26/11/21 22:46 Filed in: 2021
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig
Warning! This is NOT a movie review. This is a critique of the film. Intended to initiate a dialogue, the following analysis explores various aspects of the film and may contain spoilers. For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. Ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!
Bond is back (after a long delay due to COVID)! No Time to Die is Daniel Craig’s fifth and final James Bond film. The movie brings back many characters (Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter) and story elements from Craig’s earlier films and picks up a short time after the events of the previous film, Spectre (2015).
A staple of every Bond movie is the “Bond Girl.” Since Bond is a “girl in every port” kind of guy, it’s unusual to see the same love interest in consecutive movies. Some early scenes focus on Bond and Madeleine’s (Lea Seydoux) honeymoon afterglow. The couple enjoys a few fleeting moments of happiness before their pasts come back to haunt them, shattering the illusion of marital bliss.
The only other Bond film that featured a retired Bond settling down with a new wife was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Cleverly, composer Hans Zimmer includes a slower-tempo version of a prominent theme from that movie in his score (track 11, “Good to Have You Back”). That earlier Bond film ended in tragedy and so does No Time to Die, but with a twist.
This movie is the culmination of Craig’s Bond films and marks a bold new direction for the franchise. Will we see our first female Bond in the next film—perhaps Lashana Lynch, who plays Bond’s replacement in this film?
Director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, makes excellent use of several gorgeous locations (the movie was shot in Italy, Norway, Jamaica, the UK and other regions) and stages some heart-stopping action sequences (especially the climactic FPS-style charge up the stairway to the tower). The writers, including Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and others, do an excellent job of working within the well-established tropes of the franchise without being overly rote or formulaic.
Of course, when discussing narrative conventions, a Bond film wouldn’t be complete without a villain bent on destroying the world. This film features two villains: Christoph Waltz as Blofeld (held over from the previous film), and Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin. Blofeld is the nemesis from Bond’s past, while Safin is a haunting figure from Madeleine’s childhood. In the end, Bond must defeat both antagonists. But at what price?
The Bond films have always done an excellent job of projecting possible anarchist plots based on emerging technologies. In a ripped-from-headlines scenario, Safin intends to wipe out the majority of humanity with designer viruses that can target an individual’s specific DNA. It’s a frightening doomsday scenario that taps into pandemic fears and recent reports that U.S. medical databases have been hacked by a foreign government.
The film’s harrowing resolution is a gut-wrenching exercise in inevitability. While some will be satisfied with the ending, others will judge it as an emotionally overwrought and egregiously protracted denouement. In the defense of the latter argument, why does it take so long for the missiles to reach their target (they could’ve gotten there quicker if they’d been launched from the moon)? Others might gripe that the story is torn between a romance and an actioner, and that the movie’s nearly three hour running time taxes the bladder. All valid points.
On the flipside, the stakes are higher and the emotions run deeper here than in many other Bond films. It’s hard to imagine a future Bond installment eclipsing this film in dramatic depth and intensity, or in producing a finer title. Although, for the sake of accuracy, this movie should’ve been called Bad Time to Die.
Rating: 3 out of 4