No Time To Die: Mature Bond, Slower Film, But Great Exit for Craig – Review

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Postponed a few times, highly anticipated, much discussed – No Time to Die, the latest James Bond outing, and final Bond for Daniel Craig, was released in the US this weekend. This completes Craig’s 5-film Bond arc – one that Craig himself originally wanted to end at four, after Spectre. Perhaps he should have, despite the fact that I – and many others – think he has been the definitive, best Bond. Sacrilege, I realize, to Connery fans, but fight me.

From the earliest days, Bond has been our fantasy – for men, he’s the suave, perfectly dressed, symbol of masculinity. To women, he makes us swoon with his daring, his cool, his perfect good looks, his bad boy attitude. But Daniel Craig brings a whole new side to Bond – beyond cool to icy, beyond daring to reckless, with more than a touch of psychopath. Just one glance melts the clothes and hearts of women everywhere, and even faster if he’s been beat up a little. His difficult childhood, revealed in Skyfall and Spectre, explains an awful lot. But he still has a heart, he can still love (or can he, after the betrayal and death of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale?).

 

Spectre starts his final, and most tragic, love affair, with the beautiful Dr. Madeleine Swann. In No Time, her own twisted, tragic, orphaned childhood as the daughter of a Spectre assassin, which she revealed to Bond in Spectre, was shown in flashback. No wonder she has an attraction – and fear – of Bond, and of starting the cycle all over again. It seems that Bond has hung up his gun, and looks to have a non-shooty life, if he can only put his past  completely behind him, make peace with his many ghosts, and come clean to Madeleine. And in return, she’ll come clean to him about her tragic past, and together, they’ll head off into a beautiful European life. Bond has matured.

Of course, we know that won’t work. But Bond’s growth into a human being and out of MI6 life has had a major impact – on this movie. What do we go to a Bond movie to see? Amazing chase and fight scenes. Fabulous locations. Exotic cars, comic book-style gadgets, treachery, beautiful women and terrible men (and apparently, in Craig’s Bond world, disfigured men). But while this movie had most of that, everything seemed to be …. a little bit slower. A little more explained. A bit too mature. I thought this film was perhaps a half hour too long – a step or two lost, a little too much shoehorned into this outing. Still, it was a fun, heartstopping conclusion to the best of all Bond sets, one which bore little resemblance to past  iterations of this character’s history.

Take the first big chase sequence, for example. Following, almost literally, a “come to Jesus” moment, we have the film’s first long tracked fight/chase scene. Compared to the other four entries in this series –  Casino Royale‘s “parkour” chase through a construction site; Quantum‘s big speedboat epic; Skyfall’s amazing fight on top of a train; and Spectre‘s rooftop pursuit over a Day of the Dead parade, No Time‘s car chase felt more like The Fast and the Furious (and admittedly, I loved all of these movies) and less Bond, despite a breathless vertical run up a staircase wall. It also had less of a feel of a single-shot tracked sequence, even though I know they weren’t, than any of the others, and was much more impersonal and mechanical. Unfortunately, too much of the film felt like this. And this chase, in particular, gave me a “been there, done that” feeling – doing bullet-spraying donuts, the poor Aston Martin getting wrecked AGAIN…

 

There were definitely some terrific scenes in this film. Paloma, the beautiful young agent with “three weeks’ training,” was a great, if temporary ally. From her first fumbling moves, you never would have known that she was SUCH a Bond-like badass. Even Moneypenny couldn’t hold a candle. The stylish Ana de Armas, who starred with Craig in Knives Out, deserved more screen time, and hopefully we’ll get it in a future (non-Craig) Bond iteration.

Q’s irritation at having his dinner date plans interrupted was a very nice, light moment. From our introduction to Ben Whishaw’s Q, in the art museum, I have absolutely LOVED Q. But nobody can resist Bond, and Q certainly tries, but can’t pass up the mystery in front of him. Looking through articles about this film, many writers are absolutely aghast, or at least astonished, at the thought that Q is “maybe” revealed to be gay – well, duh, if you’ve watched Whishaw in anything else, he takes roles that are true to himself, and he’s been very upfront about his sexuality. So the throw-away line, “He’ll be here soon,” was really no surprise, but it WAS nice to have it included – and as a throw-away line, not some huge revelation. Life is normal outside of MI6.

There’s a new 007, at least for a while – Lashana Lynch plays Nomi, the newest MI6 operative licensed to kill, and she rightly resents what she sees as Bond’s attempts to get back in the field. Whether she comes back in future films is still to be seen, but I would love to have her be a part of any future Bond story!

However, the plot was twisted in ways that, upon reflection, STILL don’t make a lot of sense. It may have helped to rewatch Spectre ahead of seeing this film. The villain, Rami Malek’s Safin, was the man in the mask that killed Dr. Swann’s mother and ultimately saved Madeleine, because her father was the Spectre agent, Mr. White, who killed Safin’s family (Safin’s disfigurement, the reason for the creepy mask, was never explained). Thirty years later, Spectre  steals a DNA-coded nanobot bioweapon, named Heracles, and one of the scientists who was obviously in on the plan, from a top-secret lab.

Their target, at a fancy dress birthday party for Spectre’s villain, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) – who is at the moment locked up by MI6 – is James Bond. (In case you’re getting confused – Blofeld is the assumed name of Bond’s former foster brother, Oberhauser, the villain from Spectre.) But the scientist, playing both ends of the scheme, switches the DNA coding from Bond to all of the Spectre agents attending the party. Where did that come from? How did he get the DNA signatures of all of these Spectre agents? Was he really working for Safin all along? Now my head hurts. The scientist accompanies Safin to the Heracles island factory, where once again, he retargets the DNA for this new super weapon…. which is revealed to be a joint venture with – drumroll – MI6.

There was a small subplot that really bothered me – Dr. Swann’s young daughter Mathilde. At the beginning of No Time, Bond believes that Madeleine has betrayed him, and sends her away. She is, we find out much later, pregnant at the time, although the first time Bond meets the young girl, Madeleine tells him that she isn’t his child. Safin uses the child as a pawn, only to inflict emotional pain on both Swann and Bond. But he discards her quickly when she wants her stuffed animal. Perhaps it’s because I’m a mom, but this plot was really unnecessary. It’s interesting that a Google search for the character comes up with just a couple of behind the scenes photos, and her face is blurred. The very young actress, Lisa-Dorah Sonnet, did a terrific job in her first role, but other than to tug at our heartstrings for the film’s outcomes, there really was no reason to include this. Of course, it’s always possible that future iterations of the Bond character – which won’t be Daniel Craig, and won’t be in this story arc – could possibly include Bond’s newly-discovered daughter…. but it would be very surprising.

In typical Bond fashion, the final confrontation, on an island off of Japan which has become the nanobot factory, was spectacular and huge. Racing against time, doubling back, plot twists – while it didn’t all make sense, it was definitely á la Bond. The films have come a long way from the comic-book endings we saw in older films like Moonraker, and Bond himself is no longer the suave and slightly comedic figure he was in the 1980s. This Bond has been satisfyingly tortured, reserved and enigmatic, and at the same time, emotional. While Bond himself has matured, he – and the movies – haven’t lost a step. I’ll certainly miss Daniel Craig in this role, no matter what happens to the franchise.


Looking for more photos, trivia, and Bond info? Check out the official Bond website!

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Erin Conrad