Dog’s Movie House: “No Time To Die” Excellent Swan Song For Daniel Craig’s Run As 007!”
“No Time To Die” begins just after the events of 2015’s “Spectre” which finds Bond retired and living in Italy with the lovely Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), trying to escape the past while attempting to have a future. But the past will not die and soon Bond is drawn by his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to help find a missing biological weapons scientist. This leads him back to MI6 in London and into a plot involving not only Madeline, but also the imprisoned head of Spectre, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and a new terrifying enemy named Safin (Rami Malek) who has ties to Madeline’s past. Also joining the fight is the new 007, an agent named Nomi (Lashana Lynch) who may be even more capable than Bond. What follows is a twisting, turning, action-filled saga that will leave Bond fans more than satisfied.
One of the wonderful things about Craig’s run as Bond is that all five movies serve as a single story. Up until these films most Bond movies were single story one-offs that had very little in the way of continuity or character development. All of the Bond films are enjoyable to various degrees, but very few of them engage in any character development with the possible exception of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and “License To Kill.” The first had Bond get married (and subsequently lose her to Blofeld and his assassin at the end of the film) and the latter has Bond on a revenge mission for his pal Felix Lieiter. Other than that, Bond is more of a persona than a character, a cipher who drives the narrative of whatever film in which he appears. The Craig Bonds aren’t like that, instead delving deep into the man behind the number. Craig’s 007 is a certified badass, but he’s a vulnerable one who experiences pain on a deep emotional level. Craig’s layered performance lets the audience experience every facet of it.
This film is the perfect capper to the five film story which began in 2006’s “Casino Royale” and gives Bond a sense of peace if not an entirely happy ending. As efficient as Bond is as an agent and as dedicated as he is to his duty, he is truly lacking when it comes to connecting on an emotional level. In this film Bond is finally able to do that, although that choice is not without cost. This fifteen-year dramatic arc is what separates the Craig era from the rest of the James Bond franchise.
Let’s not get the wrong idea here, though. “No Time To Die” is not a two hour, forty-five minute therapy session. In fact, director Cary Joji Fukunaga (who also co-wrote the script with Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) brings some of most dynamic action scenes in the history of the franchise to this film. The opening scenes in Italy alone would serve as worthy finale in a lesser film. The action is fast paced but easy to follow and the pacing is such that the nearly three-hour runtime passes by without a single look at a watch. Fukunaga has great command of every element of the film, from the aforementioned pacing to the action to the quiet moments.
He has help from a game cast. Craig of course is the lynchpin, giving Bond a great combination of vulnerability and toughness that makes him the most relatable Bond in the series’ history. Seydoux is his match when to comes to the conflicted yet ultimately loyal Madeline. Wright brings a lively energy to his role as Felix, reminding everyone how much he was missed in the last two movies. Lynch is good enough here to carry her own series if she wants it and her chemisty with Bond is exciting without being sexual. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris do fine work as M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny, respectively and Waltz brings a decidely Hannibal Lector-esque vibe to his appearance as Blofeld.
One of the standouts is Ana de Armas as Paloma, an agent who partners with Bond on an early mission in Cuba. Not only is the setpiece in Cuba magnificent, but Armas is terrific as a kick-ass agent whose girlish enthusiasm belies some real steel and some incredible skill. The story demands she’s only in the film for a short time, but it certainly whets our appetites for more of her. The only possible disappointment is Rami Malek’s Safin. He’s a somewhat underdeveloped character and Malek’s ticks and odd manner of speaking only take the villain so far. I didn’t find him as underwhelming as some of my collegues, primarily because Safin is supposed to exist as a dark mirror for Bond, a possible future were Bond’s sense of allegience and duty not so strong. For that reason Safin is just fine as a Bond bad guy and he does have some effective scenes, especially as the film nears its climax.
And oh what a climax it is. Emotionally resonant and kinetically exciting, “No Time To Die” delivers in spades and although some of the older purists might have a problem with the third act, I found it thrilling and perfectly executed, a perfect finale to what is probably the best Bond film run of all time. 5 Out Of 5 Stars On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!