Movie Review: No Time To Die

MOVIE REVIEW!

No Time To Die(2021)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ana De Armas, Ralph Fiennes

Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga

MINOR SPOILERS

After five movies, fifteen years, and one global pandemic delay (that’s still going on by the way, so get that vaccine), James Bond finally returns to screens with No Time To Die, the final movie where Daniel Craig dons the famous tux and Walther PPK. Craig’s time as OO7 has been filled with ups and downs, with some of the greatest moments in the franchise (Casino Royale and Skyfall) and some of the weirdest (Quantum of Solace, Spectre, his constant desire to stop being in these movies), so it comes as a relief to see his that his swan song is finally here, even though I’m giant fan of his take on the character. Craig’s Bond is fallible in a way that really shakes up the franchise, and he deserves to go out on a high note. So does he?

For me, yes, but not without a few bumps in the road. No Time To Die is a lot of movie. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, it’s the longest Bond movie to date, and it definitely feels that narrative weight at times. After all, this is a movie that has to tie up some loose ends from the previous film and give Daniel Craig one final big send off adventure. It also promises to continue the overarching character narrative that the Craig era has been known for (a first in the franchise). Surprisingly, it mostly stuck the landing for me, and delivered some truly surprising narrative twists that I never thought I’d see in a Bond movie.

No Time To Die finds Bond in retirement (for real this time) after a devastating attack from the remnants of SPECTRE. He’s holed up in Jamaica in a sweet beachside cabin, far removed from the life he was once building with Madelyn Swann (Lea Seydoux). But when his old CIA buddy Felix Leighter (Jeffrey Wright) comes calling, Bond is drawn back into the International Espionage game once more, uncovering a diabolical plot from a madman known only as Safin (Rami Malek).

I really don’t want to get into any more plot details, but trust me when I say that there’s a LOT of them. The plan from longtime Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, along with director Cary Joji Fukunaga seemed to be “let’s just do everything we want to do for Daniel Craig’s last movie” and then went with it. There’s a lot of movie in No Time To Die, and when it works, it works extremely well. When it doesn’t, well, you’ll feel it, but luckily the good outweighs the bad.

Let’s start with what doesn’t work, cause for me it’s a pretty short list. One of my main issues with the more recent Bond movies, namely the previous one and this one, is that I don’t buy the relationship between James Bond and Madeleine Swann. No matter how much they try, I just don’t see any real emotional connection or chemistry between Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux. I think a lot of that comes from how much I loved Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale, played to perfection by Eva Green. While the Daniel Craig era has shied away from the “Bond Girl” motif that was a big part of the films before (for good reason), Vesper casts a long shadow over the Craig era, and even gets another reference in this movie here. Seeing as how the entire movie hinges on Bond and Swann’s relationship, it’s a bit of a problem when you can’t buy the relationship between the two leads, but it is at least more believable here than in Spectre. While Vesper’s ghost is the driving narrative behind what makes Bond “James Bond” in this era, I feel like it was mistake to try to make it seem like Swann was the woman worthy of Bond’s retirement (although that might be kind of the point too).

Speaking of Spectre, No Time To Die does have some of the same pacing issues that it’s predecessor had, but thankfully Die doesn’t feel like quite the slog that Spectre was. That’s a surprising thing seeing as how Die is about fifteen minutes longer than Spectre, but the previous movie felt like something that was made out of obligation, not out of desire, and to me that shows. No Time To Die, like I mentioned before, has a LOT of plot and ground to cover, and when it reached the conclusion I had to remind myself that yes, I have been watching just one movie, not two Bond movies back to back. If MGM was a different studio, or if these were different times, I could have easily seen them splitting this massive, almost three hour movie into two parts, thereby getting more money and stretching out Craig’s tenure just a bit more, but I’m glad they didn’t. I just wish some of the superfluous stuff in the middle was either condensed or removed entirely.

But let’s get to the good stuff, central to that being Daniel Craig. Craig is, once again, one of the highlights of the movie. While the quality of the movies have been spotty, Craig’s performance as James Bond has never been, and that continues here as well. The humanization of the world’s greatest super spy that began in Casino Royale hits its apex here, with Craig delivering a surprisingly well-rounded performance that puts Bond in new and unexpected places, both in location and mindset. While it’s a little annoying to have him come out of “retirement” AGAIN, it’s done in an interesting way here, and can be seen as a commentary of sorts on how James Bond can interact with the world of 2021.

When it comes to those interactions, No Time To Die might have the best supporting cast of any of the Craig era Bond films. While we get the welcome return of Jeffrey Wright’s Felix, we also get new additions to the franchise in Lashanna Lynch and Ana De Armas. Both make great first impressions in their scenes in the film, with Lynch getting almost second billing as the new OO7, brought in to replace the retired Bond. Her interplay with Craig is fantastic, and she handles the action sequences with great ease and believability. When she and Bond team up in the film’s finale, you almost wish we got to see more of Bond teaming up with other OO agents in this era.

Ana De Armas’ Paloma only has one real sequence in the film when Bond travels to Cuba, and then literally pulls a Poochie when that scene is over, but it’s probably the highlight of the movie for me, and not just because it features De Armas. Her chemistry with Craig is already well known thanks to the spectacular Knives Out, but seeing her kick ass and take names as a very green CIA support agent for an off the grid Bond is so good that it makes you want to see more of her in the movie, or at the very least, hope that her character makes the jump to the next Bond reboot. It would be fun to have her pop up in future movies and elude to her experience as an agent growing.

Of course, a Bond movie isn’t a Bond movie without an over the top villain, and Rami Malek is here to pick up the mantle that Christoph Waltz’ Blofeld hands off (even though he makes an appearance here too). While I’m not entirely sure just what kind of connection he has with Madelyn Swann, his main plan is pretty chilling, and when you consider the previous year we’ve all had, you start to realize why No Time To Die was the first big blockbuster to move release dates when the pandemic started. That added real world effect makes Safin’s plan that much more chilling, and while Malek’s performance is a little over the top at times, I appreciated the throwback to “madman with a hideout” that this series has pretty much avoided until this point.

In thinking it over, I think that’s what I liked about No Time To Die so much. It kept the serious and brutal action of the recent era of Bond films, but also worked in some of the things the franchise is famous for that reached their peak in the 1960s and 1970s. The James Bond franchise is one that is near and dear to my heart, as my Dad, brother, and I would watch the marathons on TV every holiday break, so a lot of the goofier aspects of the franchise are really precious to me. While not all of the quips and outlandish aspects that are part of the franchise work in this latest film, the fact that they put them in this one, and that Craig is so committed to it, is fun. And the major, and I mean, major swings this movie pulls are really surprising to see for a long time Bond fan like me. If you’re going to do them, you might as well do them in the movie that you’re gonna reboot everything in afterwards. While it’s strange to see the Bond franchise acknowledge the upcoming changing of the guard, it’s also neat to see them do it for one of, if not the, best Bond actors we’ve had.

VERDICT: B

Posted on October 10, 2021, in Comic reviews, Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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