No Time to Die review: surprisingly modest goodbye

Entertaiment

After 15 years, actor Daniel Craig is ending his stint as James Bond with No Time to Die . The 25th Bond film will hit theaters almost two years later than originally planned, and expectations were high. Craig’s swan song has not become a masterpiece, but it is a solid action film in which the actor can once again show his qualities.

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James Bond (Daniel Craig) is retired, but he’s still glamorous. He lives like God in Italy with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). The former 007 finally seems to have found peace and his equal in the French. She wants to help him accept his past. In Italy, for example, Bond pays an emotional visit to the grave of Vesper (Eva Green), who died in Casino Royale . Madeleine is also willing to tell about her past. Unfortunately, Bond’s peace does not last long.

Five years later, he is alone again, in a not so modest abode in Jamaica. He is contacted by his old frenemy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and a new 00 agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch, Captain Marvel ). An MI6 scientist and biological weapon have been taken from a lab by a mysterious group. When all this turns out to be related to old enemy Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), Bond takes his gun again. Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) is also added, who has a special past and wants to make others pay for it. Or something like that. Because even after 2 hours and 43 minutes his motivation is not completely clear to me.

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Let’s name the biggest stumbling block this movie can have with the audience. No Time to Die is long . Fortunately, the film is not boring at all, mainly thanks to the alternation between action and plot work. And yet the pace drops dangerously right in the middle, until we get to the final phase.

It is actually appropriate, the longest run-up (the film was first planned for November 2019!) and the longest Bond film for the longest-running Bond. Daniel Craig has played the part for 15 years (the record for most films is for Roger Moore with 7.2 more than Craig). But just like that long playing time, that record also takes a toll. Craig also made no secret of the fact that the physical exertion was his least favorite part of the role. And you can’t blame him: looking so toned at 53, is that still necessary?

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When Daniel Craig took on the role in 2006, there was an evolution underway to bring movies more to the real world, thanks in part to the success of Batman Begins . In a way, No Time to Diesimultaneously with and against it. There is a lot of room for some existentialism and heaviness in this film, about what a life like 007 does to a person. The screenwriters (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukinaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) try to counteract that weight by adding a little more humor. Great, but Bond now tends more towards how many blockbusters are made today. Bond films have always been a genre in their own right. A bit campy, tongue in cheek, lots of gadgets, fun, and British at its best. In the next era, that may return a bit more.

It’s different for the character itself. James Bond has always been an archetype that today’s movies have also largely taken over from the earlier eras. We got a Bond as an impenetrable block of granite with six pack that completely shuts itself off and allows the occasional connection, but ultimately lived for the mission.

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Much has been written about the rise of the ‘vulnerable Bond’. James Bond is indeed different in this film. More open to others, even if it breaks him a few times. Even when he builds a wall, Craig subtly shows the cracks in it. That is also the case physically. Craig still looks great, of course, but he doesn’t seem invincible anymore. Men too suffer from ideals of beauty, especially action heroes. So yes, Bond is different, but that’s also largely because the women in these movies have finally changed too.

Bond may be a male fantasy, but for too long it meant that almost all women were silent and docile but also beautiful creatures who mostly died in the end. Willing or not, that is no longer of this time. Craig can also fully show what he has to offer to full-fledged women. Madeleine Swann remains a fascinating character, a mystery without being a femme fatale. Even a few moments that lean a little too much towards melodrama are captured by the wonderful Léa Seydoux.

Equally impressive are Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas. Lynch bites off like new 00, but not overly girlboss-esque like some movies do to compensate. She and Craig have a nice chemistry, but so does Ana de Armas (they were in Knives Out together ), who comes to his rescue at one point in Cuba. Her charisma splashes off the screen and Paloma plays with everyone’s expectations in a refreshing way. Only that dress, few women want to walk in it, let alone fight. Lynch and the Armas can safely return in a next film.

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How memorable Nomi and Paloma are, if ‘gosh, there’s that too’ is Lyutsifer Safin, a Bond version of Thanos that surprisingly sets up a less convincing story. Rami Malek didn’t steal his Oscar and can create an uneasy feeling at times, but his character is too half-heartedly fleshed out to stay in the memory. It’s a shame that familiar characters like Moneypenny and Q are much less featured, because you have to use actors like Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw. The scenes between them and Craig are among the coolest in the film. M (Ralph Fiennes) also returns, and with him some social criticism about the arms race and the role of the British government.

Visually, No Time to Die is also slightly more modest. The action is still top notch, with the highlights being the opening sequence and the scenes set in Cuba. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga portrays the action well and makes good use of the impressive sets. Unfortunately, Linus Sandgren’s portrayal can only surprise you on a few moments. Hans Zimmer, on the other hand (who was also recently able to captivate with his work for Wonder Woman 1984 and Dune ) delivers a melodic strong score that mixes well both the existing themes and the title track No Time to Die by Billie Eilish.

All in all, No Time to Die ends up somewhere in the middle bracket of this Bond era. Better than Quantum of Solace and Specter , but not at the level of Skyfall and Casino Royale . It is a film that ties up some loose ends and manages to touch it with a few plot twists and a strong central interpretation. A worthy goodbye to a worthy James Bond and an actor who leaves the character different from how he found it. His successor, whoever that will be (we hope Dev Patel), knows what’s up.