Now playing at a multiplex near everybody:
NO TIME TO DIE (Dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2021)
In the last year and a half, the patience of James Bond fans has been majorly tested.
The 25th entry, NO TIME TO DIE, was originally slated to open on late 2019, then it was pushed back to February, followed by April 2020 (star Daniel Craig even hosted SNL to promote the film on this last date). But the pandemic reared its ugly head and the movie was rescheduled for November 2020. The global health crisis kept raging, and an April 2021 release was set. Of course, that was predictably scraped, and October 8th is now the official domestic debut, and for once, they’ve stuck to it.
This is a colossal relief for fans, the filmmakers, and Craig himself, as it must have been frustrating to have his fifth and final film as 007 constantly being shelved. Well, he can rest assured because the film just dropped, and it’s being greatly received with many critics calling it the best Bond ever.
I wouldn’t regard it as such, but it’s pretty damn great, and it might be the best Craig installment, though SKYFALL comes pretty damn close. It starts off like a horror movie, with a young girl, Madeleine Swann (Coline Defaud) being pursued across a frozen lake by a creepy disfigured masked assailant. We cut to modern day to see that the girl has grown into Léa Seydoux, returning from the previous adventure, SPECTRE, and she’s vacationing with Bond in Italy. Madeleine encourages Bond to visit his long gone love, Vesper Lynd, who’s haunted him since CASINO ROYALE. Her damn tomb explodes, and we’re suddenly thrusted into a high speed chase by Spectre agents with Craig’s Bob doing what he does best – running, and jumping, sometimes motorcycling across sidewalks and rooftops.
This Matera-set sequence goes on and on, but that’s not a complaint – it’s superbly thrilling stuff, and is given an emotional layer with Bob believing that Madeleine betrayed him and ending their relationship. Now this all happens before the opening credits, so not only is NO TIME TO DIE the longest Bond film (163 min.), it appears to have the longest pre-credits sequence.
After Billy Ellish’s effectively spooky title song, it’s five years later, and while Bond has retired, his crew including Q (Ben Whishaw, Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), M (Ralph Fiennes), and Lashana Lynch, as the woman who has inherited the 007 codename much to Bond’ chagrin. This faction of MI6 is working to combat a wave of wide-reaching genetic warfare that is set to be launched by Spectre adversary Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek).
Other returning roles include Jeffrey Wright as Bond’s long-time CIA confident Felix Leiter, and a cameo by Christoph Waltz as unhinged yet still confident (confidently cuckoo?) Spectre mastermind Ernest Stavro Blofeld. In Norway, Bond reunites with Madelienne, learning that she has a five-year old daughter Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet) that, of course, Bond suspects is his offspring. Bond, Madelienne, and Mathilde find themselves at, guess what, a ginormous fortress (a long abandoned WWII sea fort actually), where Bond tries to stop the killing of millions, because that’s just what he does.
Despite its lavish action scenes, some of the most entertaining moments of this entry involve the back and forths in the dialogue between Bond and his Secret Service buddies who convincingly portray friends and co-workers as they are hard at work in a different type of procedural. The locations, captured by cinematographer Linus Sandgren are stunning with very shot suitable for framing.
The film is more romantic that most Bond films via Craig's chemistry with Seydoux, except ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (aka the one in which Bond gets married), which the screenwriters, including Director Fukunaga, veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) drew on extensively with music themes from George Lazenby’s lone effort slyly inserted, including Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in The World.” The title of this classic is repeated by Craig’s Bond, just like Lazenby did, but that’s probably all I should say about that.
NO TIME TO DIE, which earns its length, is a wonderful finale to Craig’s five film chunk of one of the most lucrative and popular movie franchises in history. And historic it is as it does something no other Bond film has done, but I’m not telling you what. It’ll probably be leaked so you cheap bastards will find out anyway, but I hope most folks will go in cold.
As for Craig, he’s made three great Bonds out of this five, and this certainly lets him go out in spectacular style. I wasn’t into him at first as he seemed more like the blonde thugs that were trying to kill Bond in such entries as FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, but his intensity, and precision won me over. It was SKYFALL to me, that cemented Craig as a new kind of 007, as he balanced the bombast and humor in a manner that elegantly matched his predecessors.
Even in this never-ending era of covid, Craig’s swan song is a must see on the big screen. It’s Bond at his most heartfelt, but still with the big action spectacle you want and expect. I was blown away by the ending, which will surprise a lot of fans, and so want to share what happened with somebody, but like I said before, I’m not going to give it away.
So farewell, Mr. Craig and your strong run of 007 instalments. He brought a gritty killer persona to a franchise that had come too close to being a fluffy spoof of spy cinema, and needed an injection of new blood. But I think the filmmakers should really take a break and work hard on a new direction as they’ll really need to do a hard reboot after this.