No Time to Die

Release: Friday, October 8, 2021

👀 Theater

Written by: Neal Purvis; Robert Wade; Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Cary Joji Fukanaga

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukanaga

Starring: Daniel Craig; Léa Seydoux; Rami Malek; Christoph Waltz; Ralph Fiennes; Lashana Lynch; Ana de Armas; Ben Whishaw; Naomie Harris; Jeffrey Wright; Billy Magnussen; Rory Kinnear

Distributor: Universal 

 

***/*****

The time has come for James Bond to move on to greener pastures. In an unlikely turn of events, arguably the world’s most ineligible bachelor is looking to settle down and bid cheerio to his obligation to protect Queen and country at all costs, even especially ones of a personal nature. All good things must come to an end and with endings we look for closure. Ah, but is closure always satisfying?

We saw him get close before. Tantalizingly, torturously close to leading a normal life. The departed Vesper Lynd still haunts him. In No Time to Die, we see him pay his respects at her tomb in the scenic Matera, Italy, which might feel like a deleted scene from Casino Royale if not for the staggering mark of maturity in “I miss you” — a line Daniel Craig delivers in such a way you really feel the weight of those 15 years. James Bond is all grown up now. You feel it most in the dialogue, which allows Craig to serve up his best performance yet as the iconic super-spy, the actor going beyond his era’s stiff upper lip stoicism and confessing to things you’ve never heard his or any Bond say before: “I love you;” “I’m truly sorry.”

No Time to Die is such a weird experience. Watching Bond soften like a Walls vanilla ice cream cone on a hot summer day is weird. It’s also wonderful. But for whatever reason, I just could not get into the action. Partly due to the buzz-killing aroma of Greek tragedy. Partly due to the fact that no stunt here really blows the roof off. And that ending really bothers me, so we may as well get it out of the way now. If packing Kleenexes in anticipation of the soap opera ending is what the people want in all their big franchise arcs, fine. Personally I feel there’s a way to be dramatic without going scorched earth. Is this perhaps why people lament The Dark Knight Rises so — that needling incongruity of the brooding vigilante suffering all only, ultimately, to be done a kindness?

You say tonally inconsistent; I say it’s compassionate.

Directed by Cary Joji Fukanaga, clearly a talented director capable of steering a massive ship, the overly dour, overly long story details Bond’s tango with foes both old and new as he is yanked out of retirement to save the world for one last time. There is a ton of moving parts in this movie and a daunting number of relationships to stay Onatopp of, though not all are worth the effort. The backbone of the film concerns tension between Bond and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux, reprising her role from Spectre), specifically the former’s shifting perception of the latter’s innocence/complicity. When the two are ambushed in Italy by Spectre assassins it’s déjà vu all over again with Bond unable to see Madeleine as anything but Traitor #2. More shaken than stirred, Bond buggers off to Jamaica where he is soon contacted by an old friend from the CIA in Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who’s desperate for his help in tracking down a kidnapped scientist (David Dencik). 

For all that gets shortchanged and is made unnecessarily cluttered, the conflict presented in No Time to Die offers more bang for your buck, presenting not one but two evil forces with which Bond and MI6 must contend. The inimitable Christoph Waltz returns as arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, here regrettably confined to a portable holding cell as if a Hannibal Lecter knock-off and doing most of his limited damage via a removable bionic eye that enables him to call the shots from a safe distance, this time with comically epic failing results.

When it comes to new threats, No Time to Die offers an expected bit of double-agent treachery with Billy Magnussen’s disturbingly smile-happy Logan Ash, and goes old-school with Rami Malek’s soft-spoken rage: “My family got wiped out by one man, now the entire world will pay!” On the one hand, you kinda have to love the Scaramanga-like excessiveness, yet that crazy leap in logic feels regressive, underscoring how good we had it with Le Chiffre’s far more nuanced, relatable desperation. And Bond, never one to mince words, is dead right: All his opponent is is another angry man in a long line of angry men, coming up a little short in terms of the gravitas required of a figure framed as the ultimate reckoning for 007.

Where No Time to Die truly frustrates however is in its handling of internal conflict within MI6. M (Ralph Fiennes)’s judgment is called into question with the revelation of Project Heracles, code for a dangerous bioweapon that targets victims’ DNA so anyone related to them is at risk as well. Supposedly there was a morally upstanding justification for its deployment, but in the wrong hands (i.e. Safin’s) it’s going to wipe out millions, including the entirety of Spectre. Bond and M are at loggerheads, which is fun to watch, especially with Fiennes getting to go a little bigger with the role than he has before, but it’s the flippant treatment of Nomi (Lashana Lynch) as Bond’s ostensible replacement that baffles. A fun, strong performance from Lynch is severely undermined by the decision to have her character fall back in line with SOPs, her agency the equivalent of borrowing the keys to the DB-5 for a quick joy ride.

