No Time To Die. A Review
Daniel Craig’s often frustrating tenure as James Bond ends on a spectacular high note with No Time To Die.
The longest serving 007 began his tenure in 2006 with a complete reboot in Casino Royale. Eon Productions plan to connect each of the years-hopping adventures together into a single overarching narrative was a risky break from the formula when they began it. For the previous five Bonds and 20 films were isolated from each other with only the tinniest plot elements going from one film to another, allowing the audience the ability to skip entire movies and come back in whenever they wanted without skipping a beat. The linking of Craig’s films has been far from seamless, but it more or less works for this movie. The only negative about this film is that you will have to have seen the previous four Craig Bond’s for this film to make sense.
Craig was as impressive as ever as a good, solid modern version of his character. His Bond girl – Madeleine, played by the French actress Léa Seydoux – is much better written than in the uneven and ultimately disappointing previous Bond film – Spectre. Far from the bimbos that some of the worst Bond films produce; Madeleine is the best Bond girl in a decade and a half, since Eva Green’s Vespyr Lynd in 2006. She is certainly one of the two or three most fleshed out and human love interests in the Bond cannon, and one of the most relevant to the plot.
Rami Malek – of Mr. Robot and Bohemian Rhapsody fame – gives a solid and quietly unsettling performance as Lyutsifer Safin, the main villain. His villainous plan has echoes of the Coronavirus.
Whereas previous versions of M, Bond’s boss, were largely there to set up the plot early on and tell Bond “good job” at the end; Ralph Fiennes’ version of the character continues Judi Dench’s pattern of being much more central to the plot, especially in the first act. Naomie Harris continues to be an excellent Moneypenny. Ben Wishaw is just as good of a Q and Rory Kinnear was also fantastic as Tanner, M’s chief-of-staff. The editing, cinematography, stunts and action pieces were all state-of-the-art and hard to find fault with.
The rest of the supporting cast is generally excellent, even if they do dip in and out of the film a bit randomly. The main and secondary hench people were a bit thinly written and both of Bond’s most competent allies are out of the movie far to quickly. Jeffrey Wright was solid as Felix Leiter, his American counterpart, despite being largely left out of the action.
The CIA agent who was in the action plenty was Paloma, played by Ana de Armas. De Armas previously co-stared with Craig in the film Knives Out. Her character was a bit inconsistently written, but de Armas is such a good actress that she was able to play both the action and the humor so charmingly that it really doesn’t matter. It is just a shame that like Wright, her character wanders off before the second act starts.
Lashana Lynch’s performance has been left for last for a reason. One common complaint of the Bond movie franchise is its formulaic nature. A female 007 is a common “what if” solution and her character, Nomi, actually replaces Bond as 007 for part of the film. If you are skeptical that a female-008 could work, you should watch this movie for her performance. Like the other characters, Lynch’s scene appearances are very on-again-off-again; but if anyone can pull of a fantastic female 007, it is Lynch. She stood out with a performance just as solid as Craig’s or Seydoux’s and now that Craig’s version of Bond is ending, it would be tragic if her character didn’t return; preferably with her own feature-length movie.
Another thing that this film does well is references and in pacing. Little bits from previous Bond eras are sprinkled effectively throughout – from the Jamaican set pieces in the first act, to the Dr. No-like lighting of the villain’s layer, to Ralph Fiennes’ look. In his third outing as M, they gave him a hair cut and double breasted suit to make him look like Barnard Lee, the actor who played the first version of Bond back in the Sean Connery era.
Craig has always been a phenomenal contemporary version of Bond. His Bond filmography has a quality pattern that is locked in where how good or bad the final film was depended on the director, editing, writing and strength of the villain. Craig’s even numbered Bond movies – Quantum of Solace and Spectre – rank among the worst and most disappointing Bond movies, respectively. His odd numbered films – Casino Royale, Skyfall and this film – rank among the best, not just for Bond films, but in the entirety of the spy movie genre.
It is hard to think of a better way to bow out of being Bond. Certainly, none of his predecessors were able to bow out with such dignity.
Image Credit: imdb.com