Film Review: No Time To Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Billy Magnussen
Running Time: 163
Australian Distributor: Universal Pictures Australia
This is the 25th chapter of one of the most popular and longest-running sagas from a cinematic point of view. Agent 007, now Commander, returns to the big screen with actor Daniel Craig in his final role as James Bond.
While he is vacationing in Italy with Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), mixing physical passion with emotional recriminations about who is hiding secrets, Bond gets up early to visit his previous girlfriend’s tomb. “I miss you,” he says to her image. Then he goes back to his current girlfriend to accuse her of setting up the assassins he met along the way. She doesn’t argue her case, so he splits.
The opening attack saw quite an action-filled chase around the narrow streets of Matera but then spoiled by the opening credits that gave us the worst Bond theme song I have ever heard – by Billie “Eyelash” Eilish. With such anticipation expected after the very good opening scenes, to have a song almost put you to sleep was annoying and disappointing. Bond songs should be about action with a certain amount of bounce and dynamics.
Having survived a frontal attack and alleged betrayal by his partner, Bond has retreated to an exotic life in Jamaica. The film picks up five years later. Bond is retired but approached by Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to retrieve a kidnapped scientist MI6 also wants.
They want him so badly, they’ve sent the new 007, Nomi (Lashana Lynch) to get him. They wind up engaging in some Spy Who Loved Me style one-upmanship until the real threat is revealed, Safin (Rami Malek) who has stolen a virus that was intended to work as a DNA sequenced way to assassinate high-value targets. Of course, now it’s being designed as a weapon that can wipe out families and entire races of people. Of course, the chase after Safin puts Bond back in contact with Madeleine but can he trust her?
Bond is still a bit hung up on Madeleine, even after their relationship status switches from “together” to “it’s complicated.” She has a key link with Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), who is in prison but up to no good whatsoever, and rules one of the best scenes in the movie, one of the few that feels like a throwback to old Bond movies.
Fukunaga, who has indicated that he finds the Bond character highly problematic and is essentially an art-house director, was an odd choice to take over the saga, which is heavy on drama and pretty much free of the cheesy stuff that people tend to love most.
There is a mixed view on the performances. This movie makes good use of Ben Whishaw as Q and the gadgets he gives 007 come in very handy at all the right moments. Lea Seydoux is excellent as Madeleine. Her romance with Bond is given much more weight here than the previous Bond film. If any role is salvaged from the last one, it’s hers. She is terrific in this and ranks as one of the better Bond girls.
I don’t know what to make about Lashana Lynch. She has a chemistry with Craig that is amusing and they exchange quips in a positive light for her character. But she has a bad posture and the heavy walk of an actress who has avoided resistance training. Her fighting prowess is limited to spraying bullets one-handed without looking. The only casting I would like to see again is of Ana de Armas, who is both gorgeous and fun, a combination we have not seen in a Bond girl since the 1980s. Her self-deprecating but wild time as Bond’s wingman is too brief.
Rami Malek’s performance is so underdeveloped. It seems like an afterthought. He tries way too hard to come across as intimidating with heavy breathing, a lisp in his line delivery, and facial disfigurement… but he’s just so bland. He feels like a Bond villain from a completely different movie, for there’s no life to him at all.
The biggest problem with No Time to Die is the runtime. This movie is too long for its own good, and despite all of the action and deep dramatic moments between characters, the film felt longer than it needed to be and some scenes just dragged on when they should have packed more of an emotional wallop.
I give Daniel Craig great credit, though, as a fine Bond who has shown the vulnerable side to the character as well as being a top action man, and being part of a series that has tried to change itself via its last five films. Its attempt was not always successful, but it surely brought some fresh air into this 59-year-old franchise. It will be interesting to see whether the franchise will go further for more change and adaptation. There are flaws in this film but it certainly is worth a look – even just for the scenery and female talent. And the final credits where thankfully Miss Eyelash’s song played second fiddle to the Louis Armstrong classic “We Have All The Time In The World”.
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