With “No Time to Die,” Cary Joki Fukunaga took great care when it came to using VFX and special effects. From underwater fights to an Aston Martin DB5 shootout to an explosive finale, the latest James Bond installment “No Time to Die” is bursting with action-packed moments, but Fukunaga wanted to keep the emotional arc of the storytelling front and center. He didn’t want to undermine that sense of reality and use effects purely to enhance the emotional connection to Bond’s story.
“No Time to Die,” made the VFX Oscar shortlist, and should it be nominated on Feb. 8, it would be the first James Bond film in 43 years to be nominated in the VFX category since “Moonraker” in 1979. The James Bond film to win in the category was in 1965 for “Thunderball” in Best Special Visual Effects. The film also landed in 11 categories on the BAFTA longlist, including visual effects.
Visual effect supervisor Charlie Noble used VFX to help expand the locations Bond could cover. Says Fukunaga, “The Faroe Islands doubled for the Sakhalin Peninsula and Pinewood doubled for Cuba. But hopefully, the audience is never jarred out of that seduction and suspension of disbelief that goes into movie magic.”
When it came to building the Norwegian safe house escape sequence, Noble reveals that the sequence was shot in Scotland. “I was tasked with taking the material shot and adding fjords, mountains and Norwegian landmarks and adding backgrounds within the safe house interior and the exterior on the backlot. Even as real cars leaped over ramps and flipped upside down, some additional shots were required for editorial inserts, continuity or for new backgrounds which necessitated fully digital versions to sit side by side with real ones,” Noble says.
The second chase sequence involved Bond in a Toyota Landcruiser and villains chasing in Range Rovers and the latest Land Rover Defenders. Says Noble, “This was a very different chase to the urban DB5 sequence. Again all vehicles were prepared by SFX with full rally safety capabilities with the Landcruiser again having a pod mounted on its roof for interior shots with Daniel and Lea. One of the more challenging events was the Defender flipping end over end past Daniel in the smoky forest. This was achieved by mounting a nitrogen cannon in the rear of the Defender which was initialized simultaneously to a ratchet stop connected to the front of the vehicle. VFX took over the effect halfway through the effect and blended it with Daniel to give the final shot.”
In “No Time to Die,” which had a shot count of nearly 1,500 shots, the VFX team built bridges, filled in stunning backgrounds, added face replacements, car chase bullet shots and more.
“The thing I think was so fantastic about it [was that] it was all invisible. It didn’t jump out at you as being, ‘Look, this is the greatest visual effects ever.’ It was just a marvelous blending of what they do creatively,” says Chris Corbould, who also worked as a VFX supervisor.
The opening scene of the film occurs in Norway with a giant frozen lake. A young Madeleine Swann, played by Coline Defaud, falls through the ice, only to be rescued by Safin, played by Rami Malek. Producer designer Mark Tildesley and the second unit went out to a remote lake just outside of Oslo. A stunt performer fell through the ice into the water. Then it was back to Noble and the team to turn the shots of Defaud hammering away at the ice when she’s in the water underneath the icy surface and add the bubble trails and underwater environment.