimmer weaves hints of it in and out of the score, drawing your attention to it lightly, as if simply reminding us that this is a Bond movie. Those chords stir something deep within any audience and Zimmer knows he doesn’t need to play anymore. The bigger focus is on bringing in the emotional punch of Louis Armstrong’s “All the Time in the World” from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The use of this piece supports two goals. The first is the fact that the story here is based on both the book and the film, all three versions of it telling a different tale of Bond losing his love. The second is the building of a score that is more than just the film. There’s other throwback hints to this in the score that tie the film to all of Bond’s past, not just the one film. That’s not to mention the adept use of Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die.”
For creating a score that represents the conclusion of not just a single film, not just an actor’s tenure, but an entire franchise Zimmer wins this year’s Golden Cage for Best Score. Few composers will ever get the chance to score the history of cinema but Zimmer pulls it off here.