Sunday 13 February 2022

Movie Review: No Time To Die (2021)

The 25th chapter in the James Bond franchise, No Time To Die enhances a rich story with human emotions and plenty of action, but balloons to a staggering 163 minutes.

In a pre-prologue, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) avenges his family's murder by killing the wife of Spectre assassin Mr. White, but he spares the life of White's young daughter Madeleine. 

In the prologue, Spectre's leader Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) has been captured and is being held by MI6. Retired agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is vacationing in Italy with his lover Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), now a psychotherapist. Bond barely survives an assassination attempt and suspects Madeleine may have betrayed him. He breaks off their relationship.

Five years later in London, Dr. Obruchev is kidnapped along with files and vials related to Project Heracles, a secret initiative funded by MI6's head M (Ralph Fiennes) to develop DNA-targeting weaponry. The CIA's Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) prods Bond out of retirement to find Obruchev in Cuba. He tangles with Nomi (Lashana Lynch), the new Agent 007, but is helped by the CIA's agent Paloma (Ana de Armas). Bond has to dodge another assassination attempt as he uncovers Safin's destructive plot, with Madeleine re-entering his life under unexpected circumstances.

Daniel Craig's fifth and final outing as James Bond is an engrossing adventure, infused with soulful reflection whenever the action pauses. This is Bond in retirement, seeking a graceful exit and the longshot promise of a lasting love, licking his emotional wounds and forced back into free-lance service. He appears detached and far removed from events back at MI6, where M, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Q (Ben Whishaw) now have a new 007 to support.

But loyalty runs deep, and with M facing a mess of his own making, director Cary Joji Fukunaga taps into the close ties between Moneypenny, Q, and Bond for the ex-agent to receive needed logistical support. The plot is relatively straightforward if well beyond the bounds of logic, Blofeld still dangerous from his prison cell but Safin consigning Spectre to the sidelines as he expands his quest for maniacal revenge to global proportions.

In pursuit of yet another infiltrate-and-destroy-the-fort climax, the script (worked on by a combination of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) starts to mix-up science and technology with old fashioned and seemingly absurd men in hazmat suits mixing a witch's broth of poison in underground lakes. Safin's motivations become murkier by the minute, Rami Malek sinking so deep into the role that his own poisonous flowers start to bend away in confusion, and Bond survives numerous un-survivable moments to set up the final showdown.

The action scenes are well-staged, crisply edited, and keep on coming. None are necessarily original, but good quality supports the overwhelming quantity. Nothing justifies the mammoth running time, but to its credit, the film is also never boring. Bond, Paloma, and Nomi gatecrashing then escaping a convention of Spectre assassins stands as the most memorable highlight.

Amidst all the bullets, explosions, and roaring engines, No Time To Die also keeps an eye on the people. A rare undercurrent of poignancy flows through Bond's connections to Felix and Madeleine, while one monumental character-driven twist succeeds in deepening Bond's legacy. 

Now in his early fifties, Daniel Craig bows out at the right time. He is at his best in the more expressive scenes where a history of doling out death casts a long dark shadow. Bond may have no time to die, but he finally appreciates all the time in the world.

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  1. I like Craig as Bond and lot of that is just how much it all seems to weigh on him. After Bonds who lived on quips, sex, and casual murder, Craig's Bond looks like he carries all of those deaths around with him all of the time. It's why he's so good in the role.

    I also like what was done with Ralph Fiennes in this one. His version of M is interesting; Dame Judi is my favorite, but Fiennes is darker and has a strange depth.

    The stakes are very high in this one, and that's made clear early on. This was the right way for Craig to go out.

    1. This chapter is really good. It comes close to greatness, and a lot of that credit goes to Craig and a focus on Bond's thoughts and feelings rather than glibness and gadgets.


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