And just like that, we have reached the end of Daniel Craig’s 15-year James Bond tenure with NO TIME TO DIE, the 25th film in the Bond franchise. But Craig’s swan song has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for a spring 2020 release, the film faced multiple delays due to COVID-19, which also had the effect of creating heightened expectations. Unfortunately, while it does have some of my favorite moments in the franchise (:cough: LASHANA LYNCH :cough:), I would still rank it below SKYFALL and CASINO ROYALE due to a rather forgettable villain and some iffy plot choices. Regardless, this is still a good Bond movie and you will enjoy excellent, action-packed scenes that make venturing out of the COVID bubble worth it.
Beginning shortly after the events of SPECTRE, Bond (Craig) and his girlfriend Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux) are enjoying time off to revel in the romance. And what is more romantic than galavanting around the coast of Italy? On top of that, the Italian city the couple is visiting is in the middle of a festival that encourages its residents to identify and erase past moments that continue to haunt their lives. Bond, of course, is still dealing with Vesper’s betrayal, while Swann is dealing with her own demons. As a child, a masked man, who we later learn is named Safin (Rami Malek), came to her house to kill her family as payback for Swann’s father killing the man’s family. And even though the man ended up sparing and saving her life, Swann has never been able to forget his face and hopes writing about him on a piece of paper and lighting it on fire will get rid of that lingering fear.
But of course, there is no peace when your name is James Bond or you are associated with him romantically. The honeymoon of sorts is quickly shattered to pieces after an explosion at Vesper’s grave nearly kills Bond and seemingly Spectre-associated men begin chasing him throughout the city. Bond begins to question Swann’s ultimate loyalties and things go south from there.
Following a time jump, we discover the masked man from Madeline’s past is more present than previously thought. And, no shock, just so happens to be a supervillain, seeking to pull a Thanos and control the world’s population by utilizing a bioweapon that is able to single out specific DNA to kill people (for all of you CHUCK fans, you may remember a similar plot from season 4 of the series). But who is this masked man and what are his ties to Spectre?
The first 10-15 minutes of NO TIME TO DIE include some of my favorite action scenes in the franchise, particularly the Italy-based set piece, which harkens back to the old Bond scenes (and some :ahem: killer gadgets) of which we are accustomed. So much so, I was really amped to see what director Cary Joji Fukunaga had in store for the rest of the movie. And while I did enjoy the film, it also has its issues—the first of which is Rami Malek’s villainous turn as Safin, who is is a bit too over-the-top with murky motivations. I know me saying a Bond villain is over-the-top is laughable because that is the whole point of a Bond villain, but this is almost a caricature of what we expect in a Bond villain from an earlier cinematic era. The villains in Craig’s Bond tenure have erred more on the realistic side rather than the scenery chewing variety. And to be the final villain in this era of Bond, I was bummed that overall, Safin is rather forgettable.
The heart of the story is supposed to revolve around the relationship between Swann and Bond, which also presents a bit of a problem because Seydoux and Craig are lacking in the chemistry department. It’s hard to really root for that relationship when it’s clear that the real spectre (see what I did there?) in Bond’s mind is and always will be Vesper (Eva Green) from CASINO ROYALE. Without getting into spoilers, there is another major plot point regarding this relationship that is both shocking for a Bond film but also an overused device in movies to make the lead character suddenly care more about the events around him. I know that description is a bit confusing without spoilers, but believe me, you will know what I am talking about when you see it. After its reveal, I think I even heard a few groans from the audience… or maybe that was just me.
The reason I place NO TIME TO DIE over SPECTRE in my rank order is primarily because of Nomi (played by Lashana Lynch) because she is the best part of the movie. I am glad we finally get to see a female MI-6 agent, a 00 herself, that can really hold her own with James Bond. On top of that, Nomi has smart, biting dialogue, which was written by the amazing Phoebe Waller-Bridge (FLEABAG). Her scenes really give some flare and humor to the film and I would love to see a spinoff film that revolves completely around her character. Ana de Armas also has a phenomenal scene (and incredible dress) that was another highlight of the film. Based on early press for NO TIME TO DIE, I expected de Armas’s character to be in the film more and was disappointed she was given only a little bit of screen time. But hey, she really makes a significant impression with every second she is on-screen.
If you have any intentions of seeing NO TIME TO DIE, it is best that you see it in theaters. Anyone who thinks it is okay to see a Bond film on anything less than a huge cinema screen with Dolby sound blaring so loudly you think there could be bullets ricocheting around you too needs to have their movie privileges taken away immediately. Just be prepared to make a day of it since the film’s runtime is almost 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are no end credit scenes, but there is a promise that Bond will return. Who do you think will be our next 007?
My Review: B