Added all up, it really sounds like I hated this movie. At first, I think I did. Like Roger Ebert after watching the movie North. But Fukanaga and his writing team don’t deserve childish vitriol. No Time to Die is a messy dish but the meat and potatoes are there at the bottom. After all, the Craig era has always been infused with pain and coldness. His final outing is an odd blend of the past and the present, where throwbacks to classic lairs and bad-skinned baddies are welcomed while the mimicking of Tony Stark martyrdom feels off-brand and, yeah, unsatisfying. 

They’re bringing Knives Out at a gunfight

Moral of the Story: I’m extremely wary of my own reaction here. I had a similarly negative response to Quantum of Solace, the direct follow-up to Casino Royale. I have since gone back and watched that movie at least twice, and despite it bearing the worst title of any Bond film — of any movie really that has nothing to do with physics — I’ve appreciated it a bit more. It’s closer to a pure action movie. So it’s certainly more simplistic than something like No Time to Die. It’s possible I warm up to what Fukanaga and his writing team have done here but as of this moment it remains a big disappointment.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 163 mins.

Quoted: “It’ll be great! I’ve had three weeks training!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

9 thoughts on “No Time to Die

  1. What is it with popular movie franchies thinking that they can release Scorsese length films over and over? Its like after Tarantino did the Hateful Eight it became popular to do, tbh I don’t get it.

    I skimmed this unfortunately cos I haven’t seen any of the Craig films and want to see them in order so I can watch this on my home cinema set up with my Dad some time, though I knew the basic premise. That melting of a ice cream sentence made me laugh haha, weird but wonderful eh? But with lacking action scenes it surely feels like a long film.

    I’ll have to chat w ya some time later when I’ve seen them all! 🙂

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  2. Fair critiques for sure. Admittedly nothing much bothered me about it. I was so caught up in the characters, the visuals, the spectacle, and Craig. I thought he was sensational and in many ways took the character where he needed to go. Doesn’t gel perfectly with past Bond’s, but it really fit his arc in my pea-brained opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was not a fun review to write my friend. This gave me no joy. I have this really nagging feeling I maybe should have sat through the thing twice before writing my thoughts about it, just to confirm those initial feelings.

      But in general, I think the fact I was forgetting a decent chunk of this movie in the immediate hours afterward, is a telling sign.

      The reaction to the ending has of course been all over the place, and I’m not a fan of it, but I can tell you that I was a big, big fan of the way Craig puts in the effort here. He’s terrific in his final outing. And I regret to have not included praise for Ana de Armas in the review. She was also a major highlight. Loved that scene, even if it was brief.

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  3. I’ll be back when I’ve seen the film in December. Why exactly I’m avoiding spoilers when the film likely doesn’t deserve the effort, I don’t know, but having invested in all the Bonds before it, that’s just where I’m at- and who knows, I may be contrary to many and love it.

    (First though I want to see The Last Duel when it comes out on disc early December, which was the other film I wanted to see but blinked-and-missed-it at the cinema. Really, considering cinemas have so little content, films don’t seem to be sticking around at all, at least here in the UK. They seem to be striking up a situation where a film arrives and is only on for a week or two, so you have to rush and see it when it arrives which isn’t so easy to do these days).

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    • I think you’re doing yourself a good service avoiding spoilers. There’s no doubt you’ll have a better time not knowing anything about it, or as little as is possible for a movie of this size and popularity. I have very mixed feelings on it, which I feel puts me in the minority camp here; there’s a lot of people who are declaring it the “Best Bond ever!” which I cannot get behind at all. I don’t even believe the best Bond movie is actually in the Craig era. That distinction falls to either From Russia with Love or Goldeneye for me.

      Best of luck to ya sitting through Scott’s two hour rape movie, though. No way in hell is anyone even paying me to sit through that garbage.

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    • I’ve missed seeing you around here Cindy, I hope the school year is treating you well and you’re finding some time to do some writing.

      I also hope you get along with the new Bond movie better than I did. I feel like a fraud writing a negative piece on a movie like this. I have to speak honestly though. No Time to Die really didn’t do it for me. There are lots of things to like, but right now, for me there were some really questionable choices that put me off.

      I’m also looking forward to Dune, I think it’s right behind Wes Anderson’s new flick on my list of must-sees coming up here.

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    • You can probably take some comfort in knowing I am in the minority here. It’s a weird thing for me, I both liked this and didn’t like it. I don’t know how that can happen!

